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When I authenticate and certify a piece of costume jewellery, I still apply the same methods I used when I was vice director of the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Bologna. The curators of the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art has always made great efforts to determine the exact attribution of unsigned paintings through extensive researches. In my later career as a jewellery historian, I still do my utmost to document a piece of jewellery, especially if the piece is unsigned. I look for all the evidence I can find before reaching a conclusion in terms of the name of the manufacturer, the date, the style, the country of origin, the couturier or the designer who commissioned it. In over thirty years of work in this field, I have managed to collect and file articles from the most important and prestigious fashion magazines, as well as collect and find texts in research books written by reliable 19th and 20th century authors. As such, when I have to attribute a piece of jewellery that is unsigned, I rely on factual records that have appeared in print.
Apart from books and period magazines, my researches are also carried out using chambers of commerce registers, patent offices (this includes the Patent Office in Washington with regard to American fashion jewellery and in Paris for ‘bijoux de couture’ and bijoux fantaisie) and dated catalogues which list raw materials, in particular glass beads. It has happened to me to recognize raw material I had seen in such catalogues used in pieces of fashion jewellery and therefore to be able to date those pieces without too many difficulties. Together with this theoretical research, I visit the workshops of manufacturers of fine and costume jewellery in order to obtain a more precise idea of the techniques and workmanship that have been adopted and applied by each one.
Familiarity with these craftsmen has sometimes led to friendships which have, in turn, resulted in my being asked beforehand if I would be interested in purchasing their entire stock of prototypes in the event of closure for retirement or the cessation of activities. This has indeed been the case with Coppola e Toppo, Ugo Correani, Iba of Varese, specialists in plastic jewellery created for Missoni, Armani, Sharra Pagano, Ugo Correani, Laura Biagiotti, Genny, Enrico Coveri. Together with prototypes of jewellery pieces, I have also been able to obtain photographs and press cuttings that each of these designers had accumulated over their lifetimes. All this has been extremely helpful in tracing the history of the 20th century fashion and its complements and, in that context, observing the styles and themes that characterized each of these designers.
The reliance on written documents and the application of the rule of being factual was adopted from the very beginning in my first book, Le Gioie di Hollywood (Hollywood Jewels), written in 1987, and then in the publications that followed (please see the Events and Biography sections).
All the printed material on jewellery designers, manufacturers, couturiers and fashion designers that I have found in period magazines and books over the years (totalling more than 1,000) are openly available to researchers and students by appointment.
Thanks, on the one hand, to my study of past publications, and, on the other, to the practical experience I have gained through my first hand study and observation of jewellery, my knowledge in the field of adornments has continuously broadened. Hereunder are some examples on how I got to definite attributions of unsigned pieces.