EBTH Jewelry Expert: Ruby Nassif's
Costume Jewelry History & Collecting Tips
Vintage costume jewelry is timeless, unique, and fun to wear. A rare, collectible costume jewelry piece gives the ability to create an individual look often rivaling the value of fine jewelry. If you’re looking for a few pieces or have a desire to start a collection, here are some things to help you along the way, and a bit of the history of Costume Jewelry.
When determining which costume jewelry to acquire, one must first ask themselves a couple questions. What is your style? And do you have a favorite era? As time and fashion changes, so do the trends and styles of costume jewelry.
Costume jewelry designs use non-precious materials as a cheaper alternative to fine jewelry. Early on, costume jewelry was looked down upon and thought to be only for women who couldn’t afford the “real thing.” However, Coco Chanel is largely credited as the primary influence behind the shift of fashionable tastes from delicate fine-jewels to colorful, statement costume jewelry.
Chanel was known for her Art Deco designs which feature white metals with white “paste,” or rhinestones, imitating platinum and diamonds. The look comprises of long earrings, line bracelets, sautoirs (long and short necklaces), dress clips, and brooches. These pieces largely contain streamline and geometric shapes and embody elegance.
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– follow a trend. Often, certain designers have a surge in popularity. Crown Trifari “Jelly Bellies” are very hot at the moment, and Miriam Haskell designs will never go out of style.
Haskell has always been highly sought after, and her exquisite handmade pieces are made with materials that she collected from far-flung places around the world.
Haskell’s jewelry was worn for publicity shots, films, and personal use by movies stars Joan Crawford (pictured to the right) and Lucille Ball, as well as Gloria Vanderbilt and the Duchess of Windsor. Crawford owned a set of almost every Haskell ever produced, from the 1920s through the 1960s.
Whatever your fancy, there is always a piece of costume jewelry to fill your heart and your jewelry box.