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Has costume jewelry been re-invented?


#1

To All -

with all this talk about metalsmith magazine and non precious
materials like plastic, bone,fabric, feathers, wood I had the
thought that, perhaps/maybe this stuff or the stuff and concepts
featured in metalsmith magazine may be or is actually a re-inventing
of costume jewelry of sorts for a new generation.

The definition of costume being non precious materials, anything that
is not precious. Precious would mean high dollar gold, silver,
platinum, palladium, mokume & recognized precious gems & gem
materials, some even consider silver to be a costume jewelry of
sorts.

These thoughts may cause some to feel defensive, really they are
merely questions on my part and i need the groups input to come to
an opinion.

best regards - goo


#2

If in fact costume jewelry is being re-invented, then that is a good
thing. Accessories are loved no matter what it’s expense. Given the
economicsituation as it is it just may put artisans to the test of
bringing a good product to the forefront, one that pleases the wearer
and admiration of other artisans. So let’s hope that an evolution in
the costume jewelry just might be a really good thing.


#3
some even consider silver to be a costume jewelry of sorts. 

Yes, back when I was doing more wholesaling, I heard the term
"bridge" used to refer to my category of silver jewelry, based mostly
on the lower price points, I think. It’s something that can be bought
on impulse by many shoppers, instead of really thinking about a major
purchase. At the time, early in the 1990’s, these prices were $20-$60
retail, for production castings.

I think that the biggest influence on costume jewelry now is the
popularity of beading as a hobby. Beads are everywhere, and I suspect
that in the future some of this beaded work will be regarded as our
great-aunts’ lace-making or embroidery is regarded today: quaint,
period work, sometimes cherished but often either thrown away or left
in drawers to languish in the dark. (That is, if it hasn’t been taken
apart for the beads. And just think of the boxes and boxes of
unstrung beads that will be found in closets and fancy plastic
storage shelves by the next generation, when they clear out the
estates of these now-eager bead buyers!) Disclaimer: I am not
knocking beading, or women’s handiwork in general. They are great
activities, and a good antidote to the digital age, IMHO. And
sometimes they produce real art.

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA
http://www.craftswomen.com/M’louBrubaker


#4
And just think of the boxes and boxes of unstrung beads that will
be found in closets and fancy plastic storage shelves by the next
generation, when they clear out the estates of these now-eager bead
buyers 

M’Lou you have hit a nail on the head! I am not waiting for my kids
to clean out things yet, but am looking at the gorgeous genuine stone
beads- Rhodonite, turquoise, Lepidolite, Lapis, Coral, etc that were
so “in” for me to wear while I worked (retired 11 years ago). I made
them all - no glass beads!

Right now I see more of the metal/loop, chain, etc being worn. I do
the Viking Weave for chains to use with my fabricated sterling silver
pendants and pins with gorgeous cabs. I also make beaded "chains"
made of the semiprecious stones to go with the pendants and pins.
These are basically for my own personal pleasure and use.

BUT - these will have a lasting life - oh yes, the kids will wonder
what to do with them…hopefully they will call them “antiques”.

I am sitting here, without my morning coffee, chuckling about your
post, M’lou, and my response!

Rose Marie Christison
In Denver where we would like the temp to rise


#5

HI all,

This is only tangentially related to the original post, but I’ve
been pondering costume jewelry lately, what with the price of gold…

Has anybody else ever noticed that while a lot of “costume” jewelry
was crap, there were a lot of very interesting ideas that got
expressed in that lower pricepoint first, before moving into the hi-
rent district? It seems like there’s a lot more freedom to play,
which led to some neat things being tried that wouldn’t have been,
if the piece had been platinum and diamonds.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be looking down our noses at costume jewelry
quite as much?

Regards,
Brian.


#6
Has anybody else ever noticed that while a lot of "costume"
jewelry was crap, there were a lot of very interesting ideas that
got expressed in that lower pricepoint first, before moving into
the hi- rent district? It seems like there's a lot more freedom to
play, which led to some neat things being tried that wouldn't have
been, if the piece had been platinum and diamonds. 

How True Brian,

One only has to look at the books written on the subject of some of
the great designers like Miriam Haskell, Trifari, Boucher, Chanel,
Schiaparelli, Dior, the list goes on and on. The Jewelry groups who
continue to drive this market are major players. Designs, patent
sites, pages and pages of on companies and their designs
is a pretty big business.

Some of these pieces not only beautifully made, using Sterling,
Fine, Vermeil, Rhodium, and some pretty neat alloys during the 1st
and 2nd War when base metals were needed for manufacturing. These
same pieces are still being used, worn, in collections, and when you
see some of these in person, can pick them up and see how well they
were made, how unusual.

Some of Trifari’s Invisibly Set stone pieces and Fruit Salad items
come to mind-and Miriam Haskell’s incredible bib necklaces which
sell in the four figure range. David Andersen, Marion Weeber, the
German Machine Age jewelry, Renoir and Matisse Copper/Enamel jewelry,
Nye and Danecraft, and Unger Bros. many starting as a small business
like many never expected to be so collected years and years later.

The history, the look, the cachet of costume jewelry is still alive
and well and pretty amazing.

