SHORT HISTORY of Costume Jewelry
Costume jewelry dates back to the 1930s. By the definition of antique that would also make it antique jewelry. However, most jewelry experts have come to agree that antique jewelry predates the 1930s.
Costume jewelry has been known to be as beautiful and spectacular as genuine jewelry made of precious metals like platinum, gold, and silver, and precious gemstones like diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Costume jewelry was intended to be fashionable for a short period of time, out date itself, and then be repurchased to fit with a new fashion style.
The 1920s – Early 30s
The 1920s and 1930s saw an era of Art Deco jewelry, featuring jet black stones, white platinum and silver metal, and symmetrical and geometric shapes. This period in costume jewelry is characterized by pendant necklaces, bangle bracelets, jeweled accessories like cigarette holders and pillboxes, and long, dangling earrings.
The Mid 30s – Early 1950s
Plastic was king of costume jewelry from about 1935 until well into the early 1950s. Indeed, plastic Bakelite bangle bracelets and Bakelite bead necklaces are sought after today as collectible jewelry because of its vivid colors and timeless modern design sensibilities. This era saw plastics formed into fanciful shapes, like sunbursts, bows, daisies, horses, and ballerinas, often with twinkling rhinestones set into patterns on bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.
The 1940s thru 1960s
Costume jewelry made between about 1945 and 1960 was tailored and sophisticated. Refinements in the jewelry of the 1940s and 1950s meant smaller pieces. Themed pieces became popular, like animal pins with Poodles and Scottish terriers. Christmas tree pins also enjoyed great popularity, as did other themed jewelry for holidays like Easter, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day.
How to Identify the Era of the Costume Jewelry piece.
There are usually clues that can help one identify what era a piece of jewelry is from. Style, material, the type of piece. For example dress clips came in in the 1930s and were out of style by the 1950s. Jewelry reflects styles, designs, colors and stones of the era.
From 1910 to 1930 silver was the favorite color for metal, so jewelry was found in platinum, white gold, silver or a base metal colored to look like silver.
By World War II, gold was popular again but in short supply, since it was vital to the war effort. What gold was available was made into very thin sheets and usually bonded to silver (called vermeil) before being turned into jewelry.
By the 1930s rhinestones popularity was ever increasing in Europe. It was not available to the USA until the 1940s. As a result, many of the pieces from this period tend to feature lots of metal and a single stone or a small cluster of tiny rhinestones.
Today, antique and vintage costume jewelry pieces are highly sought after by collectors. The quality of workmanship is finer than what can be found on the market today.