Identifying Un-marked Chanel Jewelry 1920-1971
Chanel’s rich history could be cataloged and measured in infinitely many varieties of units. Seasons. Designers. Years. Pieces. Styles. Yet, because of the many ubiquitous themes and designs throughout such a history, it can often be hard to contextualize an individual piece historically. Luckily, from the precious little branding present on each piece, the date marks, we can glean when in Chanel’s history a piece came from. It seems then, that the eras of Chanel’s history may be best demarcated in terms of the date marks present on each piece. 1920’s-1950’s Unfortunately, throughout the infancy of the Chanel brand, Coco Chanel would rarely put any markings at all on her pieces. While we can only speculate as to why, we know Chanel liked to consider her jewelry as a functional piece of her whole ensemble, so perhaps the lack of date marks was intended to make each piece of jewelry less of a stand-alone piece and more part of an entire outfit. Some of Chanel’s most famous jewelry, themes, and designs find their origins in this time period. The first Gripoix poured glass pieces were done for Chanel around this time as well, marking the beginning of a three-generation collaboration.
Ironically enough, the only pieces produced around this time that bore the Chanel name were not made by Chanel. In 1941, an American costume jewelry company, the Chanel Novelty Company, started producing costume jewelry with a script ‘Chanel’ stamped on each piece. This was during World War II, after Chanel had closed its doors, yet Chanel still protested the use of its name, suing the company. The name was thereafter changed to the Reinad Novelty Company and they stopped using the Chanel stamp. While not official Chanel pieces, these Chanel Novelty Co. pieces are quite valuable in their own right, as they mark a significant and tumultuous time in the history of Chanel.
1954-1971 In 1954, Chanel reopened her boutique, 31 Rue Cambon, after closing for World War II. She continued to produce jewelry designed specifically to accompany her couture, often times selling necklaces, brooches, earrings, and bracelets as part of a couture ensemble, so much of the costume jewelry she produced remained unmarked. Yet, around this time Robert Goossens helped design many of the costume jewelry pieces, and they began being stamped with the name CHANEL. Around this time pieces were being produced with the same stamp with an additional three stars underneath the name CHANEL. It’s unclear as to how it was decided which pieces would receive which stamp around this time. These two permutations of this stamp were used on most pieces until Coco’s death in 1971.
1971- 1980 Following Chanel’s death and Alain Wertheimer’s takeover of the company, markings on costume jewelry radically changed. Pieces still bore the CHANEL stamp, but it was enclosed in a stamped circle with copyright and registered trademark stamps in the upper left and upper right corners of the circle, respectively. “Made in France” was also stamped in the lower half of this circle. Also, for the first time pieces began to bear the interlocked “CC” logo, stamped between “Chanel” and “Made in France”. Necklaces around this time bore the same stamped plate, albeit in a different and quite ingenious manner. On a single link in the chain of each necklace, a small circular plate with the same stamp was folded in half over a link, producing a sort of semicircular tag. The plate was quite seamlessly integrated, often not even noticeable unless one were to examine the piece closely.
1980- 1985 In 1980, the stamp was altered slightly. The “Made in France” was removed and replaced by a copyright symbol and the date the piece was produced. It was around this time (specifically, in 1983) that Karl Lagerfeld took over as Chief Designer and brought with him a second wind of creative genius to the Chanel brand.
1986-1992 After being appointed head designer at Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld brought Victoire de Castellane in as head designer of costume jewelry. De Castellane introduced a new plate that gave more focus to the season each piece was released. The plates became ovals, still bearing the classic CHANEL with the copyright and registered trademark signs now directly to the left and right, respectively. Underneath, in the very center of the plate, was the interlocked CC logo. On either side of the interlocked CC logo were numbers indicating the season the piece was released. For example, a piece from Chanel’s 23rd season would have a 2 and 3 on either side of the logo. Also, perhaps with a sense of newfound nationalism, the “Made in France” was returned to the bottom of the plate, where it had been initially. This style of plate was on all Chanel costume jewelry from their 23rd season to their 29th.
1993-Present Beginning in 1993, the plate was redesigned once more with increased specificity regarding the season a piece was released. While most of the plate remained unchanged, the numbers indicating the season were replaced. In their place, de Castellane introduced the last two digits of the year the piece was released on the left of the CC logo and a letter, “A” or “P”, (“A” for Automne, or Autumn, and “P” for Printemps, or Spring) indicating the season within that year. Occasionally pieces will be marked with a “C” for Cruise collection or “V” for Summer, although these appear much less frequently than the larger Spring and Autumn collections. The plate was either stamped into a piece, soldered on directly (as with the aforementioned necklace plates), or in some cases, such as a few bracelets, the plate would hang like a tag or charm from the piece.
Even though Victoire de Castellane left Chanel in 1998, the stamp she introduced has seen very few changes in years since. More frequently, the pieces will read “Made in Italy” rather than “Made in France”, although that seems to reflect more of a change in production than design. Also, the stamp is increasingly being stamped directly onto pieces, rather than being stamped onto a metal plate and later applied to a piece. In chronicling the history of Chanel, we can only be grateful that Chanel has taken so much of the guesswork out of it. With nearly 90 years of gorgeous jewelry on the market today, we can be thankful we don’t have to wade through archive after archive hunting for the origins of a certain piece. The date marks on Chanel jewelry allow us a much more intimate knowledge of where and when a piece came from, granting us a wealth of historical context and a closer connection to each piece.
- Douglas Rosin Blog