EBTH Jewelry Expert: Ruby Nassif's
Costume Jewelry History & Collecting Tips
Vintage costume jewelry is timeless, unique, and fun to wear. It is said to have been around for 300 years. It wasn’t until the 1920s that it was popularized by Coco Chanel. There are many reasons for its popularity, including its dramatic style and that it was for all to afford. In the 1940s it was also referred to as cocktail jewelry for the dramatic looks desired by the up and coming middle class as they looked to the motion pictures for the latest designs. As the times and fashion changes so do the trends and styles of costume jewelry.
If you are looking for a few pieces or have a desire to start a collection, here are a few tips to get you started.
A couple of great first questions are… What is your style and do you have a favorite era? Were you a flapper in a past life? If so, the Art Deco Era may speak to you! Art Deco features white metals with white “paste” or rhinestones imitating platinum and diamonds. The look was designed as long earrings, line or flexible bracelets, long and short necklaces or sautoirs, dress clips and brooches with mostly streamline and geometric shapes.
If you prefer a pop of color, the jewelry of the 50s, 60s and 70s were very expressive with colorful rhinestones and bold enameling. The 1970s in particular will brighten up your collection with Boho, turquoise, and Egyptian revival inspiration.
If you don’t have a favorite era, just follow a trend! Often, certain designers have a surge in popularity. Crown Trifari “Jelly Bellies” are very hot at the moment, but Miriam Haskell is a designer that has always been highly sought after. Her exquisite handmade pieces are made with materials collected from far-flung places around the world. She traveled throughout Europe and other exotic places looking for extraordinary materials for her elaborate jewelry.
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, make sure to look for quality and condition and avoid damaged and repaired pieces. Whatever your fancy, there is always a bauble to fill your heart and your jewelry box.
A rare and collectible costume jewelry piece gives the ability to create an individual look often rivaling the value of fine jewelry.
Below are some collectible designers and of course there are many more.
Art Deco designers: Coco Chanel and McClelland Barclay
1930 – 40s designers: Miriam Haskell, Elsa Schiaparelli, Crown Trifari, and Eisenberg
1950 – 60s Juliana (DeLizza & Elster), Marcel Boucher, Vendôme, HAR (only in production for 5 years), and Kenneth Jay Lane
1960 – 70s designers: William De Lillo and Christian Dior