Chanel, Part 4: Vintage Jewelry / Brooch Authenticity Tips

The Chanel video series (Part 1 – Wallet on chain and petite shopping tote, Part 2 – The classic flap bag (with updated prices as of February 2012), Part 3 – Buying pre-owned or at a discount) are some of the most-read posts on this blog, so I wanted to share my latest experience with buying costume jewelry as well. Now that I’ve fulfilled my tweed jacket dreams thanks to Uniqueen, I’ve been itching to get a classic Chanel brooch to adorn those jackets. Although Chanel costume jewelry (faux-pearls, man-made metals) is pricey for the materials, I mentally laid out some reasons on why the classic designs are worth it:

– A beautiful designer accessory can elevate the look of inexpensive clothes. I pinned mine on a Uniqueen jacket and received numerous compliments, whereas I don’t recall that same jacket getting much attention a week earlier, sans-brooch.

– Costume jewelry can be quite versatile, as shown below…
– Classic designs can hold their value extremely well. For example, costume brooches retail starting at ~$250 for small 1-1.5″ ones (prices do go much higher depending on size and intricacy). If you look on eBay, most classic, simple Chanel brooches are selling for $200+ regardless of age, which is possibly more than what they cost years ago. Classic earrings lose some value but still hold up fairly well. For example, my beloved turnlock studs retailed for $260, and I watched a pre-owned pair go for a little under $200.

So for those interested in Chanel costume jewelry, I recommend browsing the pre-owned market because the variety is much more vast than what you can find in any boutique. However, buying second-hand means one must be savvy about authenticity. Here are two brooches that came into (and one went out of) my possession recently:

Which one is fake? Continue reading to find out…

(Left) Counterfeit, (Right) Authentic
A month ago, I came across the left brooch via Etsy. The price was great at $150 (too great, in retrospect), the design was classic and sleek, and the seller had a store full of beautiful designer jewelry and 100% positive feedback left by hundreds of customers. I let my guard down and pulled the trigger without doing further research.
Shortly after paying, I noticed red flags. The seller re-listed the exact brooch I had just bought as available again. After browsing his feedback in detail (which really should be done before buying), I was alarmed that he had sold the same brooch not once, not twice…but over twenty times to unsuspecting customers who came back and left glowing feedback. Chanel products are usually made in limited quantities, so for one individual to have endless quantities of an “authentic,” classic piece in “new” condition is not plausible. I immediately wrote to him asking for the transaction to be canceled. He responded that it had already been sent out, however I can mail it back for a full refund.
After it arrived, my suspicions about authenticity were quickly confirmed. At least I got a few close-up photos out of my mistake for this post. For those of you considering buying a Chanel brooch online, here are my tips:

1. Obtain close-up photos of the back before buying. This will let you inspect two important components – the signature, and the pin backing. You can also submit the link/photos to TPF’s authenticity thread for an experienced opinion.
Signature: The little oval stamp or embossed mark on the back that says “Chanel” and possibly where it’s made and the season, depending on what time period it’s from. This guide was the best resource I could find about the signatures, although it’s not comprehensive. I suggest comparing the signature on something you’re watching, to that on other listings online from reputable sellers or secondhand designer stores. Be warned that many pricier counterfeit pieces have this feature.
Pin backing: After receiving my counterfeit brooch, I inspected many Chanel brooches in-person at my local boutique and scoured tons of second-hand listings online. All of them had a pin backing consisting of two little nubs that stuck out of the pin base, connected by a long stick pin, and a pin closure consisting of a little turn-wheel. Most smaller ones had a horizontal pin, and some larger ones had a diagonal one. Never did I see a pin like the fake shown on the below left, where a distinctly separate piece was added onto the brooch backing.
2. Inspect the overall quality, workmanship, and weight of the piece. Chanel does not use precious materials for their costume jewelry, but there is still a standard of workmanship that goes into their products. The authentic pin I have has good weight to it whereas the fake felt light and hollow. The authentic one has texture and signs of two pieces being welded together versus the fake has a flat laser-cut design. The pin backing on the fake was starting to come off, and the overall metal was extremely shiny in-person (Nick actually had to shield his eyes from the glare).

Also, this may sound like a given but I’ve seen fakes where the CC layout was not right. Refer back to this post about how the C’s should be interlocking. 

3. Shop and pay safely. Inspect the seller’s feedback for a history of positive feedback (clearly, this is not foolproof) and look out for one seller having multiples. I prefer eBay to a site like Etsy or Bonanaza because there is much more regulation over counterfeits on eBay – I’ve seen many listings get pulled by Chanel’s copyright owner team on eBay. Pay using a safe method like PayPal, which is very good about getting buyers a full refund on authenticity disputes.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price. The worst a seller can say is no. Before I bought my second brooch, I found it from two sellers for the same asking price. I asked both about a discount – one said no and one let me negotiate it down about 15%.
Unfortunately, you have to rely on your own research or the opinions of knowledgeable designer aficionados, because Chanel themselves will not authenticate second-hand products. Their sales associates are bound by company policy to not offer opinions on authenticity, so if a listing says it was “authenticated by Chanel” (or on Craigslist, I see offers to “meet up at the boutique to prove authenticity”), know that it is not possible. After learning my lesson, I did thorough research and ended up with a piece that I’m very happy with. I’m already looking forward to expanding my collection to a pearl-studded one next!
Readers – What are your thoughts on designer costume jewelry? Please share any of your shopping experiences or authenticity tips.

