Out with the old, in with the old? Many designers this season have equipped their looks by accessorizing fine garments with vintage-inspired costume jewelry, a style that dates back to the 18th century. In the spirit of recycling past concepts, costume jewelry is an easy and affordable way to spice up any outfit by complimenting looks with stand-out pieces but still avoiding the costs of fine jewelry.
In the early 1700's, costume jewelry became a popular style of the middle class, from the desire to own nice adornments with a reasonable price tag. The pieces were not intended to be a keepsake or investment, but rather crafted as disposable ornamentation to dress up women's outfits. Acting as imitation platinum and silver, base metals were used as an alternative to keep costs down. Semi-precious stones, high end crystals, CZ and faux pearls are commonly used in fine jewelry. In the 1920's the beloved Coco Chanel introduced costume jewelry to her assortment as a way of complimenting classic designs, bringing costume jewelry into the world of couture. Shortly thereafter, the trend of reasonably priced jewelry rapidly took off to the public.
In the breakout of WWII, metals such as copper, aluminum, nickel and brass, all components of inexpensive jewelry, were banned from private sector production and used exclusively for wartime and military applications. Despite the fact that inexpensive metals could not be used to manufacture jewelry during the war, the demand of costume jewelry continued to mature. Thus, silver began to replace base metals during the wartime years and these pieces made of sterling silver can often still be found at flea markets. The sterling silver jewelry that dates back to WWII is of great significance and value due to the ban.
In the 20th century, the industrial revolution took over, allowing mass production of heirloom replications to be made and sold inexpensively to the public. Popular items were pendants, earrings, bangles and cocktail rings. The bold and chunky pieces were held high popularity, partially because unless these pieces were closely inspected, it was difficult to decipher fine jewelry apart from costume jewelry besides its overall style and appearance. Many couture designers such as Dior and Chanel have caught onto this trend and continue to feature collections that incorporate costume jewelry within their lines, sold at an accessible cost.
Many celebrities and political figures adopted the idea of costume jewelry into their wardrobes such as Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Vreeland. Whether it is an original vintage piece by Miriam Haskell or contemporary piece by Kenneth Jay Lane, costume jewelry is a great and affordable way to accessorize any outfit with style and not price.
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