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History of Costume Jewelry

Vintage gold circle brooch

The history of Costume Jewelry traces back to the 18th century

Europeans’ desire for fine jewelry with precious stones (namely diamonds) helped create the demand for costume jewelry. Needless to say you know most could not afford diamonds or fine jewelry. So enter a cost-effective alternative. French jeweler Georges Fréderic Strass,  in 1724, introduced a special leaded glass that, when cut with metal powder. This process mimicked the magnificent twinkle and shimmer of genuine diamonds. Inexpensive glass diamante jewelry was immediately popular with Parisian’s fashion set.

In 1892, Austrian jeweler Daniel Swarovski developed his own rhinestones that could perfectly resemble the shimmer and shine of colorful gemstones like emeralds, rubies, and sapphires by using high-lead-content glass with a foil backing. Swarovski also employed a revolutionary glass-cutting machine that could quickly and decisively facet glass with more brilliance than any expert artisan hands historically could. In turn, Swarovski could mass produce inexpensive “Swarovski Crystals.” We still buy and collect Swarovski pieces.

Coco Chanel popularized costume jewelry in the 20th Century

Historically, costume jewelry was designed to mirror expensive, heirloom jewelry. It was still looked down upon as jewelry for those who couldn’t afford the real thing. However, Coco Chanel is largely credited as being the primary influence behind the shift of fashionable tastes from delicate fine-jewels to colorful, statement costume jewelry. She designed and popularized large pieces that stood in beautiful contrast to her minimalist ready-to-wear designs: ropes of long pearls, large enamel bangles, and dazzling C&C logo earrings.

Costume jewelry in The Post World War II Retro Era

The world’s economy during and after World War II greatly influenced jewelry trends and markets. The war efforts need for platinum and alloy metals lead to many designers working with yellow or pink gold. And with fewer European jewelers able to actively produce jewelry during wartime, American jewelers’ business grew. Similarly, with European’s precious stones supply effectively dried up, jewelers turned to Brazil instead for colorful and large gemstones and also used synthetic stones as substitutes.

The Modern Period

In the 1950s, contemporary costume jewelry styles shifted again. The mid-century Modern era’s understated style was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus movement that married form and function, imbuing every design with an artistic air. Platinum also returned as the material of choice. Jewelry became lighter and incorporated more textures like engraved finishes and braided rope accents.

todayCostume Jewelry Today
Today costume jewelry (also referred to as fashion jewelry) has become a mainstay of any wardrobe. As you can imagine, affordable costume jewelry is needed to appeal to the rapidly changing tastes associated with the fast-fashion industry.

check out the About Costume Jewelry from Wikipedia. Browse our collection of vintage costume jewelry 

We’re adding more pieces regularly so if you are looking for a pristine piece, check back regularly. Check out our entire collection of vintage and contemporary jewelry.