Thrifting that perfect piece of vintage jewellery is a skill that requires maximum effort and also yields maximum satisfaction, but: it's hard to navigate through the sea of costume jewellery and takes a real connoisseur to know when you've found a designer piece. Well - let us introduce Constance Cummings, the most fashionable vintage jewellery detective there is. We're so pleased to be stocking a selection of her findings, as well as her own range - Olympia, read on to find out about how she started sourcing vintage pieces, what criteria she shops by and why shopping pre-loved is not only good for the planet but also good for your soul.
When and why did your fascination with vintage designer jewellery come about?
I’ve always loved vintage jewellery - Dad has been in the industry and owned an antique store for 30 years, so I grew up going to auctions with him. I always loved the idea of wearing something that had a history and a story behind it.
L & 0 began in 2013 after a year working in the art industry. I was travelling with Eddie (my fiancee) and bringing back vintage jewellery for my girlfriends and the requests kept growing. It made sense to create an online store so the treasures I was collecting could be made “shoppable” to everybody.
Buying vintage wasn’t really considered as cool five years ago as it is now.
So I sought to reconceptualise vintage jewellery as being new again, making it sexy and cool and shake other “pre-loved” connotations.
Shopping vintage in a world of excess consumption is almost a rebellious act. What were your intentions behind building a business around pre-loved jewellery?
Exactly that. Rebelling against mass market and mass produced items. I studied sustainability at university and was constantly horrified by the modern jewellery market and the way that costume jewellery is produced, as well as the quality. I knew that there was an appeal for high-end vintage jewellery but it just wasn’t accessible. I was lucky to have amassed a great knowledge of jewellery and understood the industry; particularly what was good and what wasn’t. I was really lucky - through osmosis, I learnt about a whole industry via my father.
What goes into sourcing vintage? Do you set out looking for specific pieces? How do you know where to look?
What people may or may not understand is that when I buy, I buy in season. For example, the latest collection has been about original 80’s and 90’s pieces that are currently on trend (but the vintage equivalent), and by the original designers. We’ve had Balenciaga earrings from the 70’s in stock when the new version has just been released on the runway. Originally, when we started out, I was sourcing pieces via my Dad’s contacts. As we’ve grown as a business, people have come to us, but the majority of the collection I purchase overseas through people who have owned the jewellery since it was created. My favourite places to buy are from the birthplaces of these fashion houses – i.e. Paris and Milan. My favourite source lives in Paris, and his aunty designed costume jewellery for Balenciaga, Lanvin and Balmain in the 1970’s. We purchase from her private collection which is pretty special.
Do you have specific criteria you shop by?
Yes. Everything that we buy is sourced from the original owner so we know it’s 100% authentic. We are fastidious about the condition of the item. It has to be as close to the original condition as possible. This makes it incredibly hard to find as naturally over the years, jewellery wears. Many of these pieces have never been worn before and are considered collectors’ items, so the beauty of buying from me is that there is most definitely a Love & Object integrity guarantee. Each purchase comes with a provenance card which explains where the item came from, where it was purchased, the history behind it and why it is so special. Our tagline for vintage is that “you’re buying a little piece of fashion history.”
Can you tell us about your luckiest find or the piece with the most intriguing backstory?
That would be most definitely a Lanvin necklace produced in 1973 for the runway show. It was never officially put in production, it was just a showpiece. The definition of one of a kind! I wish I had kept it. It now lives in Hong Kong. It’s the one that got away.
Shopping small and mindful consumption are issues that become more and more important to the people. What is Love & Object’s opinion on fashion trends?
Trends do impact what we buy, that’s inevitable. It’s fun to play with them but it’s important to pick the ones that have stickability and staying power. For us, a pair of chunky gold earrings is never going to go out of fashion even though they’re extremely current right now. It wasn’t so long ago that people were feeling overdressed wearing big earrings – it was all very minimal. Now, people are happy to wear big earrings with jeans and a t-shirt which is great. As a consumer these days you have the power to create change with how you spend. There are always more sustainable options out there, as opposed to choosing fast fashion. It’s important for people to feel they have a relationship with L & O and that they believe in our ideals. You can get your fashion fix from us but it’s also feel-good because not only is it sustainable, but charity focused, too.
You’re now also designing jewellery for your own range - Olympia - can you tell us about your inspiration behind the line?
Inspiration for Olympia came from ancient Roman jewels and Renaissance art; in particular Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and The Three Graces. My studies in Classics and Art History were the foundation for the collection that I then built on. Our jewels are both contemporary but heavily influenced by the past, so I guess we’re creating modern vintage jewels.
Our jewellery making process is quite unique - a combination of hand done design work and the ancient lost wax casting technique. Then we add gemstones that were frequently used in jewellery dating back to 1AD. The collection is limited in production numbers, so it remains fairly exclusive to our customers.
I always intended on designing our own jewellery line but it took years to find the right makers and feel like we had created our own identity to support it.
Shop Love & Object, as well as the Olympia range here.