Kenneth Jay Lane: The Story of Costume Jewelry

Kenneth Jay Lane Jewelry 

Vintage costume jewelry has been in style ever since it’s debut in XVIII century with the use of inexpensive glass and semi-precious metals and stones. The accessibility of costume jewelry has never failed to feed costume jewelry’s popularity. There are a few American designer names that stand out and have become a synonym for a great choice in the costume jewelry world, one of which is Kenneth Jay Lane. It's been two years since the designer's passing and today we celebrate his legacy as well as the innovative approaches to the design itself that keeps his jewelry pieces relevant and desirable for the past six decades.  

The Path To Future Greatness Is Built With A Talented Mentor’s Support

The Detroit-born future costume jewelry designer started off as a member of the New York art staff  for Vogue. In the late 50s Kenneth transitioned to the footwear design industry and later was hired by the New York branch of Christian Dior. Here, under the roof of the iconic fashion brand, Kenneth trained under the talented French fashion designer Roger Vivier. 

While Vivier only specialized in shoes (he is credited with creating the stiletto heel), he managed to pass on his work ethics criteria to Kenneth as well as helped the future costume jewelry designer get acquainted with powerful figures in the fashion and jewelry world at the time. 

Bejeweled Footwear Evolves Into Stunning Costume Jewelry Pieces 

While designing and producing bejeweled footwear for Dior, Kenneth Jay Lane decided to try himself as a jewelry designer and ventured to launch his own costume jewelry brand in 1963. As in all good stories, it was the hard work, talent and good luck that brought recognition and financial success to the designer. After the Duchess of Windsor bought several pieces and recommended Lane to her friends, several publications reported about this incident, bringing unexpected attention to the newly established jewelry brand. 

Fine Jewelry-Like Looking Pieces at a Fraction of The Cost

Most of us are probably fairly familiar with the practise of copying high end jewelry and making their replicas to wear in public, while keeping the originals in safes. Lane has created numerous such copies using faux pearls, gems, and semi-precious metals. The list of his famous and powerful clients is endless and includes Adrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo, Nancy Reagan, Princess Diana, and Jacqueline Kennedy in the past as well as the pop queen Britney Spears and fashion reality TV show host, designer, and singer Nicole Richie. 

Kenneth’s influence and polarity only continued to grow for the next decade. He became the recipient of the most notable awards in the fashion world of the time, including Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, Tobé Coburn award, the Harper's Bazaar International award, the Swarovski award, and many others. These awards and credible recognitions further boosted Lane’s costume jewelry designs’ popularity and increased his sales. His designs gained popularity across the ocean as well, leading to his opening boutiques in London and Paris. 

Humble Materials Get Nobel Treatment

Glass, resin and plated metals don’t have much value until a master breathes live into them. Lane was a master of fusing old craft with evolving technology and materials.  Lane was a big fan of gilt and his faux pearls and glass “gems” were set in gold and silver plated metals. Plated metal surface insured the expensive “high-end” look to his designs, making the jewelry piece less susceptible to tarnish or becoming dull. This enables vintage jewelry dealers to offer beautiful Kenneth Jay Lane costume jewelry designs in excellent condition at an affordable price range.