Different vintage costume jewelry and a lady in the center

Vintage Costume Jewelry

Collectors and fashion fans alike are becoming more and more interested in vintage costume jewelry. The cheap materials used to make these one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces are often glass, plastic, or base metals. However, the intricate designs and methods used to make them will last for a long time.

This article will talk about the background of vintage costume jewelry, some of the most popular styles, and how you can add these lovely pieces to your own collection.

Styles of Vintage Costume Jewelry

a vintage costume necklace in the neck of manequin

Different types of vintage costume jewelry have their own special features. Listed below are some of the most famous designs:

  • Art Deco: In the 1920s and 1930s, a lot of costume jewelry was influenced by the Art Deco style. These pieces were made from things like bakelite and celluloid and often had geometric forms and bright colors.
  • Retro: Pieces that were flamboyant, large, and had a glamorous Hollywood vibe were the hallmarks of the retro jewelry that was fashionable during the 1940s and 1950s. There were a lot of pieces from the past that were constructed with gold or silver metal and rhinestones of various colors.
  • Mid-Century Modern: Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, jewelry designs grew increasingly colorful and whimsical. Plastic and Lucite were frequently used to create mid-century modern objects, which frequently had vivid enamel and abstract shapes.

History of Vintage Costume Jewelry

different type of vintage jewelry

Costume jewelry has been around for a very long time, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that it became a popular choice instead of fine jewelry. This type of jewelry was less expensive than fine jewelry, so more people could buy it. Art Deco-style jewelry also used bright colors that were popular at the time.

Fine jewelry production dropped during World War II because of a lack of metal. This made fake jewelry even more popular. A lot of jewelry designers started making their pieces out of different materials, like plastic, wood, and resin.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn wore a lot of costume jewelry on screen, which made it even more famous. Stars wore more expensive jewelry when they were in front of the camera and on the red carpet, but their bright accessories led to more cheap and easy-to-find costume versions that looked the same.

The 1920s

girl wearing a 1920s vintage jewerly

Art Deco began in the first two years of the 1920s, and flappers replaced post-war waistlines just below the breast and ankle-length hemlines. Victoria & Albert Museum: “High-waisted, barrel-shaped outfits and tunic-style tops were fashionable for women at the beginning of the 1920s”.

Between 1920 and 1922, waistlines decreased to hip level and daywear hemlines were just below calf. As hemlines rose, pretty shoes replaced high-button boots. Their hair was shorter. Broad fashion liberty and the practicality needed by women in factories and farms during WWI contributed to this change. For most of the decade, newspapers and magazines debated “To bob or not to bob?”

In the mid-1920s, women sported the garçonne look—long, straight, and flat. This tubular, androgynous style had ankle-length hemlines in 1924 and knee-length in 1925, and low waistlines. This style was linked with free-spirited 1920s flappers.

She wore berets, turbans, and toques, but her short hair made the French cloche popular. Emancipated ladies wore colorful, geometric skirts and pants. Flyaway evening sleeveless tunics with low backs and skirt slits were made of fabrics. Dance was essential to the Jazz Age!

The 1930s

a man wearing suit and cap with a girl wearing vintage jewelry of 1930s

With the October 1929 stock market crash, the 1920s’ extravagance and luxury ended. By 1930, when the Great Depression hit, hemlines were ankle-length, the natural waistline was back, and femininity was popular. “Softer, sculptural clothing highlighted female contours…The Great Depression froze the silhouette for a decade since most women couldn’t afford new clothes (Clothing Through American History: 1900 to the Present).

Popular evening dresses were satin with low-cut backs and bias-cut materials that hugged the body. Fitted knee-length suits were worn by women during the day. Shoulder pads, first worn by Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s, became popular because they accentuated the waist. Popular items included fur stoles, collars, and little caps with feathers or flowers worn at an angle. Longer hair was curled around the nape.

Moving movies became America’s most popular pastime by the 1920s. Hollywood’s influence on fashion intensified during the Depression when people used movies to escape their concerns. The movie business fostered a longing for the rich’s elegance and lifestyle on screen. Photo ads featuring movie stars helped clothing merchants attract this influence.

The 1940s

a black and white girl with pearls

European World War II began in 1939, and the U.S. entered in 1941. As expected, the violence affected fashion and jewelry. Hollywood stars and American designers ruled 1940s fashion without European influence owing to the war. American women emulated their heroines Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, and Greta Garbo. Fashion finally reflected American sportswear and informal living, not French haute couture.

