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Brooches add sparkle and fun to coats, scarves, suits

Sandy Erdman says the advantage of vintage jewelry found at flea markets, thrift shops, estate and garage sales is not only the uniqueness, but also the price point.

A colorful vintage classic brooch found with Sarah Kieffer can be worn every day. Contributed
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Worn or displayed, these collectible fashion statements from the past are still trendy today.

Some pieces can be costume jewelry -- not the same as fine jewelry -- but are colorful and fun to wear. You'll find every creature from a flamingo to a lady bug and every holiday from a Christmas tree to a pumpkins created from metals, enamel and rhinestones.

If you like wine vs. beer or a trip to the museum vs. a ball game, then you like putting on the glitz and glamour pins for that classic look.

These pins are more in the line of the Sarah Coventry, Coro and Monet popular during the 1950s and '60s. Some of these pieces were sold through home parties, not department stores. Some of the most highly valued pieces of Sarah Coventry jewelry were designed as limited-edition hostess sets earned by the women selling. Many women jumped at the opportunity to make money and acquire fashionable new accessories from the comfort of their own homes. Sarah Coventry was given away to contestants on game shows and at beauty pageants.

The word of mouth that resulted from this marketing strategy made Sarah Coventry one of the most popular jewelry brands of the mid-20th century. Today, its pieces from the 1960s and ’70s, such as the sun burst are especially prized by costume jewelry collectors.


A good reference book is “Warman's Costume Jewelry: Identification and Price Guide," by Pamela Wiggins.

“Costume jewelry is a great collectible," she says in the book. "It is jewelry that didn't cost much yesterday or even today, but certain pieces can fetch hundreds of dollars. But you do need to know your pieces. As a collector, a little knowledge goes a long way and helps you avoid paying too much for a common piece or missing out on that jewel in the rough at auction.”

Condition is everything. Chips, cracks and missing pieces are critical and can reduce the value.

A good handbook on jewelry, a good magnifying glass or jeweler's loupe will help you judge whether a piece is worthwhile or not. Is it well made? Is it plastic or Bakelite? Is it signed? Has it been repaired? Is the design rough or well-made? Are they ordinary rhinestones or the real deal such as Swarovski crystals?

Buying secondhand

The advantage of vintage jewelry found at flea markets, thrift shops, estate and garage sales is not only the uniqueness, but also the price point.

“We do have a variety of pins at Kismet Consignment Fashion and Home Decor in our Rochester store, including a few festive holiday snowflake starburst pins. Price range is $8 to $18. People love them and I find them a very easy accessory to wear,” said owner Penny Bracken.

“I have so many lovely Christmas brooches and more at Sarah's Uniques & Jim's 'Man'tiques, St. Charles,” said Sarah Kieffer. “An antique and vintage Christmas brooch adds so much to a scarf or a jacket and puts everyone in the mood for Christmas," They are marked between $5 and $20.

The store also has a large selection of antique and vintage brooches for every day wear.


"A big thing years ago was to make Christmas trees out of these antique brooches and passed on from grandma and on down the line. These Christmas tree brooches are very collectible today, selling in a price range from $56 to $65,” Kieffer said.

New Generations of Harmony also has a number of vintage pins. Some are specifically Christmas but many are for everyday wear, and are priced from $1.50 to $20.

"Many of our customers enjoy wearing them on their coats, suits or dresses. They add a little festive sparkle,” said manager Erica McClain.

At the Rusty Bucket in Winona, owner Shayna Dais said Sarah Coventry brooch and bonus clip earrings are $7, "and a nice Christmas pin with white rhinestones for $6.”

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at .

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