As a kid, your parents' closets were the perfect place to set up shop and play dress up. Those oversized suit jackets and giant pearl necklaces were tailor made to transform you and your siblings or friends into the character of the evening. But looking back, some of those radical pieces of 80s jewelry just might've been in those ornate jewelry boxes for a reason, and they might be worth hunting down today.
Collectible 80s Jewelry Brands You've Never Heard Of
Delicate isn't a term you'd ever use to describe 1980s jewelry. Big, bold statement pieces were all the rage. From door knocker earrings and multi-strand necklaces to giant colorful cocktail rings, the 80s were all about standing out and showing off.
Of course, jewelry from vintage luxury brands like Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Chanel is still worth thousands today. But even they didn't hold a candle to these brands that rocked the Me Generation's world.
Undoubtedly, one of the most expensive American jewelry brands still running today is David Webb. Jeweler to Hollywood stars and politicians alike, Webb's pieces are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Launched in 1948, the brand easily transitioned into the 1980s chunky styles with gold pieces set with colored semi-precious and precious stones. Want to differentiate your parents' costume jewelry from the really nice stuff? Check the inner sides of your jewels for a stamped WEBB, and you could have something special on your hands, like this $75,000 vintage 18K gold hammered pedant necklace from Webb's workshop.
Barry Kieselstein-Cord is a highly acclaimed jeweler that broke onto the scene in the 1970s when he launched his luxury company Kieselstein-Cord. A few of the more notable pieces to look for from his 80s collections are his belt buckles, belts, and alligator and other animal motifs.
For example, this vintage pair of alligator clip-on gold earrings is currently on sale for $3,250. Meanwhile, larger statement pieces can run you tens of thousands of dollars.
Marina B was destined from the start to be a massive success. This luxury jewelry company was founded in 1978 by legacy Bulgari family member Marina Bulgari. She took 80s garish costume jewelry styles and elevated them into something you could see on the cover of fashion magazines like Vogue. She was so inventive, in fact, that she created a custom gemstone cut for her pieces—an interesting cross between a pear and triangle.
Marina B is still thriving today, where many of her modern antiquity-inspired pieces could've been plucked out of her 80s collections. You should find the company name stamped on all their pieces. Check for it, as items from the 80s could be worth thousands of dollars. For instance, this unusual beaded, gold and semi-precious gemstone bracelet from 1986 is on sale for $36,000.
Vahe Naltchayan's 80s pieces are a great departure from the typical Western-exclusive jewelry world at the time. A Lebanese legacy jewelry designer, Naltchayan had already made quite a name for himself by the time he moved to the United States in 1980. Much like other jewelry designers in the 1980s, Naltchayan took inspiration from the ancient past, on top of the typical chunky chains and huge gemstones that pop icons were rockin'.
Although Vahe Naltchayan's pieces aren't as valuable as some of the designers on this list, they'll still cost a few thousand dollars. For example. This 18k gold bracelet made in 1987 is currently listed for $6,400.
SeidenGang was a joint jewelry venture launched by Carol Seiden and Carolyn Gang. It was the first to embrace Greek and Roman motifs. The two took classic bas-relief designs and transposed them into wearable art.
Typically made out of gold, vintage SeidenGang jewelry is on the more affordable side of this retro list. Take this pair of 80s gold and platinum earrings, for example. Despite their delicate Athena reliefs, they're only listed for $3,300.
Don't Know 80s Style? Here Are a Few Tips
You couldn't find a microscopic gold chain or simple infinity band on anyone in the 1980s. The Me Generation was all about exploring themselves—and their new spending allowances—on huge, bold pieces. More was more in the 80s. Here are a few tips for helping you pick out 80s jewelry at a glance.
- Huge gold chains: Hollow gold chains, whether real or imitation, were a must-have in the 1980s, and they came in just about every size imaginable.
- Giant, colorful cocktail rings: You couldn't achieve your Dynasty aesthetic without a few huge cabochon rings scattered across your fingers.
- Multi-strand necklaces: People took layering to a whole new level in the 1980s when even their jewelry had to be stacked high.
- Door knocker earrings: Gold earrings that look like door knockers were all the rage.
- Faux pearl button earrings: Faux pearl and other colorful button earrings were incredibly popular.
Remember - Luxury Isn't Everything
It's important to keep in mind that luxury or high-ticket prices aren't the only things to consider when investing in vintage jewelry. Personal style, budget, and how frequently you want to wear something can all be factors that might change what pieces work for you. Classic Swatch watches and costume jewelry can give you that vintage vibe for a fraction of the cost—and that can be just as fulfilling as owning a handful of really expensive pieces.
The 80s Aren't Going Anywhere
Sure, we love to make fun of the shoulder pads and skyscraper-sized curls, but if the mullet resurgence is anything to go by, 80s aesthetics aren't going anywhere anytime soon. At the end of the day, the 1980s was a fun decade, and that sense of in-your-face fashion shows up in every single piece of jewelry from the era. So break out chains big enough to tow a car with and earrings that scrape your shoulders—the 80s are back, baby.