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High-End Costume Jewelry Draws High-End Auction Prices

A Paris specialist says pieces from the likes of Chanel and Celine are attracting young buyers.

By Tina Isaac-Goizé
Dec. 5, 2022


Lady Gaga preparing to sing the national anthem during the inauguration of President Biden in 2021,
wearing a large Dove brooch created by Daniel Roseberry, the artistic director at Schiaparelli. 

PARIS — Couture costume jewelry — made with faux gems and inexpensive metals but from the likes of Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and other top fashion houses — is having a moment at auction.

In September, when a pair of clip pendant earrings made by Lina Baretti for Chanel in 1948 came up for sale at the Paris auction house Le Brech & Associés, the high estimate was just 300 euros ($310) because they were only gold-finish metal and cannetille, a kind of fine wire threadwork, and set with faceted glass and strass, or faux gems. Their provenance was noteworthy, however: the lot was one of 26 from the designer’s personal collection, which was being sold by her niece.
When bidding ended, the earrings went to a buyer in Belgium for €5,700, excluding the commission, or 1,800 times the high estimate. The price was a record, said Christian Sicard, an independent consultant specializing in costume jewelry who organizes sales at Le Brech & Associés.

Lina Baretti earrings from 1948 sold in September for €7.400 at Le Brech & Associés.

Mr. Sicard said that while Ms. Baretti was “the Suzanne Belperron of couture jewelry” — referring to an influential 20th century jewelry designer from France — he has noticed a general groundswell of interest in costume jewelry from clients all over the world.
“Using what was once considered sub-jewelry as a means of expressing individual style is a new phenomenon,” he said, adding that the category is drawing a young audience, 25 to 35 years old, with significant spending power.
Demand has centered on pieces produced between the 1950s and the 1980s, Mr. Sicard said. But, a 1995 plastron necklace in gold-finish metal and resin featuring the sun and astrological signs, designed by Bruno Frisoni for a couture collection by Christian Lacroix, sold for €2,200 this past spring at Le Brech. The high sale estimate had been €600.

An astrological necklace by Bruno Frisoni for a 1995 Christian Lacroix couture collection sold at auction for €2.860 at Le Brech & Associés.

And Mr. Sicard said he also has seen a spike in interest for more recent pieces by the fashion house Celine, which has not produced a lot of jewelry during the creative reigns of Phoebe Philo and Hedi Slimane.

When it comes to the type of jewelry in demand, Mr. Sicard said bold statement earrings are leading sales, commonly selling for €600 to €2,500. And men are continuing to shop for brooches, a trend that has spread to the point that Mr. Sicard said it now spans cultures and generations. “Wearing a brooch on a lapel is very discreet yet present,” he said. “It’s a little like wearing a piece of sculpture.”
There are fashion designers who Mr. Sicard anticipates will attract interest in the future, particularly Daniel Roseberry, the artistic director at Schiaparelli. Several of his jewelry creations, such as the large Dove brooch that Lady Gaga wore at President Biden’s inauguration ceremony, are showcased in the current exhibition “Shocking! The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli” at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris (though Jan. 22).
An enthusiastic wearer of jewelry himself, Mr. Sicard recently purchased four Schiaparelli designs — a necklace and three brooches — to mix with pieces he owns by Jean Cocteau, Giacometti, Picasso, Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, Wang Keping and other artists.
“In the end, couture jewelry is not that different from high jewelry,” he said. “The materials are humble, there’s strass or poured glass instead of stones, but there’s an art to them. They create style even when the clothes are completely banal.”

By Tina Isaac-Goizé
Dec. 5, 2022