VINTAGE COSTUME JEWELRY
 OWL PENDANTS


Daniel W. VanArsdale, 7/2007, 10/2010, 5/2011, 11/2012




Since 1987 I have collected over a thousand different vintage costume jewelry owl pendants. Almost all were purchased used, initially at California swap meets and thrift stores, later on eBay. Most were mass produced during a fad for owl pendants during the 1970's. Links are provided here to view the entire collection. Each item is individually photographed and documented. I hope this will assist collectors of inexpensive jewelry and provide the general viewer with an appreciation of this episode in popular design.


THE COLLECTION. 
There are approximately 1250 items in the collection, representing over 900 different molds (shapes or types). For many types I have collected variations such as both a goldtone and silvertone example, or different colors of enamel. Of the 1250 pendants, over 425 are signed on the back. Initially I collected all categories of owl jewelry. But there are so many that budgetary and space considerations incline one to specialize. Pendants have the advantage of ease of display - they have a loop for suspension (the "bail"), and most lie flat in contrast to pins. Pendants less than one inch in length are likely charms or detached earrings, though one pendant just one half inch long was attached to an 8 inch chain. Larger pieces may actually be watch or key chain fobs, wall hangings or even Christmas ornaments. Also included are pieces that have both a bail for suspension and a pin for fastening to fabric.

My approach to collecting costume jewelry has been influenced by long established conventions in coin and stamp collecting. There is an impossible attempt at completeness, and thus an interest in very common and undistinguished items as well as the identification of variations and rarities. In addition, I have sought to demonstrate how designers copy one another or modify their own creations. There are many ways to collect costume jewelry, such as by designer, material, style, period, animals, etc. No claim is made here that my way is more appropriate than any other. If it can escape the bane of fraudulent copying, inexpensive jewelry should provide a rich province for creative collecting. Each piece once appealed enough to someone to get them to buy it. Some pieces make us wonder how that could be, but these illustrate how much tastes can change as the years pass.

The collection is mounted on sheets of black velvet tacked to walls. The pendants are hung in rows using 5/8 inch brads with narrow heads. If a pendant has a particularly narrow opening in the bail one can snip the head off the brad so the pendant can be conveniently removed and replaced. Rings or a bit of wire may also be used to hang a piece. Chains are usually removed and tagged to identify which pendant they go with. Some chains are left on and displayed if they can not be removed without damage or are customized to the pendant.

The  manner of organizing any collection is important, especially as the collection grows. Designer names are prominent in collecting and marketing vintage costume jewelry, and are featured in the literature. But with many unsigned pieces other criteria must apply. Be sure to organize your collection so that if you look at a picture of a piece offered for sale you can easily check if you already have it or not. For owl pendants the number of jointed segments (if any) and the total length of the pendant are useful for this.


DOCUMENTATION.
I used a Canon Power Shot S50 digital camera (5 million pixels) for the pictures here. All were shot without the flash and using autofocus and macro (close up) mode. I gave up on "manual" focus, and some pieces presented a challenge to the autofocus. It often helped to change the background color, as from black to orange. If I were ever to do something like this again I would invest in a SLR digital camera. It would also have been helpful to purchase a light box, though an improvised arrangement using a cut out plastic water jug can suppress reflections. I used natural lighting, shooting only on sunny mornings, and controlling the light by Venetian blinds. Though initially I often failed to do so, I now advise that the photograph of a piece always shows a part of the chain it is suspended on, if there is one. It is also informative to include any parts of a set that may be present, such as earrings.

There are several online photo sharing programs available. This presentation uses Picasa, a package of free photo management software from Google. For information on Picasa see the "Links and References" at the end of this page. Google also provides 1024 MB of free disk space for one to share photographs using Picasa. Links are provided below to 33 Picasa Web Albums containing a total of about 1345 jpeg photos. These include a picture of every pendant in the collection (some pendants appear in more than one Web Album) and use about 25 % of my 1024 MB. Once within a Web Album the viewer may wish to use the following Picasa options:
  1. View the complete caption to a photo by placing the mouse pointer over the image.
  2. Enlarge a photo by left clicking the image. The enlarged image will display the complete caption.
  3. Leave a comment to a photo you are viewing enlarged by clicking "Post Comment" below the image and on the right.
  4. Return to viewing the entire album (while viewing an enlargement) by clicking the highlighted album name.
  5. While viewing the album, activate a slide show of highly enlarged photos by clicking "Slideshow" on the top left.
Comments, corrections or questions are welcome. The great majority of photographs are of a single piece. For each photo Picasa allows for a caption whose first line of text is displayed in the Web Albums without requiring action by the viewer. Following is the kind of information I have provided in these captions.

