Few luxury brands have withstood the test of time as well as Chanel. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel has gone down in history for breaking the mold in women’s fashion by making women’s suits well… suitable, as well as glamorizing costume jewelry and giving the “little black dress” its notoriety. About a decade after her death, Karl Lagerfeld was appointed as artistic director of the Chanel fashion house. Lagerfeld had worked for the likes of Pierre Balmain, Jean Patou and Chloé, before becoming the creative director of Fendi in 1965. He then went on to redefine modern fashion at Chanel in the 80s. Much of the vintage Chanel jewelry you see for sale online was designed during this era, more specifically the 80s and 90s, when it was debuted on the runway by Karl’s original supermodels like Linda Evangelista and Claudia Schiffer. Karl took Chanel’s vision and brought to it a fresh, modern life.
IDENTIFYING CHANEL JEWELRY
One of the most important identifiers of authentic Chanel jewelry is its authenticity stamp. With the exception of a few, nearly every authentic piece of Chanel jewelry is marked with an authenticity stamp. The stamp will never be visible when the jewelry is worn (i.e. the front-facing part of an earring) but will instead always be hidden somewhere, likely engraved on the back of the piece, or on some pieces like necklaces, engraved onto a plaque that hangs from a closure clasp. The engraved plaque should always be either shaped like a circle or an oval.
The look of the authenticity stamp varies depending on the time period in which the jewelry was produced. We will explore each time period and it’s stamp below so you can both authenticate and date any piece of Chanel jewelry:
During this time period Coco Chanel released both costume jewelry and her first debut line of fine jewelry named the “Bijoux de Diamants”. Throughout this early period, none of the jewelry was signed, making anything from this era extremely difficult to authenticate except by the most experienced of appraisers. Gripoix was used quite frequently. It is highly unlikely to run across a Chanel piece quite this old, so do not let anyone trying to sell you an unsigned Chanel piece convince you that it’s just too old to have been signed. Unless you have copious amounts of money to spend on an appraiser of exceptional expertise, it is best to steer clear of anything unsigned.
Chanel closed her original Rue Cambon shop during World War II and reopened it in 1954. This is the first era in which Chanel jewelry was ever marked. Chanel designed her jewelry in collaboration with Robert Gooseens, a French jeweler who had collaborated with the likes of Rochas and Balenciaga, and the very first Chanel authenticity stamp was his creation. Pieces from this period are simply stamped with CHANEL. Any jewelry from the haute couture line featured three stars centered beneath the insignia to set those pieces apart from the rest. Registration trademarks and copyright markings did not show up on Chanel jewelry until later.
The authenticity stamp was altered by Alan Wertheimer after Coco Chanel’s death in 1971. He added a copyright symbol to the left of the brand name and a registered trademark to the right, as well as the CC logo and “MADE IN FRANCE” centered underneath it.
Chanel jewelry was not dated until the year 1981. At this point, “MADE IN FRANCE” was replaced with the four-digit year at the bottom center of the CC authenticity stamp.
Lagerfeld was appointed creative director in 1983, and in 1984 Victoire de Castellane was appointed by him to be head of costume jewelry design. She modified the stamp yet again, this time marking years by season numbers, starting with 23 in 1984 and ending with 29 in 1989/90. The two digits of the season number were separated by the CC logo in the middle.
For about one year, Castellane brought back Wertheimer’s dateless stamp from the 70s.
1993 and Onwards
1993 was the year Chanel began releasing two seasonal collections in addition to its yearly couture shows, and Castellane changed the stamp again to reflect this. The stamp showed the 2-digit year (i.e. 93) AND the season, marked by a letter (”P” for Printemps/Spring and “A” for Automne/Autumn). The year sat to the left of the centered CC logo, and the season letter sat to the right of it.
Since Castellane’s departure in 1998, Chanel has since begun producing jewelry in both Italy AND France, but the authenticity stamp has remained essentially unchanged.
Since the house added it’s annual Cruise collection, an additional “C” can now be found to the right of the CC logo.
Interlocking CCs - Regarding the interlocking CC logo, the C on the right should overlap the C on the left at the top, and the left C should overlap the right C on the bottom. If arranged any other way, the item is certainly a fake.
Weight - Real Chanel jewelry has some weight to it. Especially pieces from the 70s to the 90s, which were made with a heavy base metal and thick gold electroplating. Unless the piece is extraordinarily small, it shouldn't feel "light as a feather." Oftentimes you will still be able to tell if a piece is well-made when viewing it online, as counterfeits can be pretty cheap looking upon close examination. However, the best and most obvious way to tell quality by weight is to be able to hold the piece.
Price - If the price is low, be suspicious. Very few people DON'T know that Chanel jewelry is worth a high price, so if you find a piece being sold for a suspiciously low price, trust your instincts. It is probably counterfeit.
Poor Marks - While authentic Chanel stamps can sometimes look slightly "wonky", they should never be unreadable or difficult to make out. If there are lumps and bumps and you cannot easily see the formation of the CC, the date, or the words on the stamp, it is a counterfeit piece.
Flat Clip Backs - No Chanel earring has ever been made with flat clip backs. See the example of what NOT to buy below...
Authentic Chanel clip earrings will always have curved clips. See the example below of what to look for...
REAL authentic Chanel jewelry exudes elegance and quality. I hope this detailed guide can assist you in your search for authentic luxury pieces that will serve you well for decades to come.