Thursday, January 8, 2009

How To Spot Fake Vintage Bohemian Jewellery - AKA "Frankenstein Fakes"

Genuine vintage Czechoslovaki an jewellery, produced from 1750-1950 (roughly) has a huge number of admirers and collectors worldwide. Nothing looks so good on a genuine vintage summer dress than a perfect Bohemian brooch or string of Czech crystal beads. Or perhaps one of the extremely rare Rennaisance revival pieces, as shown on the left.

About ten years ago, it was obvious what was genuinely vintage Czechoslovakian (more correctly called Bohemian), for it is almost instantly recognizable at a glance, or rather used to be.

Now the waters are rather ‘muddied’ with a whole bunch of 'crafters', buying vintage Czech findings (the metal parts) and the stones, and making up what most of them are calling ‘genuine vintage Czech’ jewellery.

I call them Frankenstein Fakes. They are a hybrid, and again at a glance, it is often easy to detect them, if you are experienced, or follow a few guidelines. The biggest giveaway that they are fake vintage, is that they often have asymmetrical (or unequal) dangles, and the motifs are more Chinese than Czech, with many over-embellished dragons and butterflies.

But of course, there is nothing wrong with crafters making their own versions of ‘Czech’ jewellery, with vintage components, often bought from newly discovered old stock. But to name them genuine vintage Czech is misleading and inaccurate, but of course, very difficult to prove, if the seller refuses to be honest.

Another way of spotting these fakes of the vintage jewellery world is the designs. They are very often miles away from 'classic' Czech and often combine motifs and colours which the Bohemian craftsmen of days gone by would never ever have used.

There is only one example I have ever seen, which really did look like original old Czech, and the seller was upfront and honest about the genesis of the necklace. Had she not been, I would have been hard pushed to tell the difference at first glance. The style was correct, the colour was correct, and the materials were correct. The only giveaways were that the clasp was modern gold plated, a spring ring, and rather small for the size and weight of the necklace. Another clue was that the thread used was modern 'tiger -tail'

But how is a novice collector, who maybe was not around ten years ago, or who only just discovered the wonder of Czech jewellery to know what is genuine and what is simply fake?

There are very few books on the market detailing the production of Czech jewellery.
Those I have are extremely interesting, and detail just how the artisans of Bohemia missed out big-time on being recognised for what they were, pioneers and craftsmen of great worth to the vintage costume jewellery business.

The artisans of Bohemia supplied all the major jewellery houses, from Channel to Haskell, but often they supplied them with the components, not the finished item, and therefore even though a good part of the Miriam Haskell you see (and buy for high prices usually), is actually made in Bohemia, although you will never see the tag. What you will see is the Haskell mark.

Yet another variant of Frankenstein Fakes from Bohemia is the necklace or bracelet made from new findings, often incorporating a large faceted crystal, but not in old patina brass, instead in a new gold wash finish, which has been ‘antiqued’.

These new findings are being sold on major online auction houses as ‘vintage Czech’ which they absolutely are not. There is one exception to this and it is a relatively new online auction house who employ Moderators for each and every section of their site, with the express purpose of keeping out fakes. They are Specialist Auctions. This is another efficient way of ensuring you do not buy fake Bohemian or Czech jewellery, since the moderators are there to ensure that no fakes slip through the net.

It is an extra layer of protection which no other online auction house provides and well worth taking a look. This is the website including a link to my shop there :

Finally, another misleading, and in my view, quite fraudulent version of Frankenstein Fakes has recently emerged. This time it is industrious people who have located old warehouses and workshops where original Bohemian jewellery was produced. Often these places went bankrupt, or went out of business for other reasons, leaving a residue of unfinished jewellery, in various stages of production.

These same industrious people, whether through ignorance or greed, are blatantly selling these semi-finished items on the biggest online auction house. They never show the back of the item (because it is bare base metal, showing solder marks and completely unfinished).

Some of the bolder of these sellers even include in their description a note warning buyers that it is quite usual and proper to find solder marks on the back of genuine Czech jewellery. This is absolutely untrue.

At the very least, to protect yourself from fraud, and conserve your hard earned money, insist on seeing photographs of the back of items you are considering buying.

To see genuine Czech/Bohemian items for sale, go to a well respected dealer who specialises in this field, and who is honest and trustworthy.

There is nothing which will enhance your retro or vintage ensemble of clothing more than a piece of genuine vintage costume jewellery from the same era. Whether it is a necklace,
or a fabulous brooch, you can tie your vintage costume jewellery to your vintage ensemble by matching the dates of the jewellery to the clothes.

But make sure you buy only the genuine item, and not get fooled into buying a Frankenstein Fake. All the images shown on this blog are absolutely 1000% guaranteed to be genuine vintage/antique Bohemian Czechoslovakian costume jewellery. Some items are sold, and are shown to give you examples, and others are still for sale.

You may view my genuine Bohemian Czechoslovakian jewellery and accessories at my shop on


purplestevie said...

Great blog Erica, looking forward to your next blog!


andapanda said...

Awesome information. Thanks for sharing.

Erica_Big_Blond_Boomer said...

Wow, thank you ladies. You spotted that quickly, I haven't finished editing it yet, can only get the images to stick to the left margin.

Must admit, this is one of my pet peeves, so many fakes around, how is anyone supposed to know what is real any more ?

Hope to hone my blogging skills (non exxistent until now) and provide valuable information for collectors.

Kind regards


lolalapard said...

I see this was first published in 2009. Well, it's 2013 and the problem of these "Frankenstein Fakes" is now enormous. I've been doing some research on my own about this. I've even contacted some sellers and let them know what they are selling as well as reporting the huge sellers that only sell this stuff. One auction house is hot on the trail and actively looking into it right now. This is thanks to people like you who have been discussing this issue for years. It's gotten to the point where one of the maker's mark info pages is acknowledging these fakes as being made by some unknown mystery manufacturer in Europe like they've made a great discovery and are breaking the news! People are getting ripped off more and more and have no clue. Every chance I get, I clue whomever into the truth. I can't seem to stop myself. It makes me nuts. Thanks for being a in the fore front for us.