Signature: The designer or manufacturer's name or logo if it appears on the piece. Also provided are product numbers, dates of manufacture, country of origin, etc. - any inscription that appears. If information comes from a removable tag, or from the chain, this is either not used or the source is documented. Such identification can be added to a piece to mislead a buyer. If no signature is given in the caption to a piece it means it is unsigned.
 
Number of Segments: This is the number of flexibly attached segments through the vertical midline of the piece. Dangling eyes or wings are not counted as segments. Joining of segments may be by jump rings, permanent hooks on the piece or an incorporated chain. If the number of segments is clear from the photograph I generally do not bother to state it in the caption. If a piece is unjointed it is considered to have one segment.

Length: The vertical length in inches (to tenths) from the highest place on the head (ear tips or top center of the head) to the lowest place on the tail. The bail is not measured, but tassels are. The length of a jointed pendant may vary with the size of jump rings. For multiple or framed owls we measure the vertical length of the whole piece. Note that the length of some pins is not well defined since its design may allow multiple interpretations of what is a proper vertical direction. However vertical direction is well defined for a pendant - it is just the direction it hangs when suspended from its bail. Conversion: 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters. In the Picasa captions we abbreviate, for example, a length of 3.4 inches by L 3.4".

Weight:  The weight of the piece in avoirdupois ounces. This excludes the chain unless otherwise specified. Conversion: 16 ounces = 1 pound, 1 ounce =  28.349 grams. Inexpensive electronic scales are now available with accuracy to 1/10 of a gram. This allows rapid and accurate weighing to the nearest 1/100 of an ounce. Though weight is not visually apparent, together with the length it provides a useful way to refer to a piece in a Web Album. Also modern copies are often lighter than the corresponding vintage piece and hence weight may become useful in dating. In the Picasa captions we abbreviate, for example, a weight 0.62 ounces by W 0.62 oz.

Use: The type of accessory: pendant, pin / pendant, key chain fob, locket, perfume holder, wall hanging, etc. If unstated it means the piece is a pendant.

Colors & Materials: "Goldtone" and "silvertone" mean any type of metal that is either gold or silver colored throughout, or is coated with a gold or silver colored material. Similar use is made of the terms "pewtertone," "coppertone," and "bronzetone." Though these colors may seem apparent in photographs, it is common on eBay to see a piece that, for example, looks goldtone in a photograph but is silvertone. This may result from background colors or even your browser settings. Thus we generally specify the predominant metal color even it is seems apparent in the photo. About the only actual metals identified here are sterling silver, copper, pewter and bronze - usually by a mark on the piece. Auxiliary materials used on a piece may also be identified, such as enamel, plastic, faceted glass, ceramic and paint.

Rarity: The terms below relate roughly to how often I have seen a piece offered for sale at yard sales, flea markets and shops (since 1987), or on eBay (since around 1997). In 2008 new owl pendants from Asia began appearing in great numbers on eBay and the number of vintage pieces offered declined. The rarity estimates below are what was observed prior to this change. Price is not considered: a common item may be priced high, a rare item cheap. For many items, especially smaller unsigned pendants, I have not kept a mental tally. For these I either give no estimate of rarity, or lump them in the category "AVAILABLE." These estimates do not apply to handcrafted, imported or old (pre 1960) items. An estimation of rarity must distinguish between the rarity of the type (mold), and the rarity of a variation of the type, such as the particular colors in the piece illustrated. If it is not clear from the context, we will explicitly state so if the rarity refers to a variation. The word "type" here is similar to its the usage in coin collecting, where in a "type collection" one collects an example of a basic coin design, disregarding varying dates and mint marks. Again, the following definitions apply to the eBay market in 2007, but not thereafter.

