CHANEL Designer Information

There's something about Chanel jewellery, it has some sort of special power to it. I remember the time I tried on my first piece of vintage Chanel jewellery, the substantial quality and sheer weight to it made me feel like I was wearing $1M; not a piece of costume jewellery. That is what Coco Chanel prided herself on; creating luxury high-end pieces that made women feel empowered, sexy and classy, everything they wanted to be without the hefty price tag of fine jewellery. Ok, some would argue that Chanel does come with the hefty price tag and you would be right; the Chanel label became such an iconic force in the fashion industry that their pieces (accessories or otherwise) are considered investments and you pay the price.

Celebrities of today have embraced vintage Chanel with Rhianna, Beyoncé and as pictured right, Ashley Simpson, all being seen adorning themselves with the luxury vintage jewels and statement pieces from the fabulous House of Chanel. Whether they are dressed for the red carpet or a shopping outing in ripped jeans and classic white T, Chanel is the perfect accessory.

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History of CHANEL Jewellery (in brief)
Iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel, born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, was renown for revolutionizing fashion and was highly influential throughout the 1920s and 30s. After operating a millinery shop and houses of couture in Paris, Deauville and Biarritz in the early 1900's, Coco Chanel was considered one of Paris' leading designers. She launched her first costume jewellery line in the early 1920's, opening an accessories boutique in her Paris salon. In 1931 Coco worked with movie Producer Goldwyn in Hollywood to style celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Katherine Hepburn.

In 1939, despite great success, Chanel was forced to close her doors as WWII began. In 1954 however, Coco would reopen her famous 31 Rue Cambon salon after debuting her "comeback couture collection" in 1953. Within three seasons, Coco Chanel would once again establish herself as the design force to be reckoned with.

In 1960 Robert Goossens became the Chief Designer for Chanel. Their partnership was a great success producing amazing statement pieces including the famous and widely replicated, Maltese Cross brooches in their signature colours, red and green.

At the age of 88, Coco Chanel passed away in 1971. The design house continued to produce pieces in line with the traditional Chanel style until German fashion designer Karl Largerfeld was assigned the role of Director of the House of Chanel where he continues to be head designer, creating stunning couture to this day. Karl also appointed Victoire de Castellane to oversee the design of costume jewellery for Chanel in 1984, where she continued for about 14 years.

Perhaps one of Coco Chanel's biggest claims to fame was the creation of the "little black dress"; however, I'm sure that whenever someone thinks of Coco Chanel, they think classic tweed suits, matelassé bags and pearls, pearls, pearls. Coco Chanel would adorn herself in layers and layers of pearls and these have been a staple piece in the Chanel costume jewellery range since the opening of her first salon dedicated to fashion accessories.

"The point of jewelry isn't to make a woman look rich but to adorn her; not the same thing." - Coco Chanel

What it's Worth
There is no definitive answer for this. You will get Appraisers, Auctioneers and Collecting experts offer value ranges that vary considerably depending on the piece, condition, age, and of course opinion. Over the years of researching vintage Chanel jewellery I have noticed a steady increase in prices/value being sought in the online market and Auction Houses are certainly cashing in on the popularity of the highly sought after brand.

Fortunately for fashionista's, we live in a disposable society where it is now the done thing to clear your closest through a Designer Resale store, commission-based store, Auction House or online outlets such as eBay and etsy. Usually you can find pieces at half the retail price or sometimes lower, but of course, there are those special pieces that will increase in value. There are also people who decide that they simply must have that special piece and will pay anything to get their hands on it. At the time of writing this, quality vintage costume pieces fetch anywhere between US$130 - US$2,500. The rare and highly collectable pieces, upwards of $5,000.

Traditionally the most valuable and collectable pieces of vintage costume Chanel are those beautifully created Gripoix (Pāte de verre) pieces. In the 1920s, Coco Chanel commissioned Suzanne Gripoix (daughter of founder and creator Augustine Gripoix of Maison Gripoix Design House) to create Byzantine jewellery for the House of Chanel. The process involves pouring molten glass into moulds. The results were outstanding and they continued their collaboration for decades to come. The skill and time involved in creating these masterpieces, not to mention their beauty, justify the price tags.

