It is such a thrill when you venture out to a place you have never been before and come home with a beautiful, unique treasure. That is exactly what I experienced when I stopped by a mesmerizing thrift shop filled with a vast variety of things that people simply had no use for anymore.
I walked in and told the cashier I was on the hunt for good, high-quality vintage costume jewelry. He had a twinkle in his eye and disappeared for a few moments. When he came back, he handed me a small cardboard box to dig through. At first glance, it seemed I was only going to be looking at a bunch of broken, worthless pieces of old jewelry. But to my delight and great surprise, I actually discovered a special treasure in that box…a pair of vintage clip earrings made by a company called Vendôme.
Coro, Corocraft, and Vendôme
It all started many years ago in 1901 when Coro Jewelry Company was founded in New York by Emanuel Cohn and Carl Rosenberger. The name came about as a contraction of the first two letters of each partner’s last name. Although Cohn and Rosenberger were not jewelry designers, they hired some of the best to create for them. As a result, Coro became one of the largest and most profitable costume jewelry manufacturing companies in the world.
In 1944, Coro’s higher quality line called Corocraft was replaced by Vendôme which used the finest imported rhinestones and faceted crystal beads in their jewelry. You can see an example of them being incorporated into the making of this Vendôme goldtone leaf and Aurora Borealis crystal clip earring from the 1950s which I repurposed into an adjustable ring:
While jewelry with the Coro mark was sold in general department stores, the Vendôme mark was pricier and sold only in the finer specialty stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s.
The purpose of the Vendôme line was to have it produce higher end costume jewelry similar to the jewelry being created in Paris at the time with the intention of emulating fine, French fashion. Not surprisingly, Vendôme was named after a fashionable square in Paris called Place Vendôme, known for its classy, upscale hotels and shops owned by many famous dress designers.
Place Vendôme, Paris
The high-quality metal work and brilliance of the stones, combined with artistically expressive designs, were the main reasons Vendôme achieved its success. When Vendôme’s top designer, Helen Marion, introduced her artistic new jewelry designs in the 1960s, the line became even more trendy and popular. Her inspiration came from Georges Braque, a French painter who invented the style of Cubism with Pablo Picasso.
By the early ’70s, Coro’s market dominance had slipped. What was now considered fashionable was simple, unembellished jewelry that was suitable for every day and business wear. Coro could not compete with companies such as Monet that had the world market cornered on this style of jewelry. In 1979, Coro went bankrupt and Vendôme, therefore, ceased operations.
Trends are continually changing in our world of fashion. I sincerely hope those of you who are fortunate enough to have owned some of those beautiful, unique Vendôme pieces held onto them. For today, they are once again considered a treasure and highly collectible.
*Place Vendôme, Paris – photo credit: Dimitri Destugues
Kimberly Moore is a vintage costume jewelry expert, blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com.
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