Dinah


#7
Has anybody else ever noticed that while a lot of "costume"
jewelry was crap, there were a lot of very interesting ideas that
got expressed in that lower pricepoint first, before moving into the
hi- rent district? It seems like there's a lot more freedom to
play, which led to some neat things being tried that wouldn't have
been, if the piece had been platinum and diamonds. 

Yes, I was stunned to see fancy gold & expensive gem jewelry being
shown on the same rubber cord material that I had been using for
glass & silver beads! And yet I still cannot convince some of my
customers that the rubber cord is better than leather. Sigh.

M’lou


#8

What is costume jewelry? Is it defined by price? Or maybe materials
used? I thrive on the idea of using high end meterials with
"costume" type meterials. However, I wouldn’t consider a piece that
uses mixed materials such as, platinum, emeralds, wood and Lucite
(before that jewelers used Bakelite invented in 1907) a costume
piece. I don’t like the term costume to begin with. In some manner
or another, jewelry is constantly being reinvented. Jewelry to me is
a “combination of ingenuity and elegance”.

Given the economicsituation as it is it just may put artisans to
the test of bringing a good product to the forefront, one that
pleases the wearer and admiration of other artisans. So let's hope
that an evolution in the costume jewelry just might be a really
good thing. 

I hope this is true Peggy, in fact I think it is true. Jewelry is
fashion. Below is a paragraph from the book, American Fashion
Accessories, by Council of Fashion Designers of America. Although
they use America as their model, the underlying facts go for any
country.

  The only right way to design the American accessory is to
  answer one simple question. What works? Of course, this
  approach is a natural consequence of designing for Americans-a
  people with a short history, in advanced technology, a media
  obsession, and a fighting spirit. The Amercian accessory need
  not be traditional or classic (though it can be). It is not wed
  to centuries of unchanging techniques. It is always new: a new
  design, a new medium, a new way of manufacturing, even a new
  way of wearing old. The history and the tradition of the
  American accessory is one of innovation. And stories of
  innovation are the foundation of the bags, the shoes, and the
  jewelry that are celebrated in his book.

  Better, faster, more: These are the demands of the American
  design ethic, and they drive achievement in the field of
  accessory design. The genuis of American accessory designers is
  that they constantly meet this demand with style that can be
  embraced by the entire world.

Awwww… that is like music to my ears.

Colleen Paul-Hus


#9
Disclaimer: I am not knocking beading, or women's handiwork in
general. They are great activities, and a good antidote to the
digital age, IMHO. And sometimes they produce real art. 

I don’t want to get this whole discussion started again, but what do
you mean that sometimes they produce “real” art? If someone’s
creative process involves stringing beads together in some fashion,
would it not be “art”? IMO many lower end costume pieces are much
MORE artistic than some precious metal and precious gem pieces that
look like everyone elses (same materials, just tweaked slightly in
design). Does it take less technical skill to string beads? Of
course. But that doesn’t define whether a piece is artistic or not.

I honestly find much of the fine jewelry in retail jewelry stores to
be aesthetically boring. Is it surprising that custom designed
jewelry is gaining strength?

Lynn (metalsmith and maker of jewelry art from strung beads to fine
jewelry)


#10

I have thought for many years about the intriguing possibilities of
costume. On the one hand, not constrained so much by material cost,
one could have a freer reign with your imagination(easier risk
taking!), I’m thinking big and/or funky here. BUT, because it needs
to actually sell, the item has to be mass producible to keep per unit
prices down, which negates the unique character of one off pieces. I
also imagine that a certain lack of respect/fear due to material
values (as in…'its a $3 stone, should I really put $50 labor into
just setting it?") might keep one from being meticulous. And frankly,
I get personal satisfaction from doing meticulous work, especially
since it has paid the bills so far. My product isn’t really a
finished piece of fine jewelry, its the individualized service that
goes into it. How can you mass market individualized anything? I’ve
been in my niche so long its hard to think about anything different.

I dunno… maybe in retirement.


#11

I agree Coleen with the terminology of ‘costume’ jewelry. In the
Vintage Groups that I belong to, it’s called ‘costume’, but also
’Bridge Jewelry’, Vintage Fashion Accessory Jewelry which 'explains’
it to others outside, but, to me, has a connotation of cheap
theater/ Five and Dime, Circus/Fair Stuff. That said, the prices
don’t support ‘cheap’ whatsoever.

I started dealing in Antiques in 1970 and soon became intrigued with
antique jewelry, the Georgian, Victorian, Art Deco/Nouveau. At that
time there wasn’t much of an interest in ‘Costume’, like there is
now. The techniques and materials used in some of the Georgian era
jewelry was my favorite, followed closely by the Arts & Crafts era.


#12

Hi all,

As to re-inventing costume jewelry go to Wal - mart, K - mart or any
of the other marts and you will see racks and racks of jewelry that I
would classify as costume type. I believe it has never left just took
a turn or two in our ever present mass production mindset. It may not
be a Sara Coventry product but it is there and as long as there is a
market it always will be. Not everyone can afford high end product.

Rick McC


#13
Perhaps we shouldn't be looking down our noses at costume jewelry
quite as much? 

