Costume jewelry originated during one of my favorite periods, the Art Deco movement of the 1920s. Flappers, prohibition, and jazz, oh my. Fake jewelry was produced to complete a specific outfit, or “costume.” Its sole purpose was to be fashionable and disposable, and was thus mass-produced.
The first couture designer to embrace costume jewelry was the great Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel who paired long strands of rhinestones and pearls with her little black dresses – a look still very much relevant today.
The Great Depression only furthered the popularity of imitation jewelry, which gave off an air of wealth and prosