Updated: Nov 11, 2020
There are so many signatures and various informational sites out there concerning how to date Chanel jewelry. Specializing in rarer Chanel pieces and pre-1980s examples, has led to the acquisition of a myriad of signature examples and early Gripoix archives. This guide should help one in spotting and understanding the unsigned pieces, construction, and signature dates. It hopes to provide more concrete examples of rare signature plaques. Remember, however; that some signatures images are to help you identify the signature combined with construction on pieces as well. Use your judgement as the overall clasp, gilding, weight, glass type etc should be considered when authenticating and dating Chanel jewelry.
Early Styles and Identification:
From the 1920s through the end of the 1930s Chanel jewelry was in majority- not signed. She believed in creating a completely accessorized look. These examples were meant to be part of an overall concept or outfit. It is generally accepted that the date that pieces began to be signed was 1954. However, Patrick Mauries states that some of the Chanel costume jewelry designed by Fulco di Verdura in the 30s is marked Chanel, page 89-90, but it appears the majority of Chanel jewelry at this time were not. So, how can one approach identifying Chanel jewelry from this pre signature period? One can draw on construction and style cues, reference pieces/images that have been documented in texts such as Jewelry by Chanel written by Patrick Mauries and museum collections. Patrick’s text, as well as Chanel by Assouline, also touch on the early history of the fine Chanel jewelry line, which we will not be addressing here.
Image taken by me of my text, Jewelry by Chanel written by Patrick Mauries. Image is cited in his book as made by Chanel in the 1930s and signed.
Jewelry by Chanel written by Patrick Mauries. Photograph of my copy of the book, showing the diversity of Chanel jewelry made during the 1920s-30s.
While hearts are a theme in her early work, the below larger red heart brooch has been cited in jewelry text and posts as Chanel, see reference image below far right (Robert for Fashion Craft is the possible maker of the pink). I lean towards exercising caution on this style as unsigned Chanel, as there are versions which similar, like the pink version on the left. Firstly to identify it as Gripoix the black heart and glass detailing needs to have a poured appearance on the back or some characteristics of Gripoix. The pink one appears to have bakelite as it’s heart material. The red brooch was featured in Costume Jewelry by Judith Miller. The newest edition of the text, I don’t believe contains this brooch. The pink one is slightly different in terms of the 3 pearls on top. However the pearls have metal on the backs as they do in the red and other aspects seem similar. The pink one is in our collection image.
Photograph of my copy of the text, Jewelry by Chanel written by Patrick Mauries. Verdura costume jewelry cuff examples.
Early Chanel Gripoix actually included the use many times of Gripoix glass beads. Gripoix’s earliest works were beads. Here is an example of a circa 20s-30s collar attributed to Chanel. It is marked France on the hook. Here I’m providing an early example below by Gripoix for Chanel. Many of these bead pieces would be marked France or nothing at all. Some distinguishing hook types with no marks are included in the post for closer inspection.
Identifying unmarked Chanel jewelry from the 1920s-50s includes taking into account some themes used, such as leaves and flowers using Gripoix construction (that said there are “American” and non Chanel versions of these glass flowers so they must be poured and identifiable as made by Gripoix). She was inspired by Byzantine design, Ancient Egyptian design, wheat as a symbol, stars….and pieces contain these aspects are often seen throughout Chanel’s life as a designer. Sometimes the very first step, is to see if the piece is marked France as in the very early example above.
How do you tell Gripoix glass construction? Well, that is a guide in and of itself… It is hard to explain and one must really see them in person. The theme of berries, Indian Mogul styles, and flowers were used in earlier pieces.
When poured with metal there should be exposed backs on pre 1980s pieces in general, the rear view should be attached to the metal and not perfect or glued in. Gripoix poured pieces were inserted at times with completely covered metal backs as seen in some of Goossens later work.
The early 1950s pieces are mostly unsigned making these hard to identify as discussed above in terms of the 1920s-40s pieces. Some themes like her Indian Mogul style red and green color scheme, flowers, berries, paired with authentic Gripoix beads may be indicators, but again the design, clasp, and bead style all help in identification. Many of these were made for couture outfits and are very rare.
I was honored to have had the above 50s Chanel Costume version of the above piece for just a bit, before it was acquired by a Chanel collector. This very interesting brooch was from the collection of Robert Clark of Haskell and De Lillo. He had an extensive archive and this piece was sourced directly from Gripoix in the 1950s. It was one of 6 created in reference to a jeweled piece that Coco Chanel had made by Verdura earlier. She is also said to have also had one of these copies. Stamped Made in France and in very good condition for it’s age, it was one of the more interesting piece coming through the doors as of late, and I couldn’t resist a little highlight on it for others interested.
1954- about 1965
Early authentic Chanel signatures styles include CHANEL stamped in all caps simply onto the piece or on elongated metal squares as here:
The CHANEL caps stamp is right around the time Robert Goossens begins working with Coco Chanel, but things change around 1971 when pieces bore a circular stamp. Sometimes three stars was used prior to 1971. So the stars are probably done from the early 60s-1971s range- which is when Coco dies.
A circular Chanel plaque stamped with 3 stars underneath appears until 1971.
With Coco’s death, and a new owner, the addition of a copyright mark and registration appear on round signature plaques marked made in France below. Some earrings and such from this period will have a c copyright mark and Chanel in a rectangular box.
Addition of the Copywrite mark above.
Robert Goossens piece with early 1970s signature.
Entering the 1980s
Transitional Piece (late 70s-early 80s)
Great transitional stamp right at about 1980. These circular plates were sometimes folded around a necklace chain.
Transitional period of the early 80s with the use of oval plaque with no date and circular plaques with exact dates. Karl Lagerfeld is appointed creative director in this era, 1983 and thus signatures again change.
From about the end of 1984-92 they dated their pieces with seasons like, season 23-29. Use of oval plaques was common in many 1990s cases. 1993-1999 Include the season and date- A is fall, C is cruise, and P is Spring.
CHANEL NOVELTY CO.
1941 Chanel closed due to the war and reopened in the 1950s. The Chanel Novelty company, not officially affiliated with Chanel, started stamped pieces at this time in script. The history of this may be a bit more complicated, but ultimately Chanel sued them to make sure this American “Chanel novelty company” changed their name and their use of thescript Chanel signature.
*To be used as a helpful guide, not responsible for any misunderstanding or misidentification.
All images unless otherwise stated our from pieces, image rights reserved to SARARA COUTURE. May no be copied to other guides.