You are in the Special Features section - Chic and Unique

Chic and Unique






Chic and Unique -  vintage costume jewellery and accessories


Chic and Unique 


Here Digger talks to Moira Teale about her Edinburgh-based costume jewellery and art deco-inspired business. Moira caters for clients who like affordable costume jewellery and accessories as well as those who like to collect the higher end brands. These items are all original vintage and period pieces.

Whatever your choice, they are sure to be Chic & Unique.


Digger:  (Voicemail message answers, then a human voice) Ah! Hello Moira. I was just leaving a voicemail message. I hate voicemail, donít you? Youíve been spared me leaving you a message! My sister laughs at my voice messages because I sound as though Iím having a conversation and usually run out of tape!

Moira: (Laughs) Iíd forgotten we were doing this now and I didnít recognise the number.

Digger: You thought I was a telesales call?

Moira: Yes. Thatís why I waited for the machine to cut in.

Digger: Whatís your background and the background to Chic and Unique?

Moira: I worked for an insurance company, Scottish Life, for sixteen years. And for the last three years I was a team leader in the complaints department. Then the company was bought over by Royal London and I was made redundant.

Digger: Thereís quite a big financial presence where you are in Edinburgh isnít there?

Moira: Yes. I didnít know what to do with myself so (Laughs) I thought ďI know, Iíll start a shop!Ē

Digger: Well done you. Do you think that now youíve had a taste of freedom and working for yourself that you couldnít now go back to working for a company?

Moira: I donít know. I think if I had to, I would, because I was in situations at Scottish Life where they moved me around and it was one step forward, two back, but I managed. So I think once I got back into it I would be okay.

Digger: What about the office politics?

Moira: Thatís the thing that I hate about it because Iím not political at all and I donít cow-tow to it. That was part of the problem Ė the senior managers liked me but the middle managers didnít.

Digger: Your story sounds almost like mine Moira.

Moira: And my sister was also Head of Finance at the time so I knew I was a wee bit covered. (Laughs)

Digger: That helped. (Both laugh) It must have been quite a stressful role as well, being the boss of the complaints team?

Moira: Yes it was but we had a really good team and we had a lot of fun as well because the work was so stressful. Of course, youíve got people ranting on the phone.

Digger: Did you do that thing like they do at Aviva where they dress up in fancy dress and have to use specific Ďnon-sequiturí words and phrase when talking to customers?

Moira: No, we werenít a call centre. Ours were more the written complaints. I did a lot for the Chief Executive. So we got them when people were nice and angry and weíd totally mucked up their policies!

Digger: You made this brave move, so what happened? Had you been collecting already? You must have had a passion for this to start with?

Moira: Well, my father used to buy my mother a lot of Art Deco jewellery in the fifties because there was no tax on second-hand jewellery.

Digger: It was probably quite affordable in those days too?

Moira: Well, to a degree, yes. It was only new jewellery that was taxed so it was cheaper to buy second-hand jewellery and also Art Deco pieces were classed as a little old-fashioned. So always, as a child, I was around about Deco items. They used to buy from a shop called Hamilton and Inches in Edinburgh, which is THE premier jewellers in Scotland. As a child I used to go up there and the manager would show me around and show me all the jewellery and taught me about how to tell a good stone from a poor stone. Good pearls from bad pearls and all this sort of thing. So I always had an interest in jewellery . But I couldnít afford the real thing. So I went into costume. And I did have a bit of a collection, but I had to put a lot of that back in as stock when I started the shop.

Digger: So you had to get rid of all of your own stuff?

Moira: Well, quite a lot of it. I kept one or two bits back.

Digger: (Both laugh) Of course you did. So how soon did you realise that this gamble was going to pay off?

Moira: I do still have days where I think ďWhat was going on in my tiny brain that I thought this was a good idea?!Ē

Digger: Youíre in a good location there in Edinburgh.

Moira: Yes.

Digger: And being in the Internet age that gives you a lot of potential.  Not just relying on passing trade, as it were. How much are you pushing the Internet presence?

Moira: Iím trying to push more and more and Iím having a new site developed at the moment which is going to be similar to the old one but itís got moving pictures and things like that. Because, Ideally, I would like to focus on The Internet and just have cabinets in antique centres and places like that.

Digger: Thatís a good route because a client of mine who does vintage clothing does the same thing and it works very well for her.

Moira: Ideally that would be the way to go.

Digger: What advice would you give to somebody thinking about collecting costume jewellery?

Moira: You can either go for things you like and love and want to wear or go for the really collectable names like Haskell, Boucher, Dior. But mainly you have to love it.

Digger: I suppose if you go for the collectable names then you pay a premium as well?

