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Accepted definition of Costume Jewellery?


#1

Just a quick question - what is the accepted definition of “costume
jewellery”? Often when I am reading books about making jewellery
references will be made to costume jewellery and I am never quite
sure as to what this label implies.

R.R. Jackson


#2

This is a very good question. And probably one that there is no real
answer for. The technical definition is any jewelry made from
inexpensive materials, imitation or semi-precious stones. So
technically anyone making jewelry out of anything other than gold
and precious gemstones is making costume jewelry.

I remember when I was selling beaded jewelry back before I got into
metalsmithing. I wanted to make my pieces stand out and chose to only
use one-of-a-kind beads or very high end beads. I could easily have
well over $150-$175 in materials alone. One time, a woman looking
over my pieces made the comment that my jewelry was well-made and
very nice for “costume” jewelry. I thanked her, but was in a panic
to think that here I was making jewelry that I thought was exquisite
and someone called it “costume” jewelry. It really bothered me. The
reason for this is that I have several books in my library (ok, not
really a library, but the corner of my studio that is a complete
mess…) on costume jewelry. I used them for inspiration and designs
from the 50’s-70’s…retro stuff. I immediately went home and started
to look through the books. I noticed that all the “costume” jewelry
was plastic beads, rhinestones and junk. No semi-precious stones. I
was so hurt that someone put my jewelry in the same category as
jewelry made with plastic, etc.

I got over it, but decided that the definition for costume jewelry
is very outdated and doesn’t fit anymore with what jewelry artists
are making today. I actually think costume jewelry can also be
considered “bridge jewelry”. Not cheap, not expensive… .but
somewhere in between… (usually the hardest category of jewelry to
sell, by the way…). Costume jewelry does not also mean “cheap”.

I know this is a little off track - but did anyone see the $950
"costume jewelry" necklace being sold by one of the more well known
department stores? If not - check it out - it’s online… $950 for a
teeny-tiny $5 strand of turquoise nuggets and a cast BRASS pendant.
So there’s costume jewelry out there selling for $1000… knowing
that, I don’t have a problem selling my “costume” jewelry.


#3
I know this is a little off track - but did anyone see the $950
"costume jewelry" necklace being sold by one of the more well
known department stores?  If not - check it out - it's online..
$950 for a teeny-tiny $5 strand of turquoise nuggets and a cast
BRASS pendant. " 

Actually, I got the price wrong. It’s $1025. And it’s not a brass
pendant, but a round copper pendant - no design, just a round copper
disc. I almost fell off my chair when I saw this… I’m still
thinking it’s got to be a typo… but nope - it’s still there and
priced at a reasonable $1025. I know prices from this store are
generally “needlessly marked up” (hint…), but this one takes the
cake.

Heck, I’m raising my prices.


#4

I would like to sugjest that in a 21st Century definition of
"Costume Jewelry", that mass replication of a single design should
be central in the “Costume Jewelry” definition. I know the Jewelry
Mass Merchants will scream at such a definition, but, truth is
truth.

That’s my take on it.

Ed


#5
I was making jewelry that I thought was exquisite and someone
called it "costume" jewelry. It really bothered me. 

I think originally “costume jewellery” meant an imitation of precious
materials, but unfortunately it has come to mean (for some) any
jewelry not made of expensive materials.

    I got over it, but decided that the definition for costume
jewelry is very outdated and doesn't fit anymore with what jewelry
artists are making today. 

Some of my work is copper alloy mokume and not an imitation of
anything. I get a little annoyed when this is termed “costume
jewelry” But like you, I get over it. There isn’t really a handy term
for non-precious material jewelry that doesn’t defer to “fine” jewelry
or “real” jewelry. Many art fairs have two categories for jewelry,
“precious” and “non-precious”. I hate to be the one advocating new
"PC" terms, but it would be nice if we had a alternative term that
did not imply second class status.

Stephen Walker


#6
    This is a very good question. And probably one that there is
no real answer for. The technical definition is any jewelry made
from inexpensive materials, imitation or semi-precious stones. So
technically anyone making jewelry out of anything other than gold
and precious gemstones is making costume jewelry. 

I agree that there is no real answer for this question. Even “It’s
in the eye of the beholder” isn’t a REAL answer, but it serves. The
following actually happened two weeks ago.

A young woman of somewhere around 22 years of age walked into the
store wanting to piece together a ring with a large (3-5 carat)
princess cut diamond with two trapezoidal side stones. Her main
complaint was that stores like Mayors, Bailey, Banks and Biddle,
Jared, etc. didn’t have the stones she was looking for to lay out in
front of her to choose from. She also claimed to be able to see VS
inclusions with her naked eye.

Our salesperson removed her favorite estate piece from the case to
show it to this girl. The piece is a 5 carat, emerald cut diamond
ring of very good clarity, but somewhere around O in color. To our
salesperson’s chagrin, the customer said that she considered this
fairly faint yellow diamond that is set in 18 karat white gold to be
"costume jewelry."

Eye of the beholder, indeed.
James in SoFl


#7

Browsing through retail stores and newspaper ads has given me an
insight into what is called ‘costume jewelry’. Apparently it is any
wearable ornament that cannot be classified as “fine jewelry”. Price
doesn’t have much to do with it…and some costume jewelry has
superior design to some fine jewelry. Go figure. I give up.

Dee


#8

Those pendant necklaces with the 10,000% markup that I was referring
to in my post to the forum yesterday evening were taken off that
website today… so they aren’t there anymore - for those that
emailed me for the link.


#9
This is a very good question. And probably one that there is no
real answer for.

