Brooches that won't break the bank

A look at antiques with our expert Allan Blackburn...
These brooches are just £5 each and there are lots to choose fromThese brooches are just £5 each and there are lots to choose from
These brooches are just £5 each and there are lots to choose from

To continue with our feature on things that wouldn’t go amiss on your Christmas list, this week we take a look at costume jewellery.

We sell lots of costume jewellery and accessories at this time of year, as people look for a bit of sparkle for their outfits, and brooches like these make ideal presents that don’t break the bank.

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The term “costume jewellery” describes all pieces made of base metals or silver which are set with pastes and other imitations, rather than precious stones like diamonds and rubies. The Victorian love of show and novelty meant costume jewellery became the answer if fashionable appearances were to be maintained!

Inevitably, this mass manufacture of jewellery meant there was an excess of cheap low quality baubles. Advances in mechanical and finishing processes meant the production costs of making such jewellery were reduced.

There was, however, another side to costume jewellery. Many of the well known jewellery designers produced their own ranges of costume jewellery. Design houses like Cartier and Dior may not have used precious emeralds or solid platinum, but their workmanship was, nonetheless, of the highest standard. Whilst this jewellery was often designed to look like the real thing, the paste, design and craftsmanship were of a very high calibre – certainly not cheap imitations!

Top quality rhinestones were also used and expensive labour intensive processes were developed to give diamante its unique glitter or to give imitation pearls a special lustre.

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Fortunately, much costume jewellery has been preserved from being broken up, unlike genuine precious jewellery. Instead of an impressive stone being removed from its setting, paste stones were left in place and often thrown into a drawer and forgotten about. As a result, older costume jewellery has a better chance of being whole. Today, its value is dependant as much on the quality of the workmanship as the materials used. (These go hand to hand as better materials warranted greater skill.)

Signed pieces by well known manufacturers will command the best prices, as will novelty items.