Moira: You do indeed unless youíre very lucky. And also you have to know what youíre looking for and also that it is the genuine article.

Digger: When you see the jewellery experts on The Antiques Roadshow, do you sometimes think ďHmm, Iím not quite sure about that bit of advice or that valuation?Ē Do you cast a critical eye or do you think that most of the time theyíre pretty much spot on?

Moira:  Sometimes I do think ďHmm.Ē Because originally they all pooh-poohed costume jewellery and said it wasnít worth anything. Actually, it is, itís just that you donít understand that field or itís not a recognised field in this country. If it was in America, of course they would know.

Digger: There was quite a lot of snobbery about 20th Century and post-war items until relatively recently and they couldnít be evaluated as valuables Ė certainly not as antiques. Now plastic items, fifties and sixties are seen as collectable and acceptable, as it were.

Moira: Yes, and Iíve got a lot of friends who are jewellers and who deal in wonderful fine antique jewellery. To begin with they were saying ďYouíre doing WHAT? Costume jewellery? Really?!Ē And when they saw it they said ďActually this is quite nice.Ē Because I try to go for the best of the costume jewellery designers.

Digger: There was method in your madness and you had the foresight and confidence to go with what you saw as a niche.

Moira: Yes.

Digger: What sort of services are you offering other than selling the jewellery?

Moira: I rent out the vintage tiaras for weddings.

Digger: That sounds like a good market.

Moira: Yes, theyíre very popular.

Digger: Do you do valuations over the phone e or Internet?

Moira: No, I prefer not to because if I canít handle it then itís very difficult. People do send me photographs and I can maybe see who I think it is and direct them to sites that they could maybe find something similar. But I donít give values because you canít really see them and you donít know the condition or see signatures.

Digger: There are some Internet sites that value items by reference to a photo and a description.

Moira: Well, I donít know how they can be sure. For example, with the likes of Boucher, a lot of people copied his stuff and until you feel it you just can tell. The quality isnít there in the copies.

Digger: You need to feel the weight and see the detail?

Moira: Yes, and to just feel the crispness of them. So, no I donít like to do valuations. Sometimes people come in and I just tell them what their item is but itís very subjective because itís just my opinion.

Digger: What sort of feedback and comments are you getting from clients?

Moira: They love it. (Laughs) They think Iíve got a good eye for the pieces I pick. They love the shop because itís very relaxed.

Digger: Is there much competition in this area?

Moira: Not in Edinburgh. Not at all. Oh, the other thing I do is I do repair work and restringing.

Digger: Oh, thatís quite a skill. How did you get into that?

Moira: I donít actually do the restringing, I have a girl who does that but I do the stonework. I replace stones and pieces because I have to do that for pieces that I buy.

Digger: Where did you learn that skill?

Moira: I just taught myself.

Digger: Thatís impressive because youíre working with delicate and detailed items there, so well done for teaching yourself those skills.

Moira: (Laughs) Well, I'll have a go!

Digger: One of my clients does Railwayana and from that heís now specialising in repairing clocks Ė again, he taught himself because he has a passion for them. Itís amazing what people can do. And heís very sought after.

Moira: I can imagine, because there are so few people that do repair work now.

Digger: Itís a very old-fashioned thing that weíve lost. There used to be repair shops for lots of things in most towns but you just donít get that now. Itís all replaced and thrown away now.

Moira: Thatís right and thatís whatís making these pieces more valuable.

Digger: What are the best things about running Chic and Unique?

Moira: Lots of friends come in for coffee and keep me company. (Both laugh)  Iíve met so many people through the shop whoíve become friends. I just enjoy it and although running a business can be stressful theyíre different stresses from working in that office job. Itís hard work but everything I do in the business is for me rather than for a big company and I get a lot of pleasure from making the clients happy. I havenít had a holiday in four years but itís rewarding working for yourself when someone, for example, comes in and shows a photograph of their wedding and they say ďIt was wonderful and it really made my day. It was such a great experience. Ē I think ďThatís nice".

Digger: Whatís your specific retro passion?

Moira: Art Deco.

Digger: Any Art Deco? I mean would you furnish your house in Art Deco furnishings and so on? I love that Jeeves and Wooster look...

Moira: If I could afford it yes. But at the moment I have some inherited furniture and Iím a bit old-fashioned. I have my china and silver tea services and things like that. Iím afraid I come from a family where we donít throw anything out. We just recycle around the family!

Digger: Good. We need people like you. Do you think itís a very British thing, collecting and hanging on to stuff for generations?

Moira: I think thereís a lot less of it now with all the new people coming up and the uncluttered living. Everythingís got to be white or cream. I think on The Continent itís much bigger than here now and I think people have lost that and will regret it in twenty years.

Digger: What are the best sellers Moira?

