Coco Chanel is usually credited with popularizing “fashion jewelry,” designed to complement one’s outfit (or costume, as the term was used at the time) beginning in the 1920s. From the the Art Deco period prior to the Great Depression, through the Retro era of the mid-1930s until WWII, to the Modern period post-war until 1960 or so, costume jewelry has reflected the fashion and design of its day.
MATERIALS & MAKERS
Most costume jewelry produced in the 20th century was made from base metals, faux gems and rhinestones, as well as various plastics such as Bakelite and, later, acrylics, as well as — surprisingly, in the wartime period, silver. Popular — and highly collectible — makers include Chanel, Miriam Haskell, Eisenberg and Dior, as well as companies like Kim Craftsmen and Coro/Corocraft.
LEARNING ABOUT COSTUME JEWELRY: SOME RESOURCES
- Frances Burke offers this quick, 6-point tip-sheet on getting started with your costume jewelry collection.
- Julia C. Carroll’s series Collecting Costume Jewelry 101, 202 & 303 are all useful references for collectors. Even experienced collectors will enjoy perusing the photos in the earlier works (and will probably glean a tip or two in the process.)
- Aunt Judy’s Attic has suggestions of other books that might be of interest to the vintage costume jewelry collector.
- Here’s a short video for garage sale jewelry hunters, which includes a foolproof test for determining whether a piece of jewelry is actual Bakelite.
- For a good introduction on collecting and caring for costume jewelry, Collectors Weekly recommends Carol Bell’s simple and informative site, Collecting Costume Jewelry.