    ABUNDANT: I have seen hundreds just in the previous five years. There are always some of the type on eBay.
    COMMON: I have seen dozens over the years. There is usually one for sale on eBay.
    AVAILABLE: I may have seen at least ten over the years. Or I may not have kept a mental tally if the piece is small, unsigned or otherwise indistinctive. Though probably the piece is not "common," if you watch eBay for a month or two one is likely to be offered for sale.
    UNCOMMON: I have seen several over the years. You may have to wait months for one to come up on eBay.
    RARE: I have seen at most a few. And the piece is easily recognized, being large, signed, memorable in some way, or a type I have been looking for. You may have to wait a year or more for one to be offered on eBay.
   
Notes: At the end of the caption I may add such information as: (1) comparisons to other pieces, especially different versions of the same mold, (2) different signatures found on the same type,  (3) selling prices (including shipping) of this or similar pieces on eBay, with month and year of sale, (4) when the piece was purchased,
(5) assessment as to whether a piece is vintage or not, and (6) any known appearance of the piece in a book or periodical. I wish now that I had recorded the acquisition date of all the owls in the collection, especially those bought in the last 10 years, since this would have been useful in deciding if a piece is truly vintage. Recently (10/2013) I have used Newspapers.com to search "owl pendant" or "owl necklace" and find early advertisements of owl pendants. This could be used for other jewelry, but only if it is in a category that has a conventional name.

VINTAGE OR NOT?
Since around 2007 hundreds of new types of owl pendants have been manufactured in Asia. At first, most of these designs were imitative of popular vintage American designs. But after a year or so, totally new creations appeared. These recent imports may often be distinguished from vintage pieces in the following ways: (1) they are almost never signed, (2) the new pieces are lighter and often smaller than comparable vintage pieces, (3) genuine enamel (glass) is rarely seen, however there is a "fake enamel", made of thin plastic sheets, that is difficult to distinguish from real enamel and impossible to distinguish in a photograph, (4) the back of the piece often bears small indented dots (molds for metals with high nickel content may bear such marks), (5) chains supplied often have the "lobster claw" type fastener. Using the eBay search function on "owl pendant new" one gets over 15,000 matches (11/2012), but most of these are duplicates of several hundred unique designs. The vast majority of lots are from China or Korea and many offer multiples with a per unit price less than a dollar and very low or free shipping costs. You may find a specific pendant on this list, and browsing through it you will get a feel for identifying these imports.

But increasingly they are looking more and more like they are of vintage manufacture. Often such new designs will be described by Asian sellers as "vintage" in eBay auction titles, usually due to unfamiliarity with term rather than deliberate deceit. The term "vintage style" may also be used, which always applies to a recent import. Many are in the category "New, Vintage Reproductions", within the Jewelry & Watches category. However many domestic sellers on eBay have begun passing off recent Asian imports as "vintage", often at much higher prices than the direct seller's price. This may be due to innocent second hand purchases, but often it is deception to get a better price for the piece. This is likely the case when we see a seller offering many such "vintage" pieces, or even multiple lots of the same design. You can check to see if a piece is listed by other sellers, and if it is being sold as new, by using the eBay search function. But this can be time consuming, and often a recent import does not show up. This problem is growing and threatens the market value of genuine unsigned vintage costume jewelry as well as its historical study. A belated solution to this problem would be the legal requirement that imported jewelry be permanently marked with the country of origin. It appears that country of origin identification was required in the past, though often it was by a removable label. 



Web Albums - Finding a pendant.

Ordering photographs within web albums may be done by one of the following criteria.
(1) Signature. Ordering is alphabetic. Within blocks of the same signature the next criteria apply.
(2) Number of Segments-Length-Weight. These terms are defined above. Ordering is from smaller to larger for each criterion.  If the number of segments are equal, length determines order. If lengths are also equal, weight is used.
(3) Expository requirements. I have ordered some expository albums (e.g. Shared Parts) in a way that facilitates explanations.
If you wish to look for a specific owl pendant whose photo and description may appear here, do the following steps. The clickable titles are links to Picasa Web Albums. Note (10-9-2013): after clicking the links below you will go to a Google+ display of the pictures without captions; a message will read "Click here to go to Picassa Web Albums."

