The unique personality of Coco Chanel was the key to her vision of vintage jewelry. The iconic themes turned every single item into a masterpiece and reflect the collision of different epochs. There are infinite ways to interpret Chanel collections depending on the period, decade, year or even season. They make it extremely hard to confirm the authenticity of Chanel pieces. No wonder both admirers of vintage jewelry and experienced vintage dealers might get very confused when they are trying to identify genuine Chanel.
I spent plenty of time in the specialized libraries and studied catalogues, talked to the experts and read a lot about the diverse history of Chanel costume jewelry, touched the original Chanel jewelry “with my own fingers” to become a real expert in it.
Of course, this topic is massive and it’s impossible to cover all of the aspects in just one article. But at least I can try to give the basics of the most “obvious” differences between the counterfeit and the original and tell you a little about the history of Chanel jewelry markings.
In fact, the House of Chanel was the first one to introduce the concept of costume jewelry as a part of everyday fashion and as a colorful cost-effective way to complement Coco Chanel’s clothing line. They put the special emphasis on the fact that they didn’t use the precious materials. At first, the jewelry was solemnly created to accompany the outfits. At that time, jewelry pieces were not sold as a stand-alone item, they were the part of the whole ensemble reflecting Chanel image and style.
First jewelry pieces of Coco Chanel of 20s/40s last century don’t have the marking as we know it (there is no stamp on the back side of the piece). We can only speculate what was the reason behind it. Maybe, she was only considering her jewelry as a functional addition to her whole ensemble and that’s why deliberately didn’t mark it. (the separate line of costume jewelry didn’t exist at that time). Or maybe it was really hard to stamp, for example, a long faux pearl necklace as their hang tags were not invented yet. The British Vogue in 1926 wrote about Chanel “she started faking jewelry so that it can be worn everywhere, even on the beach”. From 1920s the House of Chanel started manufacturing one of the highest quality costume jewelry in the world using the skills of the most famous and experienced jewelers – Gripoix, Duke of Verdura, Goossens, Victoire de Castellane .
None of the parts of this costume jewelry was signed and it goes without saying, this early masterpieces are very rare and need a lot of expertise to confirm their genuine origin.
Madison Gripoix for Chanel in French Vogue, 1937
Life hack: the genuine Chanel jewelry is manufactured to the highest standards and rough and careless craftsmanship should be obvious signs of a fake piece. Hang tags can also be one of the signs of a counterfeit, genuine tags are very slim and slightly longer, fake tags are usually wider and a little bit rounder.
can see it yourself in the pictures. On the left is the genuine Chanel hang tag,
on the right is the fake – please pay attention to the shape the difference in
the quality of stamp and its width.
When the famous woman Coco Chanel passed away, the new owner took over and he definitely understood the commercial importance of the name Chanel.That’s why he was the first one to use the trademark on all the jewelry pieces that were made. His name was Alain Wertheimer, and he was the first want to claim copyright and registered trademark to protect the name Chanel from various fakes.
Their special signature plaque was invented that had the word CHANEL with copyright and registration trademark and also included the logo CC and famous “Made in France”.
Before these years, the dates were not used for signatures on the plaques but in 1981 they were added in the form of four-digit number at the bottom of the plate. The plate usually had an oval or round shape and was placed directly on one of the parts of the piece. In some cases, the plate was hexagonal, meaning it had six sides.
Hang tag Chanel 1982
The plaque design was pretty much the same as of the previous year except for the mark “Made in France” at the bottom part of it has disappeared.
This is the period, when Karl Lagerfeld became the main designer of the House of Chanel and his main purpose was to highlight the style and the quality of the famous Chanel concepts at the same time giving them more modern and aesthetic look.
He appointed Victoire de Castellane, the famous woman jeweler, to head the direction of designing jewelry for the House of Chanel. It was her who made the most popular and famous vintage jewelry pieces that the collectors are so obsessed with and that are still an inspiration to everyone who loves vintage jewelry.
Victoire de Castellane worked there from 1984 to 1998 and it was surprisingly creative period for Chanel. She also introduced the new system of marking that was divided into following seasons. The systems started with the season 23 and ended with the season 29 and these seasons correspond to the years of 1984 to 1989.
In 1993 the system of marking Chanel jewelry was changed again, and it was pretty similar to what they have right now, the only difference is in some insignificant variations. From this time Chanel presents two yearly collections of jewelry that usually coincides with the fashion shows of the new collections of couture, one is in spring and one is in fall.
The trademark and copyright are again located next to the signature “CHANEL” as well as famous “Made in France” at the bottom.Between them there is CC logo, surrounded by two digits that show the year on one side and one letter that shows the season: P (spring) and A (autumn) on the other side.
Usually the plate is soldered onto the piece or can be used as a hang tag attached to it.
