Rare Vintage Costume Jewelry

Vintage Costume Jewelry 

Jewelry is a universal form of adornment, and throughout human history it has served a symbolic role. Jewelry carries a specific meaning based on it's design, and has adopted different roles depending on society and culture, including as a symbol of status or rank. Then what specifically is vintage costume jewelry?
Monet Vintage necklace

Definition of Costume Jewelry

Costume jewelry is fun, timeless, and expressive. Below is a quick look at the definition of vintage jewelry and costume jewelry.

Vintage Jewelry: jewelry which is at least 20 to 30 years old, so to be considered “vintage” it could be anything made during the 1990's or earlier.

Costume Jewelry: designs that use non-precious materials and the term reflects the use of the word "costume" to refer to what is now called an "outfit". Around the same time, Hobé was making big, dramatic jewelry with rhinestones for the costumes of the "Ziegfeld Follies," which may have something to do with the name "costume jewelry." Elsa Schiaparelli quickly followed with a line of Dada-inspired jewelry using large, fake gemstones.

Vintage costume jewelry pieces are eye-catching pieces not limited by the use of precious metals and expensive materials. The huge popularity of costume jewelry lasted through the 1930s, as many women imitated the glamour of movie stars. Ladies continued to buy costume jewelry as an inexpensive alternative to real jewelry into the twenty-first century, many of the costume pieces designed during the costume jewelry hype of the 1920s have become collectors' items, bringing prices almost as high as gold and diamonds.

History of Costume Jewelry
Chanel necklace runway

Chanel Necklace 

Before the 20th Century women adorned themselves with jewelry made of precious and semi-precious stones and rare metals. Jewelry was mostly worn by the rich to convey their rank in society, although it could also symbolize one's religious affiliation, the state of a romance, a period of mourning, etc. depending on the historical time and the culture.

During the 18th century jewelers began making pieces with inexpensive glass. In the 19th century, jewelry which was made of semi-precious materials, came on to the market. At this point jewelry made of semi-precious materials became more affordable, and this affordability also gave common people the chance to own what would soon be called “costume jewelry”.

In the early years costume jewelry was looked down upon as being only for women who couldn’t afford necklaces and bracelets made with real gemstones. This changed greatly by Coco Chanel, who is largely credited as being the influence behind the shift from delicate fine-jewels to colorful, bold costume jewelry.

The idea of costume jewelry is closely associated to fashion and thanks to such bond it has developed its unusual features, like the research on non-precious materials to sell the pieces at a price to enable its seasonal turnover and a continuous development, of the shapes to create new styles in line with the changes in trend. Today increasingly more often, a costume jewelry piece may be more expensive than its real match.
Christian Dior Vintage Brooch  Christian Dior 1970 Gripoix Brooch

Brands of Vintage Costume Jewelry

Costume jewelry was made popular by various designers in the mid-20th century. Some of the most notable names that come to mind for vintage costume jewelry, including both high and low priced brands are Crown Trifari, Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Hobé, Miriam Haskell, Monet, Iradj Moini, Kenneth Jay Lane, Yves Saint Laurent, Lawrence Vrba, and Valentino.

Out of the aforementioned vintage costume jewelry designers, Coco Chanel is largely known as having revolutionized the industry. She was the couturiere extraordinare for the most of the twentieth century. Attractive, ambitious, and a genius for self inventions, she became one of the first couturiers to be celebrated as much for her glamorous persona as for her impeccable designs of costume jewelry.

Another big name in vintage costume jewelry is Hermes. Hermes is a highly collectible brand, as a result of their timeless designs and use of high quality materials. To this day the firm is very attached to its traditional business model and rejects mass production, assembly lines, and mechanization.
Hermes bracelet

Hermès Gilt Metal Chain Bracelet 
Share with us your thoughts on your favorite costume jewelry pieces/brands in the comments section below. The rarer the better! In our passionate search for jewelry we come across some very rare vintage costume pieces. For inspiration look at our ever-growing collection.