(1) If the pendant has a mark for silver (e.g. "sterling", "ster", "925") or is unmarked silver - search for it by segments-length-weight in STERLING.
(2) If the pendant is signed (and is not sterling) search for it by the name in one of the following categories: A-C, Alice Caviness, D-G, Eisenberg, Gold Crown Inc., H-K, JJ, L-P, Q-Z, Razza, SAO (or SA?), Tancer II, Torino & Trifari.
(3) If only the head is depicted, or multiple heads (and it is not sterling nor signed) - search for it by segments-length-weight in HEADS.
(4) If the owl is enclosed within a frame or backdrop (and it is not in any of the above three categories) - search for it by segments-length-weight in FRAMED.
 
Pendants that do not fall in any of the above four categories are ordered by segments-length-weight.  Search as follows.
(5) If the pendant is not jointed (one segment) search for it by length-weight in the following ranges of length: 0.-1.9,  2-2.42.5-2.9,  3. or more.
(6) If the pendant has exactly two segments search for it by length-weight in: Two Segments.
(7) If the pendant has exactly three segments search for it by length-weight in the following ranges of length: 0-2.9,  3.0-3.9,  4.0 or longer.
(8) If the pendant has four or more segments search for it by segments-length-weight in Four or more segments.

There are also the following expository groupings: Very Common - Signed, Very Common - Unsigned, Very Rare - Signed, Very Rare - Unsigned, Some Variations, The Oval Eyes Design (variations on a classic and abundant design) and Shared Parts (recommended - documents many examples of copying). Finally, there are some auction photographs of owl pendants not in the collection in Some Auction Photos.

More information about all these Picasa Web Albums, with sample photographs and links repeated, appear below. The numbers in parentheses after the links are the total number of photographs in the Web Album.



SEPARATE CATEGORIES

The following categories of owl pendants appear in their own Web Albums.

STERLING (42) Signed or unsigned, all predominantly silver pieces, usually with a mark "sterling", "ster" or "925". Designer signed pieces may also appear in the appropriate web album for that signature. Sterling designer names appearing in the album are: Bergere, Danecraft, G, Gorham, IS, Ferrara, LP, LW, Reed & Barton, R.M. Trush, TSG, Uno A Erre. Also Mexico: APA, JPO, TJ-17, TM-12, TM-65, TM-120, TS-01, TV-69 and Taxco MPL.

HEADS (31) Unsigned, and only the head is depicted, or multiple heads. If signed the piece appears instead in the appropriate web album for that signature. .

FRAMED (110) Unsigned, and the figure of the owl is enclosed within a frame or backdrop. If signed, the piece appears instead in the appropriate web album for that signature.




SIGNED OWL PENDANTS



Following are links to Picasa Web Albums in which you will see the signed owl pendants in my collection, plus some auction photos of signed pendants I do not possess. Items are organized alphabetically by the names. Several more common signatures have their own separate web album. The principal names actually appearing on the piece are used in the file name for the piece, and below. If a first and last name appear, alphabetizing uses the last name.
All Mexican signatures appear under "Mexico." Pieces which carry a designation for sterling ("Sterling", "925", etc.) appear in the web album Sterling, whether they also carry a maker's mark or not.

 

PHOTO: Signed CINER. L 3.3", W 2.54 oz. Enamel on goldtone. Uncommon.







A - C (60)  Principal names appearing on the pieces are: Aachener, Accent, AD, Alan, Alpaca, Appleye, Art, Avon, BCO, Beau Sterling, Bell, Kelly Bensimon, Bergere, BHS, BJ, Blackington, B/Line, Bremin, CA, Cadora, Capri, Hattie Carnegie, Cathedral Pewter, Celebrity, Ciner, Cinerama, CMI, Coro, Coventry, CP, CR.

ALICE CAVINESS (16)

D - G (27)
Names: DaVinci, Mimi Din, Walt Disney, Dodd's, D'Orlan, George S. Driessmer, Elaine, Sigmund Espeland, Fab, JC Ferrara, FFA, Florenza, Four Seasons, G, Gerry's, Linda Gissen, Goldette, Grey Owl.

EISENBERG (35)

GOLD CROWN INC
  (27)


H - K (43)  Names: The Handcrafter, Glenn Heath, Heirloom Pewter, Henderson, Hensen, Heritage Pewter, Hije, HMS, Hobe, Hollycraft, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Jeanne, JED, JEM, Jorgen Jensen, Joel, Betsy Johnson, JOMAZ, Joseff, JPD, Kim, Kramer, Krementz Sterling.

