With Halloween still fresh in our thoughts, I want to explore a term I have been hearing more and more…costume jewelry.
According to Dictionary.com, costume jewelry is “jewelry made of non-precious metals, sometimes gold-plated or silver-plated, often set with imitation or semiprecious stones.”
By this definition, costume jewelry sounds cheap. It sounds like it might look gaudy. However, the reason we’re hearing about it more is because antique (vintage) costume jewelry is becoming a collectable item. Yes, it might be cheap and sometimes the gaudier the better, but it’s still a treasure in the eyes of some people.
The concept of costume jewelry became popular in the 1930s and the pieces were usually designed to match a specific outfit and only be popular for a short period of time. The 1930s were the time of the Great Depression. People were looking for whatever means they could to have fun and enjoy life. Through inexpensive costume jewelry, they were able to look good, but not spend a fortune to do so. A lot of women went for the big fancy-looking pieces; however, there were a lot of pieces that were designed to look like fine high-end jewelry, but because of the materials they were made from, they were much less expensive.
One interesting fact I found was that during World War II sterling silver came into use in costume jewelry. Until then, most costume jewelry was made with base metals (brass, nickel, steel, etc.) but during the war years, these metals were needed for military use. During that time, sterling silver was relatively inexpensive, so they were able to do this pretty easily. Today, sterling silver is still much less expensive than gold, but it is more often used in fine jewelry.
Why do people collect vintage costume jewelry if it’s cheap and gaudy? Because they think the pieces are fun. A lot of vintage costume jewelry came in bright and bold colors, were chunky, and could really add a lot to an outfit. With my love of vintage, I’ll admit I have a few pieces of plastic (Bakelite) costume jewelry. I think it is simply fun to wear.
Moving into modern times, costume jewelry is as popular as ever. People are constantly on the lookout for inexpensive pieces that look expensive so they can keep up with whatever image they are trying to maintain. With this thought, I give one warning. If the price is low, that can be a reflection of the quality of the materials the piece is made from. Costume jewelry is not designed to last forever; it’s designed to be momentarily en vogue. The plating may wear off over time. If the beads are coated, the coating may peel. Not to steer you away from anything, but just a word of caution.
So while we might wear costumes for Halloween, costume jewelry can be something you wear for any occasion. The similarity is that it was originally designed to only be worn sparingly just like the Halloween costumes. It’s designed for fun and to add a little “pop” to your everyday wardrobe.
With this on my mind, I think I might dig through some of my vintage costume jewelry. Maybe I can work it into my outfits more often just to see if people notice. I encourage you to go out and have some fun with a piece or two as well! Also, if you have a piece, feel free to share a photo of it!
Thank you for stopping by!