Moira: Definitely Art Deco bracelets and earrings. And the pearly things by Miriam Haskell. I think so many people like the Art Deco and the clean lines and the fact that theyíre from the 1930s. Because of programmes like Poirot Ė itís so stylish and elegant and thatís what they have in their heads. The fashions for wedding dresses as well because thatís when I sell most pieces. For brides or the evening dresses.

Digger: The Deco look and the clean lines are a terrific look.

Moira: And itís evocative of the age and when they put them on they think ďOoh, whoís worn this before? Some flapper girl or some stylish lady from the thirties or forties, a film star perhaps?"

Digger: The roaring twenties and the gay young things between the wars.

Moira: Yes, when women were really coming into their own and taking control of their lives, having jobs and moving forward. They got rid of their corsets and cut their hair.

Digger: And come the war they were ably doing all of the jobs that the men had been doing.

Moira: Yes. And becoming very independent.

Digger: Why do you think we are generally so keen on nostalgia and vintage?

Moira: Probably because things were better made and they were much more stylish. I mean, a lot of women now just walk about in jeans and things. And again it is all the nostalgic and period programmes that have brought back all these images and people are looking and wishing they could look like that.

Digger: You do notice when you go out that even when they go to restaurants and so on people donít dress up these days.

Moira: Yes. I went to the theatre and there were people there in jeans. I would never go to the theatre in jeans.

Digger: No, itís a shame. Thereís a photo in the pub next to our local theatre and it shows the whole audience from the twenties or thirties from the stage perspective. They are all in their smartest clothes  for the show, no matter what class or job they did.

Moira: I had great aunties and four of them shared a bedroom and they had half a chest of drawers each. They had their Sunday Best dress and then they had two dresses for during the week for working and that was it. And the good shoes and hat for Sunday. They just didnít have what we have now, they couldnít afford it, there was no credit and thatís the way they worked. My mother is still very much like that. She has her summer outfits and her winter outfits, evening outfits and a casual one and thatís it.

Digger: Itís such a big change in just one or two generations.

Moira: My mother was born in í32 so she was brought up through the war and you couldnít get things and you made do and mend. You bought the best you could afford. My great aunties werenít rich so they saved up and bought the best that they could and it was paid for and they wore it until it done.

Digger: What youíre selling is environmentally friendly because itís being recycled so thatís a plus point.

Moira: Oh yes definitely.

Digger: So Moira, what are your future plans for Chic and Unique?

Moira: Pushing The Internet. And I used to do quite a lot of fashion shows so Iíd quite like to get back into do more of those. And I support a lot of charities with lending them pieces. Iím doing something with St Columbus Hospice for their Whit Dinner and weíre dressing up all the hostesses.

Digger: How far do you travel?

Moira: I tend to stay in and around Edinburgh because I have a neurotic dog and I canít give him to anybody else so it makes it very difficult to go far. Heís a rescue dog and heís agoraphobic and quite frightened of strangers so heís hard work. I figured it out that heís scared of a dark haired man in a luminous jacket so someone fitting that description, maybe doing road works, must have treated him badly.

Digger: Thatís a good bit of detective work. Well Moira, I wish you every success with the business and with your plans for developing it. The jewellery looks stunning.

Moira: Thanks David.

Digger: Take care. Bye for now.

Moira: Bye.


Chic and Unique 


Venetian Carnival Masks, Vintage bracelets, Vintage brooches & clips, Vintage cufflinks and gentlemen's items, Vintage earrings, Vintage hair accessories, Vintage handbags/purses, Vintage hatpins, Vintage necklaces, Vintage parures/sets, Vintage perfume bottles, Compacts & bijoux items, Vintage re-designed, Vintage tiaras for rent

We have a beautiful array of vintage costume jewellery and accessories, from a bygone era, where all items shown are hand picked and reprehensive of the highest quality. Browse at your leisure and enjoy glamorous vintage jewellery and accessories that can be yours. When you are in Edinburgh, please pop in to view the full selection offered by Chic and Unique as these are not shown here. So, if you are looking for something specific that you don't see, send us an email giving as much detail as possible, we may have something suitable in stock. If not, we are in contact with antique jewellery providers all over the world and can try to locate that perfect piece for you

Chic and Unique
8 Deanhaugh Street

Tel: 0131 332 9889

Chic and Unique






This page layout and content  is the intellectual property of and cannot be reproduced without express permission. 

We are not responsible for the content of external websites.

If we have inadvertently used any image on this web site which is in copyright and for which we, or our retailers on our behalf, do not have permission for use, please contact us so that we can rectify the situation immediately. Images in this article are, to the best of our knowledge, either in the public domain or copyrighted where indicated. 

Home Page | About | Contact | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy