Costume Jewelry Brief History
As daily wear became more demanding, fashionable or colorful, so did the accompanying of jewelry. The shapes and details of vintage costume jewelry were conventional, echoing the mood in contemporary clothes design. Through the decades, costume jewelry styles have evolved due to changing social trends, typically mirroring the larger fashion trends of the fine jewelry world.
The term costume jewelry dates back to the early 20th century. It reflects the use of the word “costume” to refer to what is now called an outfit. Costume jewelry is categorized separately from fine jewelry, as it is made of inexpensive materials and imitation gems like colored rhinestones, metal, brass, lucite etc.
The use of valueless materials for decorative and novel effect had been considered appropriate at various times throughout history but at no point was it related to seasonal fashion change.
For example the imitation of pearls started in the fifteenth century and were used to embellish dresses or hats. They consisted of hallow glass filled with wax foe adding weight.
During the 18th century, jewelers began making pieces with inexpensive glass. In the 19th century, costume jewelry made of semi-precious material came into the market. Jewels made of semi-precious material were more affordable, and this affordability gave common people the chance to own costume jewelry.
Even today the techniques for making costume jewelry remain very old fashioned. The production of original, top quality pieces is still time consuming as casting, moulding, gilding and stone-setting are done by hand and has changed very little since the beginning of the century.