ARE WE TRULY A SET OR ONLY A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN?
If you’re like me, you have lots of favorite combinations of jewelry that you frequently wear together because you like the way the pieces complement each other, or the color works beautifully, or they mesh to give the perfect “look” to a favorite outfit.And, let’s face it, that is probably the way in which most jewelry, both costume and fine, is typically worn.
On the other hand, that is certainly not the way in which most vintage jewelry is accumulated into a collection.People enjoy acquiring matching pieces, and many even suffer from an incurable disorder known as SCS or Set Completion Syndrome. SCS is so addictive that it has been known to cause a small smattering of vintage jewelry to grow to gargantuan proportions, seemingly overnight of its own volition.And the biggest enemy of those with SCS?It’s called marriage!
For those of you who may be starting to panic (hmmmm, do I give up the collection or the spouse…), let me clarify:Marriage used here means two or more pieces of jewelry that go together or look very similar, but that are not truly a matching set.
As buyers and sellers, we all need to think about what is required to call two or more pieces of jewelry a matching set.There are scores of “helpful” sellers out there that try very hard to put together matching pieces for us, marrying them together in listings and descriptions or mating them on display tables at shows.And, to be fair, I think that there may be a bit of disagreement over what is or isn’t a true set of jewelry.So, armed with daring, I’m writing this month about my thoughts as to the differences between a true set and a jewelry marriage.
To my mind, the three main requirements to be met for designation as a true set are that the type and color of metal match, the colors and shapes of stones, settings and enamels match, and lastly, that there is use of common design elements in all pieces.
While matching metal color might be an obvious requirement, as a Florenza collector, I have put together many of that company’s designs that use identical castings, but some in silver-tone and some in gold-tone.And, I’ve had occasion to snatch up a quick “matching” find for my collection only to realize later that my pieces were the opposite metal color.
The jewelry pictured below is a great example of a very nice marriage that is not a true set.In the larger photo, you can see that the design appears to match very well, and the flowers are virtually identical in shape and size, and the rhinestones match perfectly in color and are all set with four same-sized prongs.All pieces are sterling vermeil, and all are constructed of die-stamped metal rather than cast pieces.The problem arises with the metal color of the gold plating on the flowers.The brooch and earrings (which are a true matching set) have rose-gold plating on the flowers while the bracelet flowers have yellow-gold plating.An even closer examination reveals that the cups for the rhinestone settings on the bracelet are slightly larger than those on the brooch and earrings.
Now I’m sure that at least a few people reading this are thinking “Wow, Mary Ann is really being way too picky here!”And, yes, I agree that this is about as close as we could get to something that is nearly a true set, but in my opinion only a marriage.However, the next examples will likely generate a bit more universal opinion.
Next up are a DeLizza and Elster brooch and earrings.As you can clearly see, these could not possibly be a true set because the brooch is missing some rhinestones and the earrings are not!Well, yes, I am joking about the reason, but as much as these pieces look a lot alike, they are a marriage and demonstrate lack of the second requirement for a true set, i.e. that the pieces use the same shapes and colors of stones.Taking a close look, you’ll see that the earrings are set with topaz-colored chaton rhinestones while the brooch has darker Madeira-topaz chatons.
If the chaton rhinestones were the same color, would this be a true set?Well, if that were the case, I believe that enough design elements appear in both pieces to make a strong argument that it would then be a set rather than a marriage.
The next example I have to show is a group of Florenza pieces.The bracelet, brooch and both pairs of earrings all have a rather unique silver-tone enamel over thin leaf elements alternating with black marquis rhinestones.All pieces also include black-diamond-colored chaton rhinestones.I would not rule out true set just because of the flashy givre molded stones in the brooch and second pair of earrings because sometimes only some matching pieces of a set use large specialty stones.Florenza only used these silver-enameled leaves for these two design groups, and that does argue in favor of matched set in spite of the general design layout differences.However, the fact that the bracelet and earrings use topaz chatons, and the brooch and earrings use darker Madeira-topaz chatons would be the deciding factor.Though you’ll frequently see these pieces for sale together combined as a set, they are definitely a marriage.
Here’s another Florenza example, but this time we do pretty much have the same shapes and colors of rhinestones in the brooch and both sets of earrings.While only the brooch and one set of earrings have topaz-colored marquis cabochons, all other stones are present in the same colors and shapes which might at first glance say that this is a true set.However, the second set of earrings violate the third requirement for a set, as the casting has defined leaves and swirls, while the brooch has a Maltese cross design and its matching earrings echo the design with pointed, same-textured bases below the stones.
I could, of course, give you tons of examples of what I believe to be true sets rather than married pieces.But, in the interest of space, I’ve selected just one that I think works well as a demonstration.The following DeLizza and Elster brooch and earrings are, I feel, a true set.While the earrings do include an element not found on the brooch (the flower designs atop the clips), each of these pieces uses graduated sizes of the exact same faceted glass aurora borealis beads, the beads are attached in the exact same fashion and number groupings, and the construction (more visible from the back view) is virtually identical.Both the pendant portion of the earrings and the brooch have a triangular design.
Now I’ll close by telling you to get out your jewels and start thinking about which pieces are true sets and which are marriages.And, I will also invite all of you to comment on the examples I’ve given here and to provide some of your own.
Wishing you happy hunting for your own true mates!