Whenever I don’t have time to change for a party, a dinner or a cocktail occasion – and believe me, it happens often – I wear a piece of vintage Chanel jewelry and I am all set. Every dull denim-sweater-combination appears glamorous once adorned with a golden chain, a big pearl necklace or a velvet ear clip. It is the essence of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s style, who wanted to free women by making comfortable clothes out of jersey. She always combined her ensembles with lots of pearl necklaces – real and fake ones.
My favorite vintage Chanel pieces are from the eighties when designs were bold and slightly overdone but feminine and strong at the same time. Karl Lagerfeld was already in charge and Victoire de Castellane, today she designs the High Jewelry by Dior, assisted him from 1986 to 1992. You can detect pieces from this era easily as they are marked with two numbers on either side of the Chanel insignia in the center of an oval logo on the jewel. This is based on the season number, from 23 to 29.
But it is not always as easy as that. Stamps vary a lot and there are even pieces, mostly from the time period before 1939, that don’t carry a stamp at all. They are extremely hard to authenticate but then they are quite rare, too.
In general you should pay attention to the overall appearance of the jewel. To the materials, to the design, to the way it was made. Chanel has always put an emphasis on craftsmanship. Also many pieces, especially from a time between the 1970s and the 1990s, are quite heavy as the pieces are crafted from a metal base that is gold plated. Many vintage pieces are decorated with Gripoix glass elements, that have a jewel tone or a pearl luster – until now a trademark of Chanel.
Pieces, that come from the time period between 1950s to 1960s, will carry a stamp with a simple logo in capital letters, sometimes underlined with three stars. During that time Robert Goossens assisted Coco Chanel with his designs, that included early baroque and byzantine styles.
So what’s the advice? Trust your guts! Again, if the jewel is nicely welded, has a warm gold tone and a beautiful pearl luster, if it feels heavy and extremely well made, it is very likely a real Chanel piece. If not? Oh well, you can pull it off! After all, wearing jewelry is about having fun. If you like a piece, it’s worth wearing it.