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This month’s spring 2017 fashion story features some amazing vintage designer baubles courtesy of Dan Sharp. Sharp’s self-named Cherry Creek North boutique is a jewel-box space chock full of luxury coats and wraps cut in cashmere, leather, shearling, and fur (Sharp began his career at the French fur and luxury goods house of Revillion Paris in 1996). However, its his treasure trove of jewelry from iconic 20th century fashion designers that has garnered him a following across the U.S., and made him a resource for celebrities (he’s found replacement pieces for stars like Lady Gaga) and department stores alike (think Bergdorf Goodman). I spoke with Sharp about collecting vintage designer jewelry, and what you should know if you want to add a piece to your own jewelry wardrobe.
5280: Where do you find these jewelry pieces?
That's only $1 per issue!
DS: In Paris. I have friends who know the older models. These women were modeling in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s and they collected everything. They might have six of one necklace. But suddenly, these women are in their 90s and there’s no daughter or granddaughter; so, with no one to pass these items along to, either they go up for auction or we get them.
Which designers are the most important to collectors?
The top three designers in value are Chanel, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent, because their pieces are usually signed and there are so few of them. They might have made 50 or 100 of a single item. It’s like owning a signed painting.
I’m sure the condition of these pieces is important as well, right?
It has everything to do with the condition.
What about the original boxes? Do you usually have those?
When I can get a piece in its original box, it’s even better, but a lot of people threw them out—they thought it was just packaging!
What makes these pieces so special, besides just being a Chanel or Dior?
It’s about the process. Many of these jewelry pieces were produced by either (Maison) Gripoix or Robert Goossens in Paris. Gripoix’s process brought crystal and glass into a fine jewelry-like stone [Editor’s Note: Known as pâte de verre—literally glass paste—a process developed in 19th century France], whereas Goossens was a goldsmith and set real pearls and stones into gold-plated brass.
In the case of Gripoix, that’s a lot of detail for “costume” jewelry.
Yes, with the older pieces, even the back is beautiful.
What decades do most of your pieces originate from?
Mostly 80s and older. Some of that 90s stuff Karl Lagerfeld did for Chanel was amazing, because everything was big; people were spending money, so the pieces were gigantic. You have to have a little of that stuff. But the really collectible pieces are from the 1950s—like these Chanel cuffs. They’re really durable and very substantial in weight.
Has anything recently become more collectible?
Long necklaces or sautoir pieces that were so big in the 70s and 80s have made a comeback. They can be doubled to look like a choker or wrapped around the wrist and worn like a gigantic cuff or bracelet.
What about markings? Are all the pieces you have signed?
Sometimes they’re signed twice. But it’s not like every piece is marked the same way; some of them were marked and some of them weren’t. It may just depend on who made it.
Are there a lot of women who collect this jewelry?
No, it’s considered almost vulgar to collect like that anymore. And it’s not! You know, some of these pieces were even in the [Denver Art] museum’s Yves Saint Laurent exhibit—they were on his tuxedos—so they really are art.
But it isn’t a look or price point for everyone.
There’s a specific client out there who loves beautiful things and they’ll pay for it. Some people will say, “$5,000 for a necklace?!” Well, to buy a new Chanel bag in the store it’s $5,000 or $6,000.
Do clients ever make requests for specific pieces?
Sure. They’ll grab a book and say, “I want this piece.” And we’ll go looking for it. Sometimes we find it in two years and sometimes we find it in two days. And some of them, I have not found yet so it could take years.
What about fakes?
There are a lot of fakes out there. I get so excited when I get a call that someone has found a piece; then it arrives and you can tell immediately from the plate that it’s not right—it’s too bright, it’s too lightweight. So collectors need to buy from someone they trust and if they have a problem, they can take the piece back. Buyer beware—think twice if you’re getting too good of a deal on a piece.
This jewelry has become so collectible, it’s really difficult to find. I wish I looked for it 15 years ago, because it would have been so much easier then. But just like with fake designer bags, people try to sell fake jewelry. No thank you. It’s all about the real thing—it makes a woman feel like she looks amazing.
Dan Sharp Luxury Outerwear, 218 Steele St., 303-333-6666, dansharpluxuryouterwear.com