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Costume Jewelry – Glamorous And Fashionable At A Low Cost
Costume jewelry, fashion jewelry, vintage jewelry, junk jewelry, fake jewelry are just some of the words used for jewelry that is made from non-precious materials, unlike fine jewelry. The many terms used on this type of jewelry, can be quite confusing. What exactly is this type of jewelry? Is it made today, is it vintage, and is it just some cheap junk?
History of fake jewelry:
The term Costume jewelry was first introduced to the fashion industry and the world in 1930 by Coco Chanel. She promoted the use of fake pearls and poured glass, synthetic stones and Bakelite in jewelry meant to imitate fine jewelry. She claimed that costume jewelry was not made to give woman an aura of wealth, but to make them beautiful. The jewelry should look great, but should also be easy to replace with the next seasons fashion.
Fashion jewelry is what the name says, jewelry meant to be worn with a particular costume in fashion for a particular season. And, since fashion rapidly change, the jewelry, to go with the costume, has to change from season to season also. So contrary to fine jewelry, which is made to be collectibles or investments, but also to be brought down through generations, this jewelry was made to be affordable and disposable and to be in only for a short period of time.
Now, jewelry made of non-precious materials has been made since the Egyptians invented glass, and had a boost with the industrial revolution, that made mass production possible. In the middle of the 19th century this made beautiful, but cheaper jewelry available to all classes of society, not just the rich and noble. Whether this jewelry also can be called fashion jewelry is debatable. Some claim that it can, others that only jewelry made from 1930s and up until today can be called so, since the term costume jewelry did not exist prior to that time.
Originally fashion jewelry was made big and bold to be visible on the catwalk. Fashion houses like Chanel, Dior, Monet, Napier and Coro included trendy jewelry in both high and low prices in their collections. So, the myth that this jewelry is only cheap jewelry is not quite accurate. Many of the pieces made by fashion houses was not meant to be worn by everybody, and the fashion industry called it bijouterie fantasie or fantasy jewelry.
Coro produced fashion jewelry in gold, gold filigree, silver and base metals, and made imitation jewelry, not only bijouterie fantasie. They produced in large amounts, making their jewelry available to women of all classes. The most popular jewelry styles, they produced in three price classes, from expensive to cheap, depending on the materials used.
The stock marked crash in 1930 changed the jewelry marked. People could no longer afford expensive fine jewelry, something that put costume jewelry in high demand, and opened up for the expansion of this industry. Beautiful fashionable jewelry was produced at affordable prices, and made available for everybody.
During the world war II, base metals became unavailable for the jewelry industry, as it was used for the production of military purposes. fashion jewelry made during the war was therefor made with precious metals, mainly sterling silver. Rhinestones and crystals could no longer be imported from Austria, so jewelry designers developed the use of other materials like wood, Bakelite, Plastic, ceramics and even textile in their designs. Non-precious jewelry from this period is today very sought after as collectibles, due to their non-traditional materials, color combinations and appealing designs.
Film divas in Hollywood adopted fashion jewelry happily. Jewelry designers like Kenneth J. Lane created jewelry for celebrities like Jackie Onassis, Elisabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. Cheaper imitations of these designed jewelry pieces, could be bought at affordable prices in shops like Woolworth.
Rich and famous people had, and still have designers, specialized on fashion jewelry, make replicas of their fine and valuable jewelry for safety reasons, but these imitations are not fashion jewelry in the real sense, as they are not created to match a trend in fashion, but to imitate fine jewelry. So again, the borders are a bit blurred about what can be called fashion jewelry or not.
Cocktail jewelry on the other hand, was jewelry meant to go with the little black cocktail dress promoted by Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiparelli. It became very popular in the 1950, as film stars pressed it to their hearts.
Other costume jewelry designers like Melvyn Bernie specialized on replicas of antique jewelry. Lucite jewelry was created to be trendy, affordable jewelry, and pieces of these are today seen as vintage and highly collectible, especially if they have the signature of one of the leading fashion houses that produced them.
A general term:
From the 1930s and up until today, jewelry trends have come and gone and some even reappeared. The term costume jewelry does not apply to a certain jewelry trend, like Victorian jewelry or Art Deco jewelry. It is a type of jewelry, made from non-precious materials as replicas or copies of other jewelry trends, made to go with the clothes in fashion at the time. We do however speak of vintage costume jewelry, as a kind of jewelry trend, but that is a bit misleading. It simply implies that it is non-precious jewelry from a former time, not of today. You can find fashion jewelry in all the other jewelry trends, as the cheaper option. But even cheaper option does not always mean that it is cheap junk, as lots of it is designed for fashion houses and celebrities, but are still less expensive than fine jewelry.
Cheap, trendy jewelry today:
Today the jewelry industry produce cheap but trendy jewelry like never before. You can buy it everywhere, all over the world, from expensive boutiques to less expensive chain stores like Hennes and Maurits. Still they are often replicas of earlier jewelry trends, but also reflects the fashion world's rapid changes in taste and style. Some pieces are artistic creations of jewelry designers, while others are low priced, mass produced jewelry, often made in third world countries where labor is cheap.
China is one of the leading countries in producing jewelry at low prices, with India close by. Concerns are rising however, about lack of regulations in the manufacturing of these type of jewelry in some countries. Child labor, lack of human rights, use of toxic metals added during production are some of the issues that are in question.
I have my share of non-precious jewelry in my jewelry box. Some are lovely pieces that were quite costly, others are cheap junk that look good, that I have worn with great pleasure. Fashion jewelry make it possible for us to be in fashion, modern and look great, for a reasonable price. Loosing a piece is no catastrophe. You can just by a new one, and can even find the exact same piece.
Introducing costume jewelry to the world, Coco Chanel and other fashion houses have made glamorous looking jewelry available to all of us, and we use it in abundance, like never before.
If you want to se photos of some more modern and vintage fashion jewelry, take a look at this site: Old Luxe
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