Costume jewellery: Carole Tanenbaum, the collector

People like Carole Tanenbaum, for many women in Europe is an unknown name. But for the fashion industry is well-known to be the biggest collector of costume jewellery.

An archive of 20.000 items of luxury brand from Chanel to Dior, part of which is on sale in selected boutiques, and also online. Sarah Jessica Parker is a fan and owns four hundred pieces, and Michelle Obama loves to adorn her traditional outfits with them. A chat whith Carole Tanenbaum

You have an archive of over 20.000 pieces of vintage costume jewellery. How do you manage to pick the pieces that you want to wear? Do you have a special archiving method?
I generally decide what mood I am in, what context of daily activity do I have etc. But I always wear multiples of everything, whether

I am doing grocery shopping or going to a gala. Vintage Costume Jewellery is my way of making a unique, intelligent fashion statement. How did you start to collect vintage costume jewellery?
I visited London and went to an antique show where I saw a collection of these beautiful objets d’art (which was my first exposure to Vintage costume jewellery). I bought about 20 pieces and the rest is history. I was hooked!

What is the first piece that you bought?
It was a group, representing the 30s and 40s. The piece from this group that I remember most was an early Chanel poured glass flower necklace by Rousselet. I still have it!

One of your latest?
A collection of 30 Henry Schreiner 50s brooches. I consider Schreiner jewellery to be true originals in design and construction. In fact I am in the process of writing my second book on Schreiner.

Which pieces you like wearing and you never get tired of?
I never tire of any of my vintage to be truthful. I am consistent with my taste and judgment. I rarely tire of anything I buy, whether it is fine art, fashion, or vintage. Hard to believe, but I still have accessories that I brought for my marriage 45 yrs ago!

The most common brands in the collection?
I tend to buy Schreiner, Sherman, Chanel, YSL, Schiaparelli, Coppola e Toppo etc. However, I am not married to any brand. If a piece has great design without a designer signature, I will buy it based on its visual impact and what it says to me. Some of the unsigned jewels are amongst my most treasured.

Which is the most precious piece?
My most valued piece is a Bakelite necklace and bracelet in blue (rare!) And red with a horse motif. I broke the bank on that one, but had to have it. We’ll never see another! Have you worn them all? I haven’t worn all, no. But, I have them categorized so that I can ‘visit’ them at any time.

Tips or advice for who want to start to collecting vintage costume jewellery.
For newcomers, pay attention to design, construction, originality and condition. Forget who manufactured it. Go for the aesthetics of a piece and the way it was made.

Favorite designer.
Favourite designers are Schreiner, early Chanel, early (50s and earlier) Haskell. I collect Bakelite, figural brooches that charm me, and Victorian Scottish.

Could you suggest some books that talks of vintage costume jewellery?
There are so many books on the subject of vintage; Jewels of Fantasy, Fabulous Fakes (my book), Judith Miller. It depends on what someone is interested in. History? Private collections? Mexican?

Best vintage shop and best flea market for buy vintage costume jewellery.
Today, it’s a crap shoot where the best hunting ground are, as so many people and museums are interested in collecting. One of my favourite for the most variety is the Pier Show, twice a year at the NY pier.

What are the key pieces, in terms of jewellery, that every woman’s should have in her wardrobe?
I think that depends on the person. A great showstopper necklace is a must! Several bangles or bracelets that can be worn together, brooches that always complete a coat or outfit, and of course earrings to top it all off!

Do you have other collections?
My husband and I are collectors. We have major collections of photography (both vintage and contemporary), African art, Victorian quilts vintage toys, American Paintings… I can go on.

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