Wartime legislation restricted domestic production, consumption, and material availability, influencing fashion. These laws restricted fabric use and forbade woolen wraps and decorating. Button, pleat, metal zipper, cuff, yoke, and pocket numbers were limited (Clothing Through American History: 1900 to the Present).

Women volunteered and worked like men during the last war. Military-inspired suits with straight, knee-length skirts and long, tight coats with enormous padded shoulders were worn all day by men. Since so many women biked to work, trousers and culottes were appropriate everywhere, not only in sports. Fitted bodices with square, V, or round necklines feminineized garments. As fabric shortages constricted skirts, the early 1940s triangle silhouette of long dresses with padded shoulders, thin waists, and flared skirts became the evening sheath.

The 1950s

beautiful lady wearing pearl necklace and vintage earrings

In the 1950s, the hourglass shape, which was first seen in Christian Dior’s 1947 collection New Look, continued to be popular among women. With its focus on the female form, the style’s rounder shoulders pointed breasts, and nipped-in waist showed that society thought a woman’s job was to be a wife and mother. Evening clothes had low necklines and full skirts that drew attention to a small waist or pencil skirts that hugged the waist and hips. People still liked to wear the little black dress to go out at night. For business meetings, luncheons, or shopping, women wore close-fitting suits with pencil or flared skirts, straight sheaths with jackets, or skirts with sweater sets. For casual events, they wore shirtwaist dresses and separates (skirts, pants, sweaters, and blouses).

In the 1950s, short hair with pin curls around the face and long hair pulled back in a French twist, chignon, or ponytail for everyday wear were both popular. Hats were an important thing to wear for all tasks outside the home. A lot of different styles and accents were popular. Early in the decade, Balenciaga came out with the pillbox hat.

Most Expensive Vintage Costume Jewelry

girl holding the Wallis Simpson Panther Bracelet

As with all vintage things, costume jewelry prices can change greatly based on how much people want it. It’s still fun to look at the most expensive things. Truly unique things can fetch a lot of money. Some of the most sought-after names and designers have made these beautiful and one-of-a-kind costume jewelry pieces.

  • Wallis Simpson Panther Bracelet by Cartier: This bracelet was owned by the Duchess of Windsor and sold at a Sotheby’s sale in 2010 for $12.4 million. It is a stunning example of Cartier’s skill.
  • Miriam Haskell Jeweled Necklace: A statement piece by the famous designer Miriam Haskell, who is known for making well-made intricate patterns. Old Miriam Haskell items can sell for many different amounts of money. Some can fetch thousands of dollars at sale.
  • Chanel Gripoix Glass Cuff Bracelet: A lot of people want to gather Chanel jewelry, especially pieces with Gripoix glass. When it comes to vintage Chanel jewelry, some pieces can fetch tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Schreiner New York Rhinestone Necklace: People love Schreiner jewelry because it has bold patterns and is made of good materials. At sale, old Schreiner jewelry, especially necklaces and brooches, can fetch a lot of money.
  • Eisenberg Originals Rhinestone Brooch: Costume jewelry from Eisenberg Originals, especially its rhinestone pieces, is known for being of good quality. Especially old Eisenberg Originals pins can sell for a lot of money; some have been sold for over $1,000.

Tips for Collecting Vintage Costume Jewelry

different types of vintage jewelries
  • Buy from trustworthy sellers: Finally, it’s important to buy vintage costume jewelry from trustworthy sellers who can promise that each item is real. If you want to buy vintage jewelry, look for sellers with a good name.
  • Thinking about the designer: Very old costume jewelry made by famous designers like Coco Chanel and Miriam Haskell can be very expensive. Looking for things that have a mark or signature from the creator.
  • Quality is important: Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s useful. You should look for pieces that are well-made and in good shape, with all of the stones in place and the clasps in good shape.
  • Research: Find out more about the things you want to buy before you start shopping. You should learn about the different styles and creators, as well as the materials and building methods that have been used in costume jewelry over the years.
  • Think about how you’ll wear it: Vintage costume jewelry can look great with any outfit, but you should plan ahead for how you’ll wear it. Browse your clothes for pieces that match your style and can be worn with different outfits.
  • Check for proof: To make sure you have all the right information, ask the seller if they can show you any proof or qualifications. Original sales papers are hard to find, but if the jewelry has been appraised, you might be able to get a hold of the official document that lists all of the piece’s details, such as its quality, age, and overall value. You can always take your old piece to a professional designer after the fact to get it valued and learn more about it.

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Missy Haymond

Great article. Thank you for writing

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