I agree that “costume jewelry” is hard to define. I am a retailer and
bench jeweler (read repairer of jewelry) and seldom produce jewelry
of any kind. I do sell and repair what is often called costume
jewelry.

It’s kind of like trying to define beauty–I can’t define it, but I
know it when I see it. I guess “subjective” is the key word here.

With all of that said–or unsaid–my major supplier of jewelry
provides me with very high-quality product ranging from gold and
diamonds to pewter. All of his jewelry is artistically top-end. All
is unconditionally guaranteed for life. In the eye of this beholder
it is all beautiful. However, he labels (on shelf-talkers, etc.)
anything that is gold-or rhodium-plated as "Costume Jewelery."
Interestingly, his pewter works are not so labeled–they are just
called “Pewter.”

Does all of this rambling muddy-up the waters or what?

Del Pearson of Designs of Eagle Creek in Beautiful South Texas where
costume jewelry is admired and appreciated.


#10

two types of jewelry Artisan and mass produced lol hmmm

Hand wrought and store bought ?

Costume jewelry as I understand it was indeed something that
originated from the fact that heirloom pieces were copied with less
expensive materials for daily wear.

Costume jewelry was intended to mean daily wear.

Teri
An American Cameo Artist
www.cameoartist.com


#11

Gee whiz:

Have you ever looked at the prices for old ‘‘costume’’ jewelry on
e-bay? If the term bothers you, call it fine art jewelry! Just a
suggestion.

Ringman


#12
 'costume jewelry'. Apparently it is any wearable ornament that
cannot be classified as "fine jewelry".

Okay, now who will define “fine jewelry”. I suppose there was a time
when “fine jewelry” meant only hand crafted from precious metals and
precious Today I’m not so sure - I’ve seen many “unusual"
materials paired up with expensive gemstones and in the same display
case with the usual gold/platinum/diamond pieces and both being sold
from a very posh upper echelon jewelry store, and, I might add,
prices just as high as the traditional pieces and in some cases even
higher. And there were no signs labeling any pieces as “fine” or
"costume”. Not to mention that I have seen some pieces referred to as
"costume jewelry" that I felt were of superior design to many of the
so-called “fine jewelry” pieces.

I think we should quit worrying about classifying anything - just
create - be happy - and if your customers like what you make and you
are making a reasonable living from your craft, then do you really
care whether it is called “vintage” “costume” “fine” “native” etc.
Remember a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. Bottom line
is if creating jewelry (of any classification) is fulfilling for you,
enjoy - you are one of the few who has found happiness in your
"work". Spend your time trying to decide if you are a “metalsmith”
“goldsmith” “silversmith” “artisan” “craftsman” “fabricator” and you
won’t have time to worry about whether what you make is “fine” or
"costume".

Kay


#13

Have you ever looked at the prices for old ‘‘costume’’ jewelry one-bay?

Hi Ringman;

I do a lot of restoration for a guy who specializes in "estate"
jewelry. I’ve seen those prices, for base metals, plastics, foil
backs. Leaves me with my mouth hanging open, my head slowly going
left to right to left. Some of that stuff must have been made by the
ton and sold for pennies originally. Anything “Bakelite” and anything
signed is getting big bucks.

David L. Huffman


#14

Hi Folks…

Somehwere’s I saw that the term costume jewelry got it’s start as
jewelry used as part of costume for the stage…

Since it had to be visible to the audience, it was made larger and
more visible, probably gaudier, and out of non precious materials,
whatever one could use to get the desired effect…

Further muddying the waters…

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)


#15

This is a fascinating subject, and something that perhaps I can
respond to with some experience. I have been a dealer since 1970,
and started by selling Victorian, Edwardian and Deco-before I
learned of the popularity of ‘Costume Jewelry’ of the late
50’s-70’s.

I think what you are seeing on Ebay, in some regard, is partially
due to dealers and collectors of ‘Vintage Costume’, that appreciate
the design and construction of certain manufacturers like Renoir,
Matisse, Rebajes, the Arts and Crafts movement, the De Lizza &
Elster, old Trifari, Boucher, Haskell, Mazer, Har, Chanel, and de
Lillo, (who was designing for such prestigious companies as Tiffany,
Cartier, and Winston). When you have a background working in
precious metals and gems, and then start designing only a handful of
collections a year, by special order, and hand set the stones, and
hand make the jewelry, using quality crystals, then it becomes very
popular and very sought after by collectors. Price seems to be no
object. Much of its desirability is driven by finding it in
excellent condition and a few voracious bidders.

Many of the designers like Hattie Carnegie and Nettie Rosenstein and
Elsa Schiaparelli, developed their jewelry lines while they were
designing and making couture clothing lines. The jewelry augmented
the clothing. Finding jewelry by these designers-some of whom sold
clothing WITH brooches attached, almost as an afterthought, have
become wildly popular with collectors and dealers. Chanel, St.
Laurent and Dior used the House of Gripoix, making fabulous poured
glass jewelry some of which sells in the four digit range.

There is also the matter of price for many, and having jewelry that
is attractive and made with quality, that costs less than the fine
jewelry using precious gems and metals, allows one to have more of
it.

My conclusion, and it’s just my humble opinion, is that, while it
will never be ‘fine jewelry’, it has a niche in the market that
isn’t going away.

Dinah.


#16

It has always amazed and saddened me that I can get more for a
plastic action figure from 1995 than for many things over 100 years
old. As far as costume jewelry I can sell a jelly belly trifari or
coro for more than I am paid for my hand carved cameos ;/ go figure.
P.S. I just raised my prices lol

Teri
An American Cameo Artist
www.cameoartist.com