Brooch On the eve of her museum exhibition and Fashion Jewelry book launch with Assouline, Barbara Berger reveals her collecting tips.
By Christine Whitney.
HOW TO GET STARTED I was always drawn to the fantasy of costume, and I've been collecting since I was 13. A lot of people collect maybe three or four designers, but my collection includes 80. It's very personal and rather baroque-the pieces are quite major. I have a structural metal necklace from Pierre Cardin, a big collar that goes all the way down to the belly button. Another favorite is Imprisoned in Fluo, the Daniel Von Weinberger necklace on the cover of my book. It's made of plastic elements, like 1960s orchid hearts from Italy and glow-in-the-dark frogs.
WHAT TO COLLECT I've been collecting Iradj Moini since the '80s; I have about 500 pieces. Robert Sorrell, Larry Vrba, and David Mandel are other top designers today-they do amazing things without copying the old. All the fashion houses do costume jewelry, and if it's spectacular enough, it will definitely go up in price: Lanvin, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, and Saint Laurent. John Galliano was super collectible when he was at Dior; Elie Saab, Marni, and Missoni have great things. I bought a fabulous necklace by Nina Ricci that is one of my favorites. It's major-multistrand, with mirror-encrusted charms and a silver-plated chain.
WHERE TO INVEST If you buy pieces from the 1940s or '50s, they will go up in price because you can't find them anymore. All Miriam Haskell from the '60s or '70s are also worth splurging on, as they're hand done. Dolce & Gabbana's runway pieces are always a very valuable investment. The workmanship is superb, and they're not mass-produced.
WHERE TO BUY I went to Miami and Palm Beach after the Madoff incident-the women were selling their costume jewelry, and I ran down there to find it at the pawnshops. There are online auctions now too. Christie's does it, and Harrods just started. In New York, you can go to the Chelsea Flea, and in Miami, to Lincoln Road. In Los Angeles, I go to all the antiques shows. And, of course, in Paris they have the Marches aux Puces. But only buy pieces that are more or less in mint condition; if half the stones are missing, I wouldn't buy. It's very difficult to replace old stones.
HOW TO SPOT A FAKE You have to see the back. The back is almost more important than the front. Vintage costume jewelry was mounted like real jewelry with prongs. And the metal has to show wear. If it's brighter, it's new. Also, the signature has to be correct, though often the real old jewelry does not have any.
WHAT EVERYONE SHOULD OWN Every woman should have at least four or five fabulous pins. My favorite brooches are florals from Roger Jean-Pierre. And we all need 30 pairs of earrings, because you're not dressed without earrings.
"Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger" is on view at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, June 25 through September 22.
Pictured above: Chanel cruciform brooch, 1990