Now there are still new elements appearing in the Chanel jewelry. For example, in the cruise collection the Letters P and A where changed to the letter C, the mark “Made in Italy” instead of “Made in France” was added and the spring ring clasps were replaced by less aesthetically looking lobster clasps.
But no matter how the details of Chanel jewelry have changed, we always know they are of the highest and most reliable quality.
Chanel mark of 1993
Key points in brief
The pictures of Chanel markings according to the years with short explanations
1921 - 1939
Costume jewelry Chanel of 1921–1939 was only manufactured as the accessory to the clothing line of the House of Chanel. That’s why the very rare pieces of those times didn’t have any signature markings and you will never find them on eBay as they are already stored in the fanciest collections all over the world.
However strange it may be, there was another brand, named Chanel Novelty Company who manufactured brooches with the signature of Coco Chanel.She sued them for the obvious copyrights neglect and won the case. The Chanel Novelty Company had to change their name into Reinad Novelty.
1930s – 1960s
The jewelry line with stamp Chanel was introduced in 1941. Though the authors of some catalogues claim that these pieces were made by the brand Chanel Novelty Co., mentioned above.
1940s: There were some costume jewelry pieces especially the enamel brooches sold in 1941 with the stamp Chanel on each piece. However, these pieces are not connected to the House of Chanel and most probably were manufactured by the American Chanel Novelty Company. Chanel sued this company and soon they were renamed into Reynard Novelty Co. Of course, these jewelry pieces have their own value, but we shouldn’t confuse them with craftsmanship and the highest quality masterpieces by the House of Chanel.
1950s/1960s: Gabrielle reopened the doors of her boutique at Rue Cannon in 1954. Same as before, the majority of the jewelry was made to compliment her clothing line. Alongside with chains that she used to decorate her jackets, she started manufacturing necklaces, earrings, brooches (one the most famous examples is the chamomile flower) and the other jewelry, that were sold as a part of an entire ensemble. In the 50s and the beginning of 60s the majority of the jewelry were created by the young and talented designer Robert Goossens. Most of the pieces of that time were marked with a simple signature Chanel that was usually stamped on the piece itself.
the marking of 1941 The stamp of the late 60s 1954-1971
After World War II Chanel reopened her boutique at 31 Rue Cambon. At that time Robert Goosens collaborated with Coco Chanel to design costume jewelry and they started marking it with the signature CHANEL. Approximately at the same time some pieces manufactured had the additional three stars under the name CHANEL.
This symbol of trademark and copyright started to appear on the pieces when Alain Werthheimer took the control over Chanel in 1974. The usual for the mid 70s - beginning of 80s signature was placed on the round plaque and said “CHANEL CC MADE IN FRANCE”. Sometimes this stamp was located directly on the piece. From both sides of the signature you can see symbols of trademark ™ and copyright ©.
In 1980 the marking was slightly changed again. The famous “Made in France” disappeared, while the plate became oval and the symbols © and ™ were located by the logo CC from one side of signature CHANEL.
Approximately at the same time, particularly in 1983, Karl Lagerfeld took the position of the main designer and it was immediately reflected in all jewelry created by Chanel.
Soon Lagerfeld invited Victoire de Castellan to manage the manufacturing of jewelry collections by Chanel and she stayed in this position till 1998. The jewelry created by de Castellan between 1986 and 1992 can be recognized by the oval plate with the stamp. On the top of the plate there is signature CHANEL and on the right and left sides of the signature there are symbols of trademark and copyright.
The digits located on both sides of the logo signify the season they were designed for. 2 CC 3 for example indicate that the piece was made for the 23d season, and 2CC5 – for 25th season. Most of the plates are stamped directly on the piece or sometimes markings are on a separate piece soldered onto it, for example in bracelets the plate with signature usually hangs from the piece. As far as I know, this way of marking Chanel jewelry was introduced from the 23d season and came to an end by the 29th season.
1993 till present
Starting from 1993, the year and the season (Spring or Fall) started being placed either on one side of the logo or by the center of the plate (for example, 93CCP). P stands for Spring season, and A means Fall season. Same as before, the majority of the plates are soldered or stamped directly on the piece, for example, charmed-style bracelets are marked by a small oval plate, hanging from the piece by a short chain.
You can see all the symbols corresponding to the season and the year of the piece manufacturing.
The oval plate with the signature Chanel, symbols ™ and ©, the year and the season as well as the logo CC are still used by the House of Chanel with insignificant adjustments. More often you can see the mark “Made in Italy” instead of “Made in France”. The signatures and even stamps are engraved directly on the piece and are more common now than the hang tag. I met this kind of engraving on the locks of necklaces and bracelets and, for example, on the back side of the brooches. Recently Chanel started manufacturing pierced stud earrings and rings. It is much more challenging to put a stamp on stud earrings in comparison to clip-on earrings due to their small size. On the rings the signature is usually pretty small and is slightly engraved or stamped on the inside. Also, the new symbol C was currently introduced and it refers to the cruise collection.