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How To Date Costume Jewelry

Updated on March 3, 2016
Nightcat profile image

Nightcat is a Jane of all trades and likes to pass on tips she’s found useful around the home.

Thrift Store Find

Thrift stores can turn up fun and eclectic finds.
Thrift stores can turn up fun and eclectic finds.

A Quick Guide To Buying

Finding your perfect jewelry is not only about what pleases you, but knowing about your treasures. If you know the basics about pricing, quality, and points dealers look for, you will be able to buy what you want, at the price you want.

Even if your favorite pieces are old jelly bracelets I encourage you to find out everything you can about standards of production, eras, market pricing and care.

Become an expert on the pieces you are attracted to and even when you buy 'just because' you won't get burned. As always, all photography and writing are my original work. Enjoy!

Designer Vintage Costume Jewelry

Do you Collect Costume Jewelry?

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Pin Of Fortune

This fortune teller is an excellent example of costume jewelry designed to have a more luxe look.
This fortune teller is an excellent example of costume jewelry designed to have a more luxe look.

How To Evaluate Costume Jewelry

Below I'd like to walk new jewelry hunters through the work of ID-ing a piece. There's a lot more to do than you think. You'll want to learn this though not only for buying but for selling purposes.

Original on site estimated values.

Metal type: Unknown Piece appears to be a base metal with colored metallic paint or fine sheets of colored metal.

It is an older piece and for visual pleasure only. I worked in antiques and can tell you replacing any of the stones with an exact match would be just about hopeless.

I placed him from the 60's to 80's on sight. Replicas of trendy jewelry are flawless down to the copyright. Amazing things can be done with acid baths to simulate age and even metal types.

Marks: HAR copyright. No fine metal stamp of any kind.

Stomes: Colored, most likely glass. Biggest features an open back to show off clarity and let light through. Ironically, stone is treated with shiny veneer of aura borealis type. Most likely glass or plastic.

Pin with locking bar. Average quality backing.

Features plastic parts.

Shows wear and scratches, therefore wear value may be limited. Piece could have fine but unseen stress fractures.

Wear and scratches consistent with being stuffed in a crammed box, being stepped on, or lack of care in daily wear. All damage could be either from long use or a single traumatic event.

Value: Estimated up to $5.00 US, but most likely far less.

Age: estimated age from 1960s to 1980s.

Fortune Teller Machines

Buy An Antique, Not A Story

A veteran seller gave me that advice, and it has served me well. You wouldn't believe the stories even sellers make up.
A veteran seller gave me that advice, and it has served me well. You wouldn't believe the stories even sellers make up.

Beware Of Seller Stories

Often to be entertaining a seller will make up a story on the spot. They may have heard this from the seller they bought from, or embellished the details to hit the target, you. Seeing me take time to judge the piece won me the following:

I was handed a story on this pin I don't trust. It is either supposed to be Shriner's or Mason's pin for the lady love to wear. Apparently when reaching a certain rank, the member would be given two pins. One for him in another style, and this pin for her.

All wives or lovers of those men would see the pin and recognize the woman as a sister of sorts. Maybe, the seller hinted, she needed this pin to be let into certain clubs or to shop in certain places. She was sure the HAR mark was a magical or secret society code. Yes, we did go from a goodwill club to a mystic society in one sentence. That is called sales patter, or setting up the pigeons.

She waxed on about fine jewel boxes and the roaring '20s. Sorry to disappoint you romantics, but he is hardly that old or precious. For one thing real gold or other precious metals have stamps stating the grade.

Her story sounds vaguely sensible but why would the woman who supposedly dropped this off at a used store not give it back to the society or hand it down?

She would even have sold it to an antiques store or fine jeweler if it was truly rare.

Plus, real items for either group would contain clear symbols of that group. Although the star could be for either group, there were no clear details, words or markings to point there.

Sometimes a star is just a star.

Want To Know What He Really Is?

I'll give you a hint, he isn't gold anything.
I'll give you a hint, he isn't gold anything.

HAR Mystic

He is a HAR pin, circa 1950s-1960s. While little is known about this company, many pieces were good for ladies on a budget. Most items had no real gemstones, no real gold or other precious metals. But this wonderful company has a dedicated following.

That HAR copyright under the pin helped me ID him quickly online.

Yes, I also noted the bent pin bar.

So What Is HAR?

HAR is short for Hargo Creations of New York. They made jewelry that ranged from the amazingly fashion-forward to the downright odd. But the pieces had or at least now have a following for the high-end look using low-end metals and glass stones. At least several online websites now feature the pieces, but not all for sale.

