Some artists sign their paintings, others do not. Sometimes we recognize the name of an artist. In some cases, even if the work was signed, we have no idea who the artist was. There are also cases where an artist was not in the habit of signing his work, but it is of such a unique and exceptional standard and style that we know exactly who the painter was.
The same can be said of jewelry.
Jewelry has been signed by makers for at least 200 years. Not always. Many times, we have no idea who a maker’s mark represents. Often, we can attribute an unsigned jewel to a maker because it looks so much like other, documented work by the same person.
Knowing who made your jewelry gives it an identity. There are people who feel a particular affinity to a designer or manufacturer and they collect their work.
Today, certain names in the jewelry industry have become synonymous with exceptional quality. Some jewelry designers such as Harry Winston are famous for the quality of their gemstones. When you buy a jewel signed Harry Winston, you can be sure that the gem will be fabulous.
Companies like Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chaumet, Boucheron are almost a guarantee of fine workmanship. When you find jewelry by these companies made long ago, you are sure that what you buy is of the finest standard.
Other names are famous because they are associated with the rich and famous. During the 20th century, there was a slew of designers who were patronized by Hollywood stars and the mega moguls of industry. Some of their names have ebbed. Some of their names have resurfaced as their work has been re-discovered by later generations. Some are in the process of being forgotten.
When a jewelry manufacturer becomes very famous, the price of their merchandise rises. If you buy a comparable jewel from an unknown source, you can expect to pay significantly less for it. There is a saying ‘you get what you pay for’. Is this true when it comes to signed jewelry?
In my opinion, it is true when you are looking at signed pieces made years ago. Look at work signed by Froment-Meurice or Wiese from the 19th century, LC Tiffany and Cartier from the early 1900’s. It is magnificent. Conceptually and technically, this work is worth the extra money you will pay. Now look at some of the mass-produced jewelry made even by ‘big names’ from the late 20th century to this day. It has become a commodity. There is nothing special about it. You have the scrap value of the materials and you have the name.
What about the genuine innovation or lack thereof of a jewelry maker? In truth, some of them were tremendously popular in their day, but when you look back, you see that they were not terribly original. A lot of their work was a take on something already done by someone else. Were they really so great?
Why pay extra for a name? You should look at the jewel and decide whether the extra price is justified by what you are getting. My opinion is probably a minority opinion. Your taste is your personal prerogative and you must make your own choice and come to your own conclusions about the value of signed jewelry.