Vintage Jewelry Expert
Oct 26, 2016 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Over the years we’ve introduced you to some fabulous kindred spirits. All of these folks share our love of history and most started out just like you or I – as novice collectors whose passion and determination inspired them to accomplish great things. Our latest vintage jewelry expert follows in those footsteps (and cuts a pretty extraordinary path all her own): Jo-Ann Tarasenko of Vintage Jewelry Girl.
Follow Jo-Ann’s adventures via her site, find new inspiration on her blog, feast your eyes on a daily dose of bejeweled beauty on Pinterest & Instagram, and join the conversation on Twitter & Facebook. Now let’s get to know the force behind this amazing mission statement: My mission is to help those who appreciate sentimentality, quality craftsmanship, artistic design, green living, and unique fashion achieve that for themselves with vintage jewelry.
Seems like your grandma was your guide into the world of vintage jewelry (same for me too). Do you have a favorite jewelry memory with your grandma?
My grandma was a very busy woman, always taking care of my cousins, myself and her farm. My jewelry adventures at her house consisted of me sitting on her bed digging through all her sparkles and trying them on, imagining myself as an adult, dressing up and attending all the “fancy” events I imagined her attending when she wasn’t milking cows or making doughnuts for us kids. When she passed in the mid 80s, I became obsessed with where the jewelry ended up. It was the one personal thing she had that I wanted to keep as a reminder of her and all the fun times I had at her house. Jewelry is personal. It makes a statement about who you are and I wanted that bit of glitz that lived inside my grandma close to me forever.
You mention your jewelry book archive (swoon) – could you list a couple of your favorite reference books for our readers? Books that every collector should have in their library and why.
Oh boy! There’s so many! The books you choose really depend on what you’re looking to learn from them as they all differ in topic of specialization. The books I recommend here excel in three categories. First, the pictures are clear and attractive. Second, they contain an abundance of well researched information on their topics. Third, others agree that they are valuable books as you’ll see by their excellent ratings on Amazon.
1. European Designer Jewelry by Ginger Moro
Why? This book gives a comprehensive overview of vintage European jewelry organized by country. Lots of (drool-worthy) pictures and loads of information. Arming yourself with this book will help you identify more special pieces and increase the value of your collection.
2. Any of the Brunialti books. For example: A Tribute To America by Carla Ginelli Brunialti and Robert Brunialti
Why? Again, like European Designer Jewelry, this book will help you familiarize yourself with the top end pieces so you can spot them “in the wild” as we (collectors) say. Books like this can help you hone your hunting and collecting skills by giving you a good idea what makes up a piece that’s considered “higher end”. A Tribute To America also provides detailed designer information as well as ads and posters of the time along with historical information.
3. Warman’s Costume Jewelry by Pamela Wiggins
Why? This is a book I would recommend to anyone who is possibly buying their first book, because although it doesn’t go into depth the way the other two books do, it gives a good overview of vintage jewelry styles, designers, and identification. This book gives a nice overview of the fashion of the decades from the Victorian period to present day. It then goes into a little bit of designer information with examples of their work. It concludes with illustrated sections on marks, stones, findings, and tips on identifying unsigned jewelry.
Can you speak a bit to your authentication process – so critical for the trust of an e-shop, but also a valuable skill for collectors. How do you approach assessing a piece? Any tips or tricks?
This is honestly such a difficult question as so many factors are at play when assessing vintage costume jewelry. First, it’s important to familiarize yourself with current and past manufacturing processes at least a little so you can determine if a piece is new or not. I will be doing a series of identifying old vs. new jewelry for the more novice buyer. The first in the series can be seen here.
Other quick tips I can give in assessing the value of a piece if you already know that it’s vintage are: signature, design, construction, weight, and materials used. A signature is almost always a good thing but not all designers are created equal so you have to do your research. A piece with some weight is usually a good indicator of better quality. Glass or semi-precious stones are generally better than plastic in terms of stones in jewelry. Thickness of plating, construction using rivets and screws, soldered links as opposed to open jumprings, weight of a chain, glass pearls as opposed to plastic, etc, these can all be indicators of better quality. The caveat exists though, that this is not always the case, and the best thing to do is view and hold as many pieces as possible and do your reading to arm yourself with knowledge!
What are the most beloved pieces in your personal collection (and why)?
If I decided to go minimalist on my jewelry collection and only choose to keep a select few pieces, they would be the two items I inherited from my grandma (a rhinestone necklace and Sherman Aurora Borealis star-shaped set) along with all the jewelry my mom left me.
We love that you are all about combining vintage jewelry with a modern ensemble! After all, vintage jewelry looks fantastic with any era! When you put together your personal style for the day, what are some of the principles that guide you?
That’s a tough one! I like to match tones. For example, an olive green looks great with brass and a teal blue pairs well with gold. If my outfit is busy, I like to keep the jewelry either delicate or bold but with little design so it contrasts. Conversely, if the outfit is basic, I’ll add some interest with something full of color and texture. A more masculine look calls for more masculine jewelry vice versa for a feminine ensemble.
What are some of your favorite pieces for sale on the site right now and why?
We love that you include vintage advice and resources on your site. What seems to be the common questions / challenges for beginning collectors?
The most common challenges seem to be assessing age and quality. Many people don’t know what true quality is until they handle upper end pieces so they often mistake their common lower quality items for something more valuable simply because it has age behind it. Also, many people have a hard time assessing if their jewelry is old or contemporary because newer pieces can have a convincing vintage look! That’s why I’m developing a resource section on the website to help people answer these common questions about their jewelry.
For our readers: What are some of your most favorite vintage jewelry pieces and why? If you could ask one question about a piece in your collection, what would it be? Let us know in the comments!