You see them piled up at estate sales and garage sales, unloved and unwanted. But before you walk away take a good look. These little pieces of jewelry pack a big design punch for the money. These are vintage cluster bead earrings.
With seemingly an unlimited amount of variations, these clip earrings from the late 50s and early 60s are hard to beat for style. Designs include pearls, aurora borealis crystals, glass, plastic and metal beads plus mixtures of all of the above.
What are Cluster Bead Earrings
The clue to the design is in the name. Clusters of beads in a round setting of gold or silver metal. Some of the best quality beaded earrings were imported from Japan and Hong Kong, both well-known at the time as centers of intricate hand beadwork on jewelry and handbags. Beads were made from an infinite amount of materials and colors including plastic, glass, seashells and even silk.
In addition to pieces from Japan and Hong Kong, if you get lucky you can also find beaded earrings marked with the names of prominent costume jewelry companies of the day. Hobe’, one of Madge’s favorites, is one of many companies that excelled at these designs. Parisian Jacques Hobe’, jeweler to the French court, founded the company in 1887. His grandson William Hobe’ immigrated to New York City in the mid-1920s and established Hobe’ et Cie, a company manufacturing high-quality costume jewelry.
Some of our Favorite Pairs
Of course, most earrings in this era weren’t marked but that doesn’t give them any fewer style points. These blush pink earrings are one of Madge’s favorite pair in the shop.
Crystal or plastic bead jewelry with an aurora borealis (AB) coating was very popular in the late 50s and early 60s. This coating refracted light creating a rainbow of colors reminiscent of the phenomenon of the Northern Lights hence the name aurora borealis. These unmarked AB clear faceted pair are perfect for Christmas parties.
From a few bucks to twenty-five dollars these earrings are cheap enough to start your own collection and also make fabulous gifts. Madge loves the versatility of these little gems that go from understated to sparkling and work just as well with jeans and a crisp white shirt as with cocktail attire. Now I can just hear some of you saying “but Madge, I have pierced ears”. No worries, you’re legally allowed to wear clips, we’ll never tell.
So start your own hunt for these little earrings with the big punch of style. We suggest you begin at Madge to see her current collection.