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.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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