Thank you Brian!

Though actually I don’t tend to think of Costume in the context of
jewelry much at all.

I link Costume to Vintage, such as my grandmother’s Miriam Haskells:
faux and still somewhat gaudy, but sufficiently aged to have acquired
their own special charm (plus grandma did nice faux ;-). If I were to
apply Costume to something new, I suppose it’s cheap, cheesy
mass-produced items, which for some odd reason my brain seems to
forget exist at all except perhaps at Halloween–and even then I’m
not sure I’d think of it as Jewelry really vs. something disposable.
Sorry if that definition causes pain to some readers, but please
consider the first part of what I said: I really don’t think of the
term at all today, so whatever you’re creating, I extremely doubt
I’d associate Costume with it even if you are.

And Lynn, thank you also for your comment, since I too am bored by
many pieces at the Fine Jewelry end of the spectrum. If a jeweler’s
display (including an “artist’s” at a juried fair) looks like it’s
filled with items that could have been stamped out by a
factory–nothing offered beyond how big the rocks are, high carat the
gold is, or mirror perfect the finish–I blink and walk past.

Furniture is made from a hunk of tree and varnish, but whether it’s
sold for $50 from IKEA or $5000 from
http://www.nwfinewoodworking.com

is partly a matter of the materials but largely a matter of the
artist’s design and execution. And a hand blown margarita glass from
Crate and Barrel is colored melted sand–fundamentally no different
from anything which comes out of http://www.pilchuck.com/ but I don’t
think we’d ever confuse the two.

So as much as I admire someone the work of like Janet Alix
http://www.alixandcompany.com/ and could only dream of being in her
league whenever I wear my ring, I don’t get why our industry seems to
have such materials bigotry simply because some raw ingredients are
radically more expensive than others?

I’ve seen far too many wrapped silver + semi-precious pieces, enamel
items, chainmail, forged sterling, or completely unique creations
which completely blow away a classic Fine hunk of yellow gold with
some big rocks. And the former, when well executed with quality
materials, can often carry off a higher price tag than an
unimaginative Fine, despite their “lesser” materials. As any
marketer will tell you, differentiation has value–whether it’s
purely on the piece at a juried fair or style + image for Tiffany
Silver ;-). When I work in copper on a production piece, it’s a style
choice because the pricing is frequently a wash with silver by the
time I include extra labor for patina and sealant. And while I
wouldn’t call the silicone European 4 in 1 pieces I’ve woven art,
they are as high quality as anything else I create and it’d be
irksome if someone dismissed them as cheap plastic without even a
glance. Yet many talented artists don’t understand the value of their
skills vs. materials, and it pains me every time I see one of them
grossly under-price a beautifully made piece at a fair or on Etsy–it
not only hurts themselves, but also downgrades our industry as a
whole.

Maybe it’s just that since High School I’ve purchased and thought of
jewelry as wearable art, not a mass market commodity, so in my mind
every piece needs to be taken on its individual merits. No different
from assessing two paintings–have to actually look at them rather
than just compare specs for height/ width/ age/ brush detail/ medium/
frame type, or you may miss that one’s a gallery portrait and the
other an Elvis velvet :wink:

Cheers,
Ann Ray


#14
I don't get why our industry seems to have such materials bigotry
simply 

Where’s that mirror…

I believe it was Goo who stirred this pot - I’ve been reading it a
bit, seems like another Angels on the head of a pin topic, largely.
Not that it matters, much, but my understanding of "costume jewelry"
is that it is (or began as) exactly that: overblown, highly visible,
very sparkly and shiny jewelry to be worn on stage, where regular
scale jewelry can’t be seen.

It has become a whole genre over the years, of course. What I
disagree with is that Goo used that term to describe “the things in
Metalsmith shows and that sort of work”. Personally, I’d call that
Folk Jewelry

  • I doubt most people would like that, though. Calling it the
    detestable term “Art Jewelry” (which is to suggest that "their"
    jewelry is not art) is far worse, though…

#15

Though I have no profound insight into the design or intrinsic value
of costume jewelry, I just had a wonderful experience:

My mom came in the shop with some jewelry she’s going to wear to a
Christmas party tonight; she wanted the jewelry cleaned. The
necklace and earrings are made from big cut lead-glass "faceted"
beads with aurora boriealis finish to give color & sparkle. They were
my great-aunt’s; I restrung the necklace for my mom several years
ago.

I remember my great-aunt wearing the jewelry, and at least once a
year my mom wears it. I’ll wear it sometime in the future. The
feeling of connectedness to family members gave me more pleasure than
the gold-and-diamond ring that was to be cleaned as well (even though
I know that will be mine in the future, too).

May your labors be as rewarding as mine today,
Kelley Dragon


#16
I believe it was Goo who stirred this pot - What I disagree with is
that Goo used that term to describe "the things in Metalsmith shows
and that sort of work". Personally, I'd call that Folk Jewelry. 

John - since you mentioned me i must respond . my intentions are to
solicit input from the group so that i can come to my own opinion on
the type or classification of jewelry being featured in metalsmith
magazine.

best regards Goo