JJ (18)

L - P (55) 
Names: Kenneth J Lane, KJL, LBS, LG, Logo: lighthouse, LIN, LIST, LITT, LJM, Lunch at the Ritz, Lunt Pewter, Mandle, Maxine Marsh, Metzke, Meuli, Mexico, Miracle Britain, Monet, Nadia, Napier, Nautilus by Sinclair, ND, Ned, Newburyport Pewter, Night Owl (design name), (NK69), (NK70), Norsk Tinn, Naustrom, Onik, P, Parklane, Pewter, Philippines, Lucien Piccard, George S. Preisner.

Q - Z (55) Names: Rafaelian, Rawcliffe Pewter, Reed, Reed & Barton, Revlon, J. Ritter, Original by Robert, Nettie Rosenstein, Sarah, P. Sarpaneva, Sascha B (Brastoff), Dan Schwann, Scitarelli, Selandia Pewter, Sir-R, SN, Sovereign House, Sphinx, Sumthing Special, Swarovsky, Sweden, Swoboda, Tarina Tarantino, TC, Tennesmed, Tish, Top's Retreat, Tortolani, TSG, TTP, Unger Bros., Mr.We, Wee Wisdom Nursery School, West Germany, Windsong, Winnard, Woodsy, WT.

RAZZA (11)

SAO (or SA?) (31)

TANCER II (15)

TORINO and TRIFARI (18)




UNSIGNED OWL PENDANTS


In the following links you will see images of  hundreds of unsigned owl pendants. These are organized automatically by file name, and we have chosen the file names so the images will ordered by:

   (1) the number of vertical segments in the pendant, beginning with unjointed pendants (one segment)
   (2) for pendants with the same number of segments, by increasing length (to the nearest one tenth of an inch)
  (3) for pendants with the same number of segments and the same length, by increasing weight (to the nearest one hundredth of an ounce).

With these conventions the viewer can see if a pendant in hand is in these web albums. Pieces that are made of sterling silver, are signed, that depict heads only, that are framed, are listed in their own albums.
Some signed pendants are also present in the unsigned category if they also appear unsigned, or if the signature is difficult to read.




PHOTO:  Unsigned. L 2.7", W 1.24 oz. Plastic on silvertone. Rare.




ONE SEGMENT  0.0-1.9 INCHES (169)
ONE SEGMENT  2.0-2.4 INCHES (115)
ONE SEGMENT  2.5-2.9 INCHES (80)
ONE SEGMENT  3.0-9.9 INCHES (66)

TWO SEGMENTS (63)

THREE SEGMENTS  0.0-2.9 INCHES (39)
THREE SEGMENTS  3.0-3.9 INCHES (82)
THREE SEGMENTS  4.0-9.9 INCHES (76)

FOUR OR MORE SEGMENTS (53)






EXPOSITORY ALBUMS



VERY COMMON - SIGNED
(16)






By informal observation over the years, and some counting on eBay, I have selected some types that I think are the most abundant of all the signed owl pendants. They are listed in order - the most numerous appearing first. As for all these lists of common or rare pendants, estimates are very approximate, especially toward the end of the list.



PHOTO:  Signed Alan. Silvertone. Length 5.0 inches. Weight 1.25 ounces. Abundant.
 







VERY COMMON - UNSIGNED
(26)





                                                                                                                       
We have selected some owl pendants that are usually (or always) unsigned and that we estimate to be the most frequently offered for sale. We have also taken the liberty to give names to some of the most abundant of these.


     

PHOTO: Unsigned. L 2.2", W 0.83 oz. Ceramic on goldtone. Abundant. The "Spaghetti Wings" pendant.









VERY RARE - SIGNED (20)




Selecting owl pendants above as the most common involves some guesswork. Selecting which are the most rare is mostly guesswork. In this Web Album we present photos of some signed pendants from the collection, each of which I recall having seen only one or two over the years. There are many such pendants, so we have selected the ones that I have specifically been looking for, at least for a few years. These lists exclude imports, hand crafted and old pieces. You rarely see two of them that are alike.



     
PHOTO: Signed Kim. L 3.3", W 4.70 oz. Enamel on goldtone. Very Rare.








