Chanel is one of the most iconic fashion and jewelry houses on the planet. Beginning, of course, with the legendary Coco Chanel’s whimsical yet sophisticated designs, the brand, now headed by Karl Lagerfeld, has more than earned its reputation as one of the most beloved purveyors of clothing, bags, perfume and jewelry. Chanel’s signature creations definitely shine through in the brand’s jewelry, whether vintage, costume or fine.
Beginning with costume jewelry only, the brand has ventured into fine jewelry very successfully many times. Chanel herself believed that every woman’s jewelry collection should be an equal blend of costume and fine. She was a big fan of mixing up a costume jewelry piece (such as a cuff adorned with faux stones) with a fine, elegant jewelry piece. Much like her fashion designs, Chanel’s jewelry has implemented features and materials such as tweed, boucle, pearls, and the classic interlocking double C logo, to name a few highlights.
Investing in a piece of Chanel jewelry is a great way to blend the brand into your wardrobe, but beware - being such a coveted brand isn't without its downside. Because Chanel is so celebrated, fakes and frauds are prevalent. There is, unfortunately, an endless array of con artists, all of them chomping at the bit to sell you fake Chanel jewelry. For this reason, and because many pieces cannot be authenticated, it's important to protect yourself (and your cash) by being aware and knowing what to look for. Too many jewelry lovers fall victim to inauthentic jewelry, and we feel arming yourself with knowledge is the best way to prevent this from happening.
Here's how to better ensure you're getting the real deal.
Vintage Chanel jewelry pieces date as far back as the 1920s. The problem is that none of these early pieces were signed, thereby making them even more difficult to authenticate. It's extremely rare to find one of these pieces, but if and when you do, unfortunatel,y the best way to tell if it's real Chanel is to look at the quality and craftsmanship. That's not much to go on, we know, but when you're talking about jewelry that was created nearly a century ago, you're left with few options. It might be a good idea to make friends with a Chanel historian, asap!
Vintage Chanel Brooch from the 1920s
In the 1950s Chanel jewelry began to receive signatures, which makes them easier to spot. Robert Goossens designed a wide range of Chanel jewelry pieces during this time, and his “signature” was simply a stamp of the word ‘CHANEL.’ Registration trademarks and copyright markings started to show up in Chanel jewelry in the 1970s.
Coco Chanel passed away during this era, leaving Alain Wertheimer to take the helm. He insisted on including more identifiers in the jewelry, and this meant more markings- copyright, trademark and signatures began to appear on the jewelry. Wertheimer can also be credited for including the country of origin though this is not true for every piece.
Still, if you are interested in a Chanel jewelry piece from the 70s to the early 80s, keep your eyes peeled for a signature tag with ‘Chanel CC Made in France’. Do you see a copyright symbol to the left of the letter ‘C’ in the word ‘Chanel’, and a registration trademark to the right of the ‘L’? If these things are not visible, chances are the piece in question is not authentic Chanel. It's also worth noting that Chanel costume jewelry dating from the 70s to the 90s was made with heavy metal and then plated with gold. This means all pieces produced within that time frame should be fairly heavy.
A Chanel signature on a piece from the late 60s or early 70s
Victoire de Castellane was bestowed with the role of head costume jewelry design at Chanel in 1983, when Karl Lagerfeld took over the company. From 1986-1992, he produced costume jewelry for Chanel, with each piece baring an oval-shaped signature tag. These pieces were marked with something else as well - Chanel had implemented seasonal codes. These codes indicated the season of the collection in which the jewelry piece came from, conveyed in a number (single-digit), flanking each side of the logo (double interlocking C’s). The tags changed in 1993, after Castellane left the company, with yet another addition - the first letter of each corresponding season began to appear on Chanel jewelry pieces. In other words, if the piece came from the Spring collection, there would be a P (for Printemps), and if it came from the Fall season, an A (for Automne) would be visible. If you're looking to authenticate a costume jewelry piece from 1993-present day, the tag is an excellent indicator.
A piece from 1983, with the signature, copyright, trademark and logo.
Fine jewelry became more of a priority to the house of Chanel beginning in 1998, with the help of designer Lorenz Bauer. These days, Chanel’s fine jewelry is produced in the company's own exclusive studio.
The modern day markings of Chanel fine jewelry include:
Karat hallmarks are placed as discreetly as possible - often on the underside of the jewelry. Rings typically bear their markings on the inner area of the shank. As for materials, ONLY genuine white and yellow gold and platinum are used in Chanel fine jewelry, as are the finest diamonds.
A note about the double C logo:
Those intertwined C’s are recognized globally, but some frauds can get pretty darn close to emulating the iconic logo perfectly. Only the absolute worst frauds will have an error in the logo, but it doesn't hurt to know this; the C on the right should overlap the C on the left at the top, and the opposite is true for the bottom, where the left C should overlap the right C. If this is reversed, or there is no overlap, you've got a fake on your hands!
The iconic interlocking C logo displayed on a stunning pair of earrings. Notice how the C’s overlap.
A note on serial numbers:
If you're interested in exploring the details of Chanel’s serial numbers and learning more on this subject specifically, there are many in-depth guides created for the sole purpose of enlightening people on the topic. Here is one such example, which offers a very informative glimpse into Chanel jewelry serial numbers, complete with photos and in-depth analysis.
Chanel jewelry, like so many other brands, can be very difficult to authenticate. Because technology has advanced to such heights, it is, unfortunately, becoming easier and easier for frauds to pass as the real thing, convincingly imitating real designer goods. This means consumers must buy from a trustworthy seller and do extensive research before making a purchase of Chanel or any jewelry. And while authentication may prove arduous, it’s worth being informed and gaining an understanding of the true nature of Chanel jewelry. This is by no means a foolproof solution, but we hope that it will provide some valuable insight that will help protect you. It's an unfortunate fact that many people are wandering around wearing fake Chanel without even realizing it, but with the right information, you can feel confident that you won't be one of them.