Jewelry, whether fine or costume, has been a part of human culture since the earliest times. People wear jewelry to satisfy their vanity, to indulge their love for beautiful things, and to look good to others. Vintage costume jewelry fulfills all these criteria, but at a fraction of the cost of real or fine jewelry. It is an inexpensive alternative that does not sacrifice taste as well as style.
Vintage costume jewelry may be less expensive, but good quality ones are never seen as cheap. They are less costly because they are not made from precious gems. Designers of vintage costume jewelry use a variety of materials from cut glass, beads, semi-precious gems, faux gems — even plastic! These pieces were created and released since the start of the Victorian era up to the 1960s. Vintage costume jewelry from the 1940s and 1950s are especially creative and eye-catching, since the designers of the era had to produce relatively inexpensive yet fashionable items that men and women could afford and appreciate during the war and post-war era.
Some of the most popular designers of vintage costume jewelry were fashion guru Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miriam Haskell. Many of Schiaparelli’s bright and attractive creations were made from multi-colored rhinestones. Haskell, in her finely detailed work, almost always paid tribute to nature’s beauty and bounty. Chanel, the favorite of many celebrities, transformed the way costume jewelry was worn in the 1920s. Other pieces of vintage costume jewelry were made from materials that included beads, corals, faux pearls, and Bakelite — a kind of polymeric plastic.
Vintage costume jewelry continues to be very much in vogue today, and it has inspired many designers to create ‘real’ pieces made from precious gems and metals. At the 2005 Academy Awards, the jewelry that many women celebrities wore were oversized and sparkly, a tribute to the jewelry designs of the 1940s. Stars such as Madonna, Britney Spears, and Julia Roberts are not only collectors of vintage costume jewelry and dress accessories; they actually wear them in public, too.
A person does not have to be a celebrity to appreciate vintage costume jewelry. Their uniqueness, aesthetic value and superb craftsmanship make them popular collectible items, and with proper care, they can be a good investment, too, since serious collectors will pay top dollar for vintage costume jewelry that is in mint condition. But more than that, the experience of owning and wearing a thing of beauty that comes from a bygone era is simply priceless.