Vintage Costume Jewelry


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Repair VS Camouflage, Re-plating

in costume jewelry

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REPAIR:  That which is done to a piece of costume jewelry, which brings it very closely to it originally  manufactured condition and with the same degree of permanence as was original.  This includes replacement of parts with like parts, replacement of rhinestones with like (or near like) rhinestones.

CAMOUFLAGE:  That which is done to a piece of costume jewelry to hide a deficiency or damage; or which alters the original look.   Includes nail polish used on skinned faux, simulated pearls, cold enamel paint used in place of baked enamels or glass enamels, removal of entire plating down to the base metal (whether sterling or other), replacement of clear rhinestones with more "interesting" colored rhinestones, rhinestones glued in to avoid the problem of a missing prong, painted prongs, re-plated prongs, re-plated areas of high wear, and rhinestone foil that has been fixed with paint.

NORMAL WEAR:   Much of the most charming vintage costume jewelry has a bit (and sometimes quite a lot) of normal wear consistent with its age.   It is wonderful to find a piece in really excellent condition, but this is not always possible and perhaps not even that desirable.   Some platings on brass disappeared very quickly and this seems acceptable in those pieces  Mariam Haskell is a prime example of that.  Prongs and high points often will show a bit of wear.  Backs  of pieces will show wear, due to a lot of use or possibly due to the acids and oils from the skin.  This is especially true of earrings, necklaces & bracelets. If the jewelry is otherwise desirable, this may be an acceptable condition.  Degree of wear should be noted in descriptions of jewelry, and pricing adjustments made accordingly.  If you would like see Sparkles guide to Rating of Condition, take a look at the Conditions & Terms page on the website.  If you would like to copy the Rating of Condition, please feel free to do so.  If you have something to add to the Rating of Condition, please write me.

MARRIAGES:  When parts of two or more pieces of jewelry are combined to make a whole. The marriage may be a complicated combination, or may be something as simple as substituting a dangle, or changing the findings on a pair of earrings to make them more wearable.  It can be poorly done, or done so well that it will "pass".  Look for differences in,  materials, eras, colors of plating or something else that looks a bit "off"

COLLAGE:  Combining bits and pieces to make an interesting piece of jewelry.  May be any combination of new findings and/or parts of old pieces, not intended to fool anyone or look like anything other than "collage".


The question of re-plating often comes up among dealers, as there are "easy" one or two step plating systems and re-plating pens available.  In my opinion re-plating of costume jewelry almost always falls within the definition of CAMOUFLAGE.

WHY?  Knowing a bit about the original plating process will serve to explain.  Before a piece is plated it goes through a number of steps, designed to make the plating PERMANENT.   These include proper buffing of the finish, thorough cleaning with solutions designed for that purpose, under plating solutions that are used over less conductive base metals in preparation for karat gold or silver solutions, avoidance of contamination with foreign particles, temperature properly geared for the plating solution being used, and control of the thickness of plate.  Without all the steps properly done, platings will not adhere properly and will exhibit other problems.

Anything that is simple and easy will also be deficient, that is, it either will not adhere at all, or will likely wear through very speedily (not much better than paint).  When re-plated, the bracelet  or ring with the heavily worn, bare prongs will look good initially,  but a bit later it will begin to look like it needs polish or will look a bit dirty and soon thereafter it will be showing bare prongs again.

You CAN have things professionally replated.  Whether it will achieve the desired result and also be economically advantageous depends upon your expectations.  Have I ever had costume jewelry professionally re-plated?   Yes.   Did I make a point of revealing that the piece was refurbished?  Yes.   Was I happy with the re-plating?   Only once.   Was it "worth" it monetarily?   More times No than Yes, and then only marginally as the pieces looked much better but were much less salable.

When considering a "repair" that might better be classified as a camouflage, put yourself in the place of the buyer, who will receive a nice looking piece of jewelry but which won't retain it luster long.

If you wish to contact someone about re-plating, as always be sure to ask plenty of questions to determine results and costs.


SPARKLES website features a large catalog of over 600 pieces of jewelry, including Victorian, Deco, Nouveau, rhinestones, Signature pieces, Plastics, Silver & Copper, Cufflinks, Christmas and much more as linked in the index below.  You are welcome to shop, search for price comparisons,  browse for pleasure, or visit additional information pages, seen directly below.