Rihanna’s expectant belly clad in vintage Lacroix and Chanel jewellery last week is the latest sign that big and bold vintage fashion jewellery is back with a bang. Luckily for us, Susan Caplan is here to satisfy all our ’80s and ’90s rhinestone cravings. The costume jewellery aficionado has just got her hands on a towering hoard of vintage pieces that had lain undiscovered in a London warehouse for more than 20 years.
“I couldn't believe my eyes. It’s the biggest collection I’ve ever seen and it’s like it’s been frozen in time,” says Caplan, who has been in the vintage jewellery business for 40 years. It was in December that she got a call from the warehouse’s new caretaker inviting her to see what was there. Formerly home to a British jewellery manufacturer that closed in 1999, the giant space was crammed floor to ceiling with boxes of orders stretching back 40 years, many of them with their original invoices for the likes of Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty.
“It’s a huge collection of millions of pieces that have been lying untouched all this time,” says Caplan. The sheer variety of the collection means there is something for all tastes from glitzy ’80s bold door knocker earrings to Swarovski-crystal embellished butterfly brooches to contemporary-looking chain necklaces that beg to be layered with other pieces. Prices start as little as £40 for a pair of earrings.
Caplan says her business has grown 30 per cent year on year over the last five years as consumers have become more educated about sustainability and the advantages of buying vintage. The specific appeal about this hoard is that it was all produced in the UK, in the very warehouse where Caplan found it. “You’re getting something satisfying in terms of sustainability and the circular economy and at the same time benefiting from the superior craftsmanship of British manufacturing at the time before it was largely outsourced abroad,” she says. Unlike a lot of fashion jewellery today which is mass produced overseas, she adds, costume jewellery at the time was made by hand by skilled craftspeople working in small batches and using high quality materials and triple-plated gold.
Many pieces from the hoard are already available on Caplan’s online store as well as at retailers, such as Selfridges’ pre-loved offering, Project Earth Resellfridges While you are falling in love with the gems on offer, just picture Caplan up a ladder at the warehouse where she is still working her way through all the discoveries. “It’s still exciting every time I go back!” she laughs.