Perhaps less well known than the more abundant Coro, Trifari or Napier costume jewelry, Kramer costume jewelry often used rare or unique stones in their jewelry. First, a brief history: Between 1943 and 1980, Kramer Jewelry Creations was a family run business that produced some of the finest high-end costume jewelry. In the 1950s and ’60s, Kramer manufactured Christian Dior designs, so finding a piece of Christian Dior by Kramer is a rare but rewarding treat. The Dior pieces often used good quality clear rhinestones with larger blue or green center stones. Christian Dior designs can command higher prices due to the Dior name, but the Kramer quality and designs are just as wonderful as those without the name.
Unfortunately for the collector, much Kramer jewelry from the ’50s and ’60s was unmarked and had only a paper tag attached to identify it. If you do see a signature, it will most likely be “Kramer”, “Kramer of N.Y.” or “Kramer of New York. Look for the signature on the clip of an earring, or on the clasp of a necklace or bracelet. Other marks include the rare “Amourelle” from 1963, and “Kramer Sterling” which may or may not date from the WWII years when sterling silver was used in jewelry in place of other metals that were needed for the war effort. Kramer jewelry is famous for its quality, and for the use of vibrantly colored rhinestones with creative settings. Radiant red and orange, striking dark blue, glowing topaz, and elegant black rhinestones, along with plastic decorations, gave Kramer jewelry great variety and style.
For the collector, I think a great place to look for vintage Kramer jewelry is at estate sales. If you haven’t tried it, this is a wonderful way to shop for vintage items of any kind. Check your newspaper and Craigslist for weekly listings of estate sales in your area, and sign up for the agent’s email mailing list for future sales. Often sales in older neighborhoods will have vintage costume jewelry for sale. Tip: On the last day of the estate sale items may be marked 50% off. The selection is best at the beginning of the sale, of course, but the best prices can be found towards the end.
As with any collectible costume jewelry, it’s important to be prepared: Bring a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe with you to check the condition of the piece. If you’re buying for your own collection, and not for investment purposes, you may be more flexible with condition flaws. If it’s for investment, it must be flawless. Do you like the piece? Will you wear it or display it or just store it away to be admired from time to time? If the piece is signed by the designer that increases its value. Is the original box or tag included? Again, increased value is there.
Whatever your reasons, and just the simple enjoyment of having beautiful vintage jewelry is more than enough, become educated, do research, ask questions, and you’ll soon be able to spot vintage Kramer, or other designer costume jewelry to add to your collection.