Buyers Guide to Costume Jewellery

Want to know more about collecting cotume jewellery but don't know where to start? Check out ValueMyStuff's Buyer's Guide.

Costume Jewelry

Costume Jewellery first appeared in the 1930s but Costume jewellery is still hugely popular, with items often being worn as ‘Statement’ pieces or as part of a festival attire. Most recently spotted at the famous LA based music festival Coachella, celebrities and non-celebrities were spotted sporting costume jewellery, which complemented their festival-chic outfits! Costume Jewellery opens up an opportunity to make more of your outfits and wardrobe at a lower cost!

Often with Costume Jewellery the stones can be artificial or semi precious but with wonderful designs one can say that this doesn’t matter when buying Costume Jewellery!

The visual appearance of precious metal can be created by plating, dipping, filling and rolling in both gold and silver metals. On close examination the coatings of these precious metals can be easily scratched off revealing metals such as copper or nickel. Often ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver’ costume jewellery will be an item of jewellery that is electroplated, just be sure to try and avoid painted jewellery as this wears off over time.

Costume Jewellery can also be referred to as ‘Fashion Jewellery’ and the term ‘Bridge Jewellery’ is sometimes used to describe Costume Jewellery items as they bridge the gap in the market between less costly jewellery and expensive fine jewellery.
Kenneth Jay Lane is perhaps one of the best known Costume Jewellery designers with clientele such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor to name but a few! Kenneth Jay Lane also published his autobiography, highlighting his contributions to Costume Jewellery, titled ‘Faking it’.

Where to buy?

The list is endless! Costume jewellery is now widely available online and within antique markets and so on.
One of the first (and perhaps familiar) places to start is eBay; with sellers from all over the world you have the luxury of diversity and also the chance to bag yourself a bargain! Remember prices will fluctuate with fashion and of course the values of stones and metals!

What to look for?

There are several semi-precious stones that are favoured within the Costume Jewellery world, the list below is not exclusive but lists some of the main stones used:

Like most genres of jewellery there are brand names and designers that are associated and respected within the costume jewellery network, below is a list of some the reoccurring top names:
Erwin Pearl
Christian Dior
F.W Lambert
Kenneth Jay Lane

Commonly used materials in vintage costume jewellery:

(Please note that these materials are often used in place of more expensive items such as gold and silver)

Synthetic Stones
Base metals
Silver plated nickel
Silver plated brass
Semi – precious stones

Top tips from experts when purchasing costume jewellery:

Look out for the setting that the stones are in, the stones ideally need to be set in ‘prongs’ rather than glued in, if the stone is glued in it is more likely to be knocked out.

For pearls, or simulated pearls there should be individual knotting between each pearl to keep them in place.

It is best to avoid getting your piece of costume jewellery near hairspray or perfume as these substances can damage the plating, often causing discolouration.

It is important to understand your genre, or era with each era in costume jewellery telling its own story and representing iconography and symbolism from the said era. One example of this behaviour, Art Nouveau jewellery often depicts scenes inspired by nature whereas art Deco jewellery is more streamlined and geometric.

If you are looking for more information regarding the identity of jewellery throughout the eras there are books such as Nancy Schiffer’s book, The Best Costume Jewellery published in 1999.

Good Luck & Happy Shopping…

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