by Dr. Lori Verderame
Jerry Fels founded the costume jewelry firm called Renoir of California in Los Angeles in 1946. A Brooklyn native, Fels studied at the Arts Student League and the National Academy of Design before serving as a fighter pilot during World War II.
Renoir produced copper jewelry from the mid 1940s until 1964. From the firm’s Santa Monica, California workshop, the Renoir firm specialized in costume jewelry pieces with strong geometric, modernist, and abstract forms in copper. Fels took jewelry design in a new direction by integrating enamel designs into its existing lines. The new enamel pieces were called Matisse pieces and were a big hit with celebrities, movie stars, and the Hollywood elite. Lana Turner and Betty Davis were just some of the big name celebrities that wore Renoir and specifically, Matisse pieces.
What to Look For
The Matisse line of costume jewelry has some recognizable marks: the Renoir copyright mark in cursive script, the Matisse mark on the back of each piece, and printed cardboard earring cards and boxes. These identifying marks are important determining factors when trying to pinpoint whether or not you have an authentic piece.
Today, costume jewelry is a highly coveted and sought after collectible. Many people like yard sale hosts, estate sale organizers, and families downsizing or cleaning out homes after the death of a loved one will overlook costume jewelry and just think it is not valuable. Don’t make a big mistake and throw away grandma’s costume jewelry or sell it for next to nothing at a yard sale.
Market for costume jewelry
Collectors pay top dollar for Renoir and Matisse pieces in the characteristic copper and copper/enamel design styles. The market is hot for costume jewelry. For a Matisse set including a brooch with matching earrings when correctly identified, collectors pay $200 to $400. Select individual pins can command $100 on the vintage jewelry market for these costume jewelry pieces from the post-war years.
Get an online appraisal of your Renoir and Matisse costume jewelry from Dr. Lori