It’s a wonder we managed to catch twenty minutes with Susan Caplan – queen of vintage jewellery and magpie extraordinaire – in between her ‘hunting’ trips to far-flung destinations of the world. The fabulous jeweler is the number one choice for in-the-know fashion folk looking for a special piece of vintage jewellery, be it a Chanel brooch from the eighties or a diamond sprinkled Art Deco bracelet from the thirties.
1990s Versace Cuff, £995
Having been in the business for more than thirty years, Caplan is miles ahead of the game. Her address book is a closely guarded secret of suppliers and collectors, and she can spot a real gem from a mile off. Which is why her so-hot-right-now Versace collection for Selfridges has been positively flying off the shelves. We’re talking body harnesses, shoulder-grazing earrings, gilded Medusa cuffs, and all the bling-tastic baroque trimmings that a Versace girl could ever want. It’s all too too fabulous.
“I’ve always loved Versace,” said Susan, when we caught her in Selfridges surrounded by a bevy of beautiful daughters who work with her for the family business (does this brand get any better?).
Versace Couture Autumn / Winter 1992
“When I realized there was a big comeback going on – what with Lady Gaga, and with the Atelier Versace couture show happening in February – I decided to curate a collection. I was only looking for the very fantastic pieces that really depicted what Gianni Versace was all about – the Maltese crosses and the Medusa heads that stem from his Calabrian upbringing. And at the last minute I found this utterly fantastic body piece from the Bondage show of 1992 – it’s almost entirely unique and I think it really typifies what he stood for.
Vintage Versace Body Piece, £4,225
Having seen the piece [above] we can verify that it is truly spectacular, and with a £4,225 price tag it must be destined either for a museum or for the torso of Lady Gaga herself. But for those of us who don’t happen to have four grand burning a hole in our pockets, Susan was kind enough to share some – but not all – of her trade secrets, so if you Grazia readers are thinking of heading out ‘hunting’ for vintage jewellery yourselves this Christmas, take Susan’s word as gospel:
- Always go by weight: hold it in your hand and feel its heaviness. A real vintage piece (as opposed to a replica) will weigh heavily in your hands.
- Check that all the clasps work. Older clasps will have a safety catch to keep the piece safe.
- Condition is important: the metal mustn’t be tarnished, the stones should have clarity and never be cloudy.
- A real insider’s tip: make an adventure of it by travelling up to Newark Antique fair in Nottinghamshire, where you can buy or sell literally anything. Head to Lincoln Market in the same week and you never know what you might find!
Susan Caplan Vintage is available in Selfridges (London and Manchester) as well as online at www.susancaplan.co.uk
by Alannah Sparks