The world’s most elegant woman, Coco Chanel, was said to have advised the following when dressing with accessories: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”
However, when faced with a veritable Aladdin’s cave of remarkable, standout 20th century costume jewellery, I couldn’t decide what I liked best, let alone what I would want to take off, put down or put back!
Earlier this month I met [and I’m so pleased I did] Jennifer Gibson, vintage jewellery expert and owner of Jennifer Gibson Jewellery, a jewellery house that promises individually sourced, original, vintage and designer costume jewellery, including many famous Fashion Houses and brands from the 1920s to the Noughties.
Most women have a soft spot for vintage jewellery. Whether it’s memories of a parent or grandparent’s jewellery or just that magpie drive for all things pretty, shiny and sparkly, vintage costume jewellery holds a certain extra glamour often without a prohibitive price point. Personally I’ve always dreamt of owning a little piece of Chanel and this seemed like the perfect way to do it.
With a focus on contemporary looking pieces that can be worked effortlessly into a modern wardrobe, Jennifer’s keen eye results in some timeless gems from statement earrings to quirky necklaces, sensational diamante creations to classic [and much coveted by yours truly] Chanel costume jewellery.
Jennifer says she has “jewellery in her blood”. Her mother was a keen antique jewellery aficionado procuring and collecting classic and antique jewels, and Jennifer grew up attending trade shows, auctions and antique fairs, as well as grabbing every opportunity to work in her mother’s shops, learning the trade as she went. 35 years later and in 2016 Jennifer felt the time was right to turn her extensive knowledge, experience and passion for jewellery into a full-time business.
Her collection, which can be seen at wedding fairs, pop-up shops and via her website, comes from far and wide. Jennifer is part of a strong global network of vintage jewellery buyers and sellers, who often liaise with each other to help a customer find that perfect piece. Jennifer explained: “the right pieces for the collection can be seriously hard to find, sometimes viewing literally thousands of pieces at antique fairs, vintage markets and auctions, to find a single standout piece in great condition.”
She continues: “there is no magic formula to quickly ruling out the mediocre and tracking down these rare highly wearable covetable pieces; it’s sheer persistence, hard work and a keen experienced eye.”
While vintage jewellery is, in a sense, timeless, their appeal rises above the dynamic fashion cycles, trends do align with what’s currently “in vogue”, Jennifer tells me: “If chosen well, it’s incredible how a piece of vintage jewellery with true style and craftsmanship transcends the decades. My litmus test for the relevance of the pieces [in my collection] is simply to pick up any women’s magazine or Sunday fashion supplement and leaf through the pages, imagining how I would style each piece with the looks. I know I’ve done a good job when it’s effortless and the looks on each page seem to jump to an obvious jewellery match, be it a 1920s piece or a 1990s piece!”
She continues. “You’re often also getting higher quality for your money than when you buy new costume jewellery, the older jewellery, even when it’s made from a plated base metal, is a much better composition than the newer pieces available today. It’s already stood the test of time well and taken care of will last for many more years, probably decades.
“Inevitably it’s these pieces that will ultimately hold or increase in rarity and value, as opposed to many new mass produced pieces that can be bought today. I view each piece as a snapshot of fashion history and by wearing it and taking care of it now we are preserving our global fashion history for generations to come.”
Jennifer’s business is only a year old, but in that time she has carved an enviable path as a vintage jewellery expert. She has successfully exhibited at premium events up and down the country, she has wowed customers with her pop-up shops in boutiques throughout Cheshire, and she has styled her own fashion shoots.
Her online collection is always available and her social media feed keeps you up-to-date with new arrivals – there’s always something I want! Her collection has already been featured in Harpers BAZAAR, TATLER, Conde Nast’s BRIDES Magazine, VOGUE and Town & Country, and recently she’s had calls for pieces to be loaned to ELLE and Cosmopolitan for their fashion shoots.
Jennifer tells me: “There is a resurgence of Vintage right now with celebrities and major fashion publications choosing to wear and feature vintage clothes and jewellery, so it looks like the industry is in the spotlight once again.
“We currently have a run on high couture such as Vintage Christian Dior; including exceptionally rare statement earrings from the 1960s though to 1990s jewellery box classics such as clip earrings sporting the iconic logo. Dior is a very popular choice with brides, especially the earlier pieces from the 1950s as they exude elegance and style, and are the perfect wearable legacy from their special day. CHANEL pieces continue to be perfect investment pieces and for many customers ‘THE’ brand to style with their outfit and draw admiring and, if we’re honest, slightly envious glances!”
Sandra Menodza, owner of Debutante Clothing and vintage fashion expert, was noted as saying: “Wearing vintage jewellery will open doors for people to be very individual and over-the-top with their accessories. People who don’t normally shop for vintage jewellery will start.” (source: Invaluable.com)
I’ve started (a gorgeous Jennifer Gibson Vintage CHANEL Double CC Brooch with Quilt Pattern, right, that I just couldn’t put down!) and I have a sneaky suspicion that I won’t be able to stop. So with statement jewellery holding strong in editorials and street fashion, and with it gathering an army of followers, it’s an excellent time to explore the art of collecting vintage. Image (right): Ian Wheat Photography.
For more information on how to ‘shop vintage’ click here to read Jennifer’s top tips on how to buy vintage successfully.
For more information and to create your own style visit www.jennifergibsonjewellery.com.
Jennifer prizes nothing higher than meeting and talking to her customers and understanding what they are looking for so don’t hesitate to contact her by phone, email or in person at an event. If you need advice on finding your perfect piece of vintage or preloved designer costume jewellery or if you’re just looking for a one-off treasure or gift for a loved one, Jennifer will be only too pleased to hear from you and her no obligation personal shopping service is on hand to you and has already received rave reviews.
Images (unless otherwise stated):
Photography by Joe Gregory Photography, with Vika Smidtaite
Model – Lucia La
Hair and Makeup by Amanda Gaffey
Stylist Jennifer Gibson