Have you ever looked at a piece of jewelry, and saw a nice, glittery part that you thought for sure was gold? Well, this is not always the case. Sometimes, it may just look expensive – but in truth, it is only made under a skilled brand. One such example is the Monet jewelry brand.
In the world of vintage jewelry, Monet is the kind that can allow you to achieve a good look without having to break the bank. The brand has gained a lot of loyalty among women, but also among men. It opened a path to luxury, but one that you could actually afford.
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF MONET JEWELRY
The Monet jewelry brand is very popular in terms of vintage costume jewelry. Mostly, the brand specializes in creating high-end accessories by affordable means, making it a top choice among fashionistas.
The company was founded by two brothers with the same idea – namely, Jay and Michael Chernow. The brand was initially called “Monocraft Products,” as they made silver and gold-plated plates to add to women’s handbags. These bags were very popular, and quite known for their durability.
With that in mind, nearing the end of the 1930s, Monocraft’s focus began to shift. From that point, they started making mostly jewelry. This was a direct result of the 1920s economic crisis when women could no longer afford expensive jewelry. As a result, more and more women started buying costume jewelry pieces instead.
Several years later, starting in 1937, Monocrafts became Monet, and they began to make costume jewelry exclusively. With time, the brand changed quite a lot – reflecting the styles of the era.
For example, in the beginning, they focused mostly on rhinestones and monograms. After that, they moved on to bigger necklaces that would hang low on the chest. In the ‘60s, pendants were the most popular options.
Mostly, it depended on what the people wanted – what styles were most popular during those times. With that in mind, the brand decided to add more clean lines and embellish their pieces of jewelry with crystal accents of a higher quality.
Under the lead of Edmond Granville, and later on Liz Claiborne, it eventually became a world-class fashion brand.
Monet Jewelry Ad, 1974
EVOLUTION OF MONET THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
Like many other fashion brands, Monet also went through a few changes of their own, to keep up with the times. Here is how the brand changed over the decades:
- The 1930s
In the 1930s, Monet was heavily inspired by fashion designers from the European region. As a result, a lot of their costume jewelry included rhinestones that were made to look like gemstones.
Monet Jewelry Ad, 1930s
They would have floral and animal motifs, but also more abstract patterns. After all, at that time, they were also going through the Art Deco era – which meant that they had to look the part.
- The 1940s
Because of the war, a lot of restrictions were being imposed, particularly on shipments. Metals such as bras or platinum were rather difficult to come by, which is why Monet turned their attention towards another metal: sterling silver.
Throughout the decade, Monet adopted several motifs, but the one that stood out the most was the military one. Fur clips and brooches were the most common options around that time, but their charm bracelets also made quite a hit.
Monet Jewelry Charm Bracelet, 1940s
Monet was the first costume jeweler to produce spring-ring charms in the late 1940s. This way people were able to mix and match charms. These bracelets became popular again in the 1960s.
- The 1950s
Around this time, Monet jewelry options were larger, with an elaborate and heavy look. Many jewels around that time were actually that way. People wanted statement jewelry in the form of necklaces, and Monet gave it to them. Gold plated jewelry (rose and yellow) were the most popular options, featuring a link design with a centerpiece.
Monet jewelry ads from the '50s. Gold plated necklaces, bracelets, and earrings from the Golden Enchantments collection.
Monet Jewelry Christmas Gifts Ad, 1950s
- The 1960s
The charm bracelets that Monet made in the 40s gained even more popularity right around this time. The main motifs were flora and fauna, with everyday objects that people wanted to have hanging as necklaces or bracelets.
Monet Charm Bracelet Ads, 1960s
With more and more women getting employed, Monet also began creating formal and stylish pieces. This type of jewelry was more appropriate for the workplace.
Monet Jewelry Stylish White Enamel Flower Necklace and Earrings
- The 1970s
In 1970, Monet added pierced earrings to their line, but also clip-on earrings. The Ciani collection was introduced to the public right about here, focusing mostly on fine jewelry. The main materials for these pieces of jewelry were silver, gold, but also semi-precious gemstones.
Monet Contempera Necklace and Clip On Earrings, gold and enamel, 1972
Monet Paisley Collection, early '70s
- The 1980s
Everyone knows that the 80s jewelry was loud and colorful, with people wanting to stand out in style – and Monet took note of this. This is why most of the 1980’s Monet jewelry pieces focused on metalwork design, making every piece seem daring and unique.
1980s Monet Jewelry Ad, 1985
1980s Monet Jewelry Ad, Paulina Porzikova wearing a semi-precious blue stone necklace
1980s Monet Jewelry Ad, Paulina Porzikova wearing a pearl strand necklace, 1986
- The 1990s
Once more, Monet did not fail to adapt to the times. So, aside from their own pieces, Monet also made collaborations with Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Christian Lacroix. With this, their work became more and more sought after.
Monet Jewelry and Yves Saint Laurent collaboration, 1990s
- The 2000s and Beyond
From 2000, Monet started focusing more and more on luxurious jewelry. Precious or semiprecious colored stones were a common occurrence, and most of their lines revolved around pieces such as emerald, coral, green opal, and other similar colored crystals.
DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS OF MONET JEWELRY
Monet jewelry was made to look high-end and expensive – but without actually bearing the high price. After the war, even with the Great Depression breathing down people’s necks, people still wanted to look their best – to wear the right kinds of accessories that would make them stand out.
In response to their desires, Monet often featured faux gemstones such as glass – and rather than going for full gold or silver pieces, they went for the plated type. For all intents and purposes, the resulting piece of jewelry looked like the real deal.
In the end, people were able to wear their “expensive” jewelry, but without having to dig too much in their budget for it. However, the final pieces looked very stylish, which is why Monet gained quite a loyal fan base after that.
Today, Monet pieces are deeply appreciated as vintage jewelry. To this day, they are still collected and worn on a variety of occasions. You may find embellished designs that can go fabulously on a special event, or you may go for a more minimalist piece that you can wear on a daily basis.
Vintage Monet Necklace and Earrings Set, Gold Plated, Faux Coral Stones and Rhinestones, 1980s
HOW TO TELL IF A MONET PIECE IS REAL
With so many fake pieces of jewelry going down the market, it might be difficult to determine a real piece from a really good replica. Here are some tips to help you see if you have stumbled across the real deal.
- The Monet Jewelry Mark
The first thing that you need to look for is whether the piece of jewelry has the Monet Mark or not. That one is hard to miss. Remember that before the brand became Monet, it was Monocraft. Look for the mark of the designer first, and if it says Monocraft, Monet, or Monet©, then you likely found the real deal.
Monet Jewelry Marks
- Triple Plating on Necklaces
One of the most notable features of Monet jewelry is that all of their necklaces have triple plating, whether it is gold or silver. By this, we mean the thickness of the jewelry, so make sure that you give it a good look. Aside from silver and gold, Monet also worked with onyx, ivory, vermeil, semi-precious stones, and pave diamonds.
Monet Jewelry Triple Gold Plated Necklace, Ad for Vogue
- Designer Collaborations
Some of the Monet pieces are most notable through their collaboration with other designers. For example, you might see that a necklace created by Monet has designs common with Christian Lacroix or Yves Saint Laurent. While these lines belong to the brands in question, the one that created and sold it was Monet.
Bear in mind that Monet made costume jewelry – which means that they were not scared to make their jewelry bold and colorful. They created fine jewelry, but a lot of their efforts went on extravagance on a budget.
This is why it is always best to look for the mark of the manufacturer first. It should be flawlessly added, without any placement issues. If it is there, you are probably in the clear.
TIPS TO CLEAN MONET JEWELRY
To clean a vintage Monet piece, you have to treat it like you would any other type of antique jewelry: with utmost care. Here are some tips that you might want to keep in mind:
1. Do not clean the piece of jewelry if you notice that it has been damaged or the gemstones are coming loose. Before you even think of cleaning or trying to brush it, you might want to have it repaired by a professional jeweler first.
2. When cleaning Monet costume jewelry, you may use a soft toothbrush and a gentle detergent. However, bear in mind that you need to use light strokes. Do not try to scrub, as you may set the gemstones loose.
3. If the sterling silver piece is tarnished, you may use a little silver polish along with a soft cloth. Once you get the tarnish off, use a lint-free cloth and gentle detergent to take the polish off.
4. Seek out antiquarian jewelers, as they can often offer free cleaning and maintenance. This is usually a very convenient option, especially when you are dealing with a very old piece.
In many cases, cleaning vintage jewelry will require you to pay a visit to a professional. Trying to do things by yourself may actually result in damaging the jewel further. Plus, if your piece of jewelry has been damaged by wear, the jeweler might be able to help you out in this regard.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF MONET JEWELRY
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of Monet jewelry is that even if they are brand pieces, they are also a budget-friendly choice. That being said, they are still stylish enough to be worn at formal events, special occasions, or even during your everyday life. It all depends on the Monet designs that you choose.
Still, the main disadvantage is that they are not as durable as other pure luxury pieces. Without proper care and maintenance, they can easily break or begin to fade. Plus, since they are only plated, they may cause allergies if the metal at the base gets exposed.
WHAT IS THE MONET JEWELRY WORTH?
We know that Monet jewelry was made with the word “budget” in mind, but does that mean that it lacks any value? Well, not exactly. Sure, you can find Monet jewelry that is only worth a couple of dollars, but you may also find pieces that are worth a fortune.
The issue with Monet jewelry is that you never know exactly how much it costs. The value of a piece can fluctuate constantly, and we are given no further notice for it. You may pick a piece of jewelry for cheap now, only to find out several years later that it is worth a fortune. Likewise, the opposite of this may also happen.
With that in mind, when it comes to vintage pieces of jewelry, they do not really have to be made from diamonds and gold in order to be considered valuable. It is all about the craftsmanship – and on the antique market, a seemingly cheap piece may bring a lot of value.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Monet designs emerged from people’s desires to be classy without sacrificing their budget too much. The creators used easily available materials to create vintage Monet jewelry – and to this day, they are still popular and heavily sought. The Monet brand is proof that you do not need expensive materials in order to create high-value jewelry.