79 thoughts on “Chanel, Part 4: Vintage Jewelry / Brooch Authenticity Tips

  • Lisa Ng April 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Great tips, thanks! I haven't bought anything designer and vintage but I love your tips!

  • Anonymous April 9, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Girl, this is Jean, not her dollar store copycat! No shade, just wanted to let you know. 🙂

  • Anonymous April 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    If only I could Facebook "like" the first reply to this comment!

    Actually, on that same post, someone posted an Etsy link and it looks like she'll be returning the pin as well.

  • Riani Irawan April 9, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Jean:

    Thank you for sharing this post! It's really helpful and it really gives me the idea which is the authentic ones.

    I wonder how much did you get your brooch from Chanel? I've been looking for one for quite a long time. Thank you

  • Joy April 9, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing. It's very generous of you to impart wisdom and let us live vicariously through you.
    When looking at the two side by side, I guessed that the one on the left was fake, because it had a very generic look to it, like it could very easily be mass produced. Also, you only posted pictures of 'how to wear this brooch' with the real deal, so I figure you wouldn't want to do that with the fake, since you probably had your mind made up about shipping that thing back and getting your money back in your pocket!
    Well, have a great day! -JW

  • Ann April 9, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Great GREAT Post!!! I find this so helpful as I am also looking for a nice Chanel brooch. Thank you taking the time to do this!

  • Lea April 9, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    If only I could "like" THIS comment. Rofl!

  • sarah April 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Great post!!! Thanks for sharing with the rest of us. That red scarf is beautiful! 🙂

  • Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Thanks for the tips. I really like your pearl necklace in this post. May I know where you got it from?

  • Nícia Cruz April 11, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Thank you for the tips and opening our eyes. It isn't difficult to be fooled if we're not paying attention enough.

  • Yuna April 11, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I miss your H&M; haul blogs! Now I never know what to look for when I go there. Hope to see an H&M; update soon! 🙂

  • Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    *LIKE X10! lol.

  • Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Personally I do not prefer to wear brooches that yell its brand. This Chanel brooch is not my type for sure. On the other hand, this is a very informative post:3

  • StyleAt30 by Jo April 11, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I love the brooch! However, having over 8 years of fine jewelry experience, I prefer purchasing real 10k / 14k / 18k gold jewelry vs. any costume jewelry.

    I share some jewelry tips at

    Feel free to ask me any questions regarding precious stones & metals.

  • PetiteAsianGirl April 11, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I got it from eBay. If you search rope pearls or pearl necklaces and sort prices from low to high, you'll find a lot of affordable options shipped from China.

  • PetiteAsianGirl April 11, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    I paid a little over $250 after negotiating!

  • PetiteAsianGirl April 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    PS – I didn't see your last question. I got this one from Etsy but I've seen the same design on both eBay and Malleries listed at the same price (was listed at $300).

  • PetiteAsianGirl April 11, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Be sure to compare the measurements to a ruler so you know how big it is. Some brooches look bigger in photos than they are, and this is a smaller one. It seems authentic but I personally probably wouldn't order from an overseas seller again due to the hassle of mailing it back without tracking if it turns out to be fake or damaged.

  • Sarah April 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks for another informative post. Can you do a post and share some of your experience with buying pearls on ebay. I'm looking for a super long pearl rope (70"+ in 7-8mm) and see the choices on ebay is abundant and at times overwhelming. The prices can range anywhere from $15 all the way to $100+. Can you share the names of the vendor you brought yours from? Many thanks.

  • Sophia April 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    You seriously have to do alot of research now because of counterfeit! I love authentic piece though! It's gorgeous!

  • Anonymous April 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I was about to purchase the exact brooch from Etsy. It was sold a few days ago, then listed again today!

  • sunash April 14, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Makes sense…. thank you.. will be on the lookout!
    Great great tips 🙂

  • Anonymous April 19, 2012 at 2:31 am

    I also saw the same brooch on Etsy! The seller also had alot of other pretty nice looking designer brooches, looks rather tempting! Thanks for the info.

  • Skinnylatte April 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    I almost made the purchase on etsy… thank you so much for sharing your experience!!!

  • Anonymous May 23, 2012 at 11:46 am

    You are absolutely wrong about this pin, sorry ! Some designers make what we call in France 'Perfume jewelry', gifts -often pieces of jewelry-, which are sold for short periods with perfumes, or offered to special customers. This pin is a typical example.
    What make people doubt is the difference of manufacturing, those pieces are indeed mass produced, so it is not surprising that the seller this person is talking about had several similar pins, he was probably working in the persume business or had connections..

  • Brit June 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    I just came across the matching vintage earrings on!

  • Malika June 16, 2012 at 2:29 am

    would you be able to share from which website you bought the brooch?

  • teaching fashionista September 30, 2012 at 7:24 am

    I bought the exact brooch! ugh..after visiting the Chanel pins at a local boutique I looked for exactly what you wrote about… you are so right! I knew my purchase was too good to be true- excellent post

  • Lorena December 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Great advise- I almost fell for a fake!

Comments are closed.