The History Of Costume Jewelry

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The History Of Costume Jewelry

Though the concept of less expensive, fashion-oriented jewelry has been a part of common culture for several hundred years, costume jewelry as a formal class of jewelry came into existence in the 1930s. These pieces were intended to be worn for a brief period, and were often purchased to compliment a specific outfit or “costume,” as the common language of the day often referred to coordinated clothing.
Costume jewelry, unlike heirloom pieces, was designed for short-term, inexpensive adornment. The costume varieties could be purchased for a small amount of money. Still achieve a beautiful presentation. Constructed of less expensive metals and other less valuable materials, costume pieces were more affordable for the public, especially during the period following the economic upheaval of the Great Depression. Costume jewelry designers focused more on fashion than on longevity.
Fine jewelry was often considered an investment, and many such pieces, becoming family treasures, passed down to future generations. Costume jewelry on the other hand, was intended to be worn for a short time, eventually fall out of fashion, and be disposed of shortly thereafter.
Antique costume jewelry was constructed of specific but inexpensive stones that mimicked the appearance of highly valued diamonds or other precious gems, including Lucite and rhinestones. Metals used included pewter, nickel, brass and silver.
Contemporary fashion jewelry incorporates a much broader range of materials, though the intent is still the same - beautiful appearance for minimal expense. Modern stones used include simulated diamonds, cubic zirconium, and quality crystals. Some of the more expensive pieces will also use semi-precious stones. The high-end pieces are constructed of sterling silver or gold or silver-plating over a brass base. Less expensive fashion jewelry often uses gold or silver-plating as well, though the base is generally a much less expensive and durable metal, like pewter, nickel, or an alloy.
Inexpensive fashion jewelry made its way into common culture in the 1700s, when jewelers began to make glass pieces, which were less expensive but still took on a similar appearance to more expensive, precious-stoned fashions. Semi-precious materials became widely available in the 1800s, making it possible for common people to purchase fashionable pieces, more comparable in appearance to fine jewelry.
Costume jewelry truly boomed in the 1900s however, made possible by economic forces and industrial changes. The emerging middle class longed to own beautiful but affordable jewelry, and the industrial revolution brought about precision machining of replica jewelry. Suddenly, affordable pieces, which to the untrained eye looked like expensive heirloom treasures, were readily available for purchase.
As the economic conditions of the average America changed, so did the prominence of jewelry among all social classes. Working class women could afford a piece or two of high end costume jewelry. Many of those in the working class could afford mass produced fashion jewelry in larger quantities.
Some in the jewelry industry believe machined jewelry, whether costume or fine, simply does not measure up to the hand-made pieces of the past. However, the machining process is what made fashion jewelry affordable for most women and spurred the production and sale of such pieces the world over. Antique fashion jewelry is often denoted by the era. Design style of its creation. Art Deco, Retro, and Art Modern being among the oldest and most coveted by collectors. There are a number of recognizable names within the industry, and these designers are credited with furthering the production of high quality costume jewelry. Crown Trifari, Chanel, Dior, Napier, Coventry, Cronocraft and Monet are the most influential.
The growth in the costume jewelry industry seen in the 1940s and 1950s is also due in large part to the popularity of Hollywood movies. Stars seen on the silver screen often wore costume jewelry in films. Later promoted replicas for sale by various costume jewelry houses. Many such jewelry lines were also available from local retail outlets, including JC Penny’s and Woolworth’s.
Historical and contemporary fashion designers and modern celebrities also play a part in costume jewelry’s foothold within culture. Ironically, many of the vintage pieces themselves have now reached antique, collectible status, even though they were initially intended to be ephemeral. Many of the top costume jewelry houses began stamping their pieces with a monogram, making it possible for collectors to identify and reap the rewards of owning fine quality, highly valued costume jewelry. is a wholesale jewellery company, offering you beautiful jewellery at competitive prices. Our product line covers beaded jewellery and handcraft jewellery, which is made of semi-precious stones, rhinestones,resin beads, acrylic beads, wooden beads, iron wire, and even fabric and alloy.

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