VERY RARE - UNSIGNED (28)





 

I have seen at most only a few of the unsigned owl pendants in this web album. Further, they are the type that I would have likely remembered if I had seen more.




PHOTO: Unsigned. L 5.4", W 2.11 oz. Paint on pot metal. The "Turtle Back" pendant - of which I have seen but three in over 15 years of collecting. See the start of the "Shared Parts" web album for a explanation of this name.









SOME VARIATIONS (21)





Variations of a design type are presented here in paired photographs. Variations illustrated and described include color, material, signature and construction. Some color variations of common types are themselves very rare.


PHOTO: Signed Gold Crown Inc. L 2.4", W 1.12 oz.
This is a fairly common type of pendant, but I have only seen two with this color scheme.







THE OVAL EYES DESIGN (20)



 
                    
There can be reasonable disagreement about which is the second or third most common unsigned owl pendant. But there is no doubt which is the most abundant. I call this "Oval Eyes," and it is the King of Owl Pendants. Very few other owl pendants have full oval eyes. Note it has three segments, a barred beak, upflared feathers on the head and no perch. On a typical day (3/17/2007) I counted about 30 Oval Eyes pendants for bid on eBay or in eBay stores. There were only 8 of the next most frequent type (Spaghetti Wings). Oval Eyes may be the most popular figural jewelry design ever produced. Yet the designer is unknown. I have never seen a vintage example that is signed on the back, and I have seen or read descriptions of hundreds. Some with plastic feathers attached to the breast also have a metal tag reading "Sumthing Special." This does not seem to be a proprietary claim to the Oval Eyes design since it only appears on some feathered versions. Sometimes the pendant may come in its original box with a company name, marketed as the "Wise Old Owl" pendant. But these company names vary and never appear on the pendant itself. If you have any knowledge of who designed this pendant please email me.

PHOTO:  Unsigned. L 4.7", W 1.37 oz. Goldtone. Abundant. The "Oval Eyes" pendant.

 
In the web album we present both vintage and recent designs that are derived from the Oval Eyes design. Almost all of the new designs are not claimed to be vintage by the sellers, although such odd terms as "new vintage" may be seen. These recent copies are often smaller and lighter than the vintage originals.





SHARED PARTS (77)

The same, or nearly the same, parts (head, belly, tail) often appear on more than one type of pendant. We begin this album with three "chimera" - combinations of parts from totally different vertebrates. Most of the pictures are of certain stylized owl heads, such as the "brainy head" shown here, that many owl pendants share. One sees these heads over and over, and I have taken the liberty to name them. Some shared bellies, talons and tails are also illustrated.













SOME AUCTION PHOTOGRAPHS (159)





Alas, many of the most interesting owl pendants you will see here are in this web album. It contains eBay auction photographs of many owl pendants that I did not purchase because the price was too high or because I was away. No copyright protection was claimed for any of these photographs, but if they are your work and you wish me to remove them I will. Or I will just give you a credit if you prefer. I have not used any of these photographs for commercial purposes. This also applies to other auction photos in the Web Albums linked to above.



PHOTO: Signed Beau. Sterling and faux turquoise. L 2.0".













LINKS and REFERENCES.


eBay search string for vintage owl pendantsThis will list owl pendants in the vintage category currently for sale on eBay..
Junkyard JewelerItems for sale plus many links.
Newspapers.com. Searches through microfilmed newspapers for a text string. Fees apply.
Picasa Official SiteGeneral information and download box for Picasa.
Researching Costume JewelryIncludes a large alphabetic listing of trademarks.
Collecting Rhinestone Jewelry, Maryanne Dolan, 1984.   Has over 40 pages of older trademarks.
Costume Jewelry 202, Julia C. Carroll, 2007.   Information on identification and dating, organized primarily by designers.

Collectors Weekly Hall of Fame  The online Collector's Weekly selected this site for its "Collector's Weekly Hall of Fame" in January, 2010.



Other key words: Owl jewelry, owl necklaces, owl drops, owl pendents, my costume jewelry collection, fashion jewelry owl pendants, costume jewelry of the 1970's.


If you have any corrections or comments please email me. Also send a good photo and description of any vintage owl pendant not listed and I will include it and give you a credit.


Email: Daniel W. VanArsdale


Index page of Daniel W. VanArsdale