Authenticating & Dating Chanel Jewellery
There are many different styles of Chanel signatures that have been released over the years, which can cause confusion and angst for buyers who are not confident as to whether they are buying an authentic piece of jewellery. I can assure you, when searching and buying second hand or "new" Chanel jewellery through dealers, you WILL come across counterfeit items. Some sellers will know that this is the case and others will be completely unaware due to lack of experience (many resellers put their trust in the people they have purchased the items from). For this reason, if you are spending a lot of money on a piece of jewellery that you are not purchasing direct from a CHANEL boutique store, you want to do your homework.

Disappointingly, but I guess not surprisingly, due to the sheer volume of requests they would be faced with, CHANEL boutiques will not authenticate your item, jewellery or otherwise. There are a number of Authentication Services around, mostly deal with the Chanel Handbags. I hope to help a little by offering examples of some of the signature styles used by the design house over the years; I will add to this as time goes on as I receive pieces with other signatures.

Chanel jewellery was not signed during this time period. However, you may come across pieces signed Chanel in script; these are not pieces from the House of Chanel. In 1941 an American costume jewellery company named the Chanel Novelty Company released jewellery with the name Chanel in script. Despite the fact that Chanel had closed its doors by this time, they still contested the use of the name by suing the company. Chanel won the case and the Chanel Novelty Company was forced to change their name, becoming Reinad Novelty Company. Pieces found today with Chanel in script are valuable in their own right purely for the history behind the use of the signature.

1954 - 1971

Simple "CHANEL" stamp in capitals. There is also an alternative stamp that has 3 stars beneath the "CHANEL". These signatures are said to be used around the time Robert Goossens was designing, up to Coco Chanel's death in 1971.

Early 1970s - 1980

In late 1970, Chanel registered the now famous interlocking C's with the US Patent and Trademark Office for the use on pins, bracelets and earrings (the C's and CHANEL logo's had previously been registered in 1925 and 1949 but not yet used on jewellery). Along with it came the copyright and registered trademark symbols.

Chanel's first "signature plate" was set out as per the photos above. This style signature was either stamped directly on to the piece as shown above left photo 1 (back of a Pendant), or onto a small circular plate shown in photos 2 and 3(back of an earring, back of a brooch), and fixed to the piece of jewellery. The circular plate was also used for necklaces, where the plate would be moulded or curved to the shape of the necklace (photo 4); brilliant thinking. Some pieces have darkening of the letters (as shown in photos 1 and 3); this is true for both plates and direct stamps.

Also used from 1971 through to the early 80s was the simple CHANEL stamp with the copyright symbol. In many cases there would also be a three or four digit serial number pressed into the piece.

1981 - 1985

In 1981 Chanel began to date their jewellery, and used either round plates and hangtags, octagon hangtags, oval hangtag, or stamped directly onto the piece. The markings were CHANEL ® at the top, the interlocking C's in the centre with © and the year stamped below. The writing would have either an embossed look (photo 1 above) or a raised print (photo 2). The oval hangtag would have "MADE IN FRANCE" stamped on the back. Belt hooks would also be stamped with the traditional CHANEL ® on one side and © with the date on the other.

Also used from early to mid 80s, was the oval hangtag or cartouche that had the "©CHANEL® CC MADE IN FRANCE" stamp as above.

Mid 1980s - 1992

As per the above examples, the oval hangtags or cartouche would feature the collection number that the piece was from, commencing with 23 (a 2 on one side of the interlocking C's and a 3 on the other) and continuing up to season 29 (ending in 1992). Round plates were also used as per previous years and some pieces were also stamped directly on the piece. Serial numbers would also appear on some pieces, particularly earrings.

1993 - Present

From 1993 Chanel began stamping their pieces with the year and season, making dating their jewellery a dream! The year would appear before the interlocking C's (96 on the above left and 05 (representing 2005) on the right). The season would be represented by a letter; P = Printemps = Summer, A = Automne = Autumn/Fall, C = Cruise collection and V = 00V = continuous line. Stamps would continue to appear on hangtags, cartouche or stamped directly onto the piece. By the mid 2000's some pieces were being stamped MADE IN ITALY and many of these are laser etched.

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Dating Chanel: a Guide to Chanel Jewelry Date Marks - Douglas Rosin Decorative Arts & Antiques
Costume Jewelry Collectors Guide by Judith Miller

Chanel Store Photo courtesy of pio3 /
Ashley Simpson Photo courtesy of Everett Collection /

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