HOW TO COLLECT COSTUME JEWELLERY On the eve of her museum exhibition and ‘Fashion Jewelry’ book launch with Assouline, Barbara Berger reveals her collecting tips.
WHAT TO COLLECT
HOW TO GET STARTED
I was always drawn to the fantasy of costume, and I’ve been collecting since I was 13. A lot of people collect maybe three or four designers, but my collection includes 80. It’s very personal and rather baroque. The pieces are quite major. I have a structural metal necklace from Pierre Cardin, a big collar that goes all the way down to the belly button. Another favourite is Imprisoned in Fluo, the Daniel Von Weinberger necklace on the cover of my book. It’s made of plastic elements, such as 1960s orchid hearts from Italy and glow-in-the-dark frogs. I’ve been collecting Iradj Moini since the ’80s; I have about 500 pieces. Robert Sorrell, Larry Vrba, and David Mandel are other top designers – they do amazing things without copying the old. All the fashion houses do costume jewellery, and if it’s spectacular enough, it will definitely go up in price: Lanvin, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, and Saint Laurent. John Galliano was super collectible when he was at Dior; Elie Saab, Marni, and Missoni have great things. I bought a fabulous necklace by Nina Ricci that is one of my favourites. It’s major: Multistrand, with mirror-encrusted charms and a silver-plated chain.
WHERE TO BUY
I went to Miami and Palm Beach after the Madoff incident; the women were selling their costume jewellery, and I ran down there to find it at the pawnshops. There are online auctions now, too. Christie’s does it, and Harrods just started. In New York, you can go to the Chelsea Flea, and in Miami, to Lincoln Road. In Los Angeles, I go to all the antiques shows. Paris has the Marchés aux Puces. Only buy pieces that are more or less in mint condition; if half the stones are missing, I wouldn’t buy. It’s difficult to replace old stones.
WHERE TO INVEST
Pieces from the 1940s or ’50s will go up in price because you can’t find them anymore. All Miriam Haskell from the ’60s or ’70s are also worth splurging on, as they’re hand done. Dolce & Gabbana’s runway pieces are always a valuable investment. The workmanship is superb, and they’re not mass-produced.
HOW TO SPOT A FAKE
You have to see the back. The back is almost more important than the front. Vintage costume jewellery was mounted like real jewellery with prongs. And the metal has to show wear. If it’s brighter, it’s new. Also, the signature has to be correct, though often the real old jewellery does not have any.
WHAT EVERYONE SHOULD OWN
Every woman should have at least four or five fabulous pins. My favourite brooches are florals from Roger Jean-Pierre. And we all need 30 pairs of earrings, because you’re not dressed without earrings. As told to Christine Whitney. ‘Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger’ is on view at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, June 25 through September 22.
Brooch circa 1990, Chanel