What is it worth?

What Is Costume Jewelry Worth?

Whatever you will pay, to be honest. If you don't like it? It is worth nothing, if you do you will be willing to pay a higher price. In all honesty this piece is not worth over $2.00 US in my estimation.

Here are some reasons why. There is wear on several places. Wear can let in metal fatigue, rust, or tears of soft metal.

Scratching. The crystal ball is plastic, which is scratched giving a milky appearance. A better specimen shows no such wear.

A good inspection also brought up poor workmanship. I'm not being mean here. All dealers would take the time to examine these things if buying a piece for sale. You should inspect these things to figure out if the price is fair.

The ball is two pieces of plastic with a visible line. The plastic is wavy and distorts the star image.

There are many ugly spots where the metal was poorly finished. They look black and cannot be fixed. If they are soders, they are ready to crack.

This is clearly a cast pin as shown by clearly visible seams. Which means a master copy was used to make a mold to cast the metal in. The caster didn't even bother to file off all the extra metal that oozed out of the mold.

The coloring at the garment, skin, and other edges is very poor and bleeds into other areas. This points to a cheap metallic wash or paint.

The pin bar itself is bent. Metal that has been stressed like this is more prone to break.

No stone is embedded. All stones were merely glued to the pin and could be easily removed by jarring.

Casting points to mass production.

The scar on the hand may be from a mold defect or poor cast.

Although some details are fine like the nostrils and lips, others like the hands are crudely made.

Only one item of a themed line. There is also a bracelet and earrings in the same design. This means that there is a good chance of having to buy this pin again in a matched set. It is rude to ask a dealer to break up these sets as it takes years to complete sets of excellent quality.

Overall these samples seem to show a mastery of making the low end truly appear high end. But the gaps in production quality are troubling. Any retail store rep/buyer would have seen the poor production masked by the flashy finished product.

In the plus column, the piece can pass for good jewelry and is quite pretty. 95% of people seeing it won't know how a good piece should be made, and low end jewelry creators are not the only ones to cut corners like this.

Added value as the piece is over four decades old and still intact despite the apparent rough treatment.

That doesn't mean I don't love it. I'd love the other pieces too. But I'm not at the stage where I'm obsessed over it. I just wrote a Squidoo article, on it, with links and pictures. Total control.

Oh, honest dealers call this costume jewelry or even junk jewelry. Both terms are just meant to set it apart from fine or handcrafted jewelry for buyers.

Finding The Data

Not having a book with this artist in I searched the internet and found several good sites. They gave me the full name of and some info on the company.

I also found out what kind of stones other pieces by the same maker used and could guess this was an example of the lower end of the maker's price range. Therefore the metals may be anything, even one metal with colors added to key parts.

At this time I cannot locate the price on a perfect condition pin. But it is unlikely to be over $2.00 US.

Just because some dealers charge high prices for pieces using faux materials does not mean they are worth it.

Turns out I was right on use of base materials, production in the 1960s, and low value.

You can see the sites below.

Clean Your Jewlery

HAR Links - Explore More

I do admire this jewelry and want to give you sites to see it on.

Your Own Thoughts - Got more ideas?

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Wow I'm hooked..I have this 1950 Asian Coolie Man ( Whitewashed) and have been looking for a price for 2 days.

      Then I got around to viewing other jewelry WOW at 66 I can do this, and have more then likely lost a lot of this stuff. I just have to learn more thanks Lee lee_fwlr@yahoo.com

    • Nightcat profile image
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      Nightcat 8 years ago

      [in reply to David] Hello David! Your best bet would be to locate a current collector's book with HAR pieces in. They give values from perfect to minor to major wear. These prices are based on sale vaules from various areas. You can also try getting a free ballpark figure from a local dealer. Myself, I like to keep current with eBay auctions. They give you a good idea what people are willing to pay.What a dealer would do is take the highest price paid for that piece and start there. So if one of the sites you saw manages to sell the piece for $90.00, and that is the highest price you can find paid for it, it is a good honest figure. I do know HAR has a very loyal following and a lot of collectors are looking for pins like the one you described to finish an incomplete set. Best of luck!

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      I have a HAR Genie Brooch with crystal ball. But mine is standing. Not the other onr cut off in the middle thst you see all over the internet. I was wondering how rare it is, and a ballpark price it may be worth. I' ve looked everywere on thre net, but only found a couple of them. Any help you can give me would help. Or point me in the right direction, It is marked har . Thanks, David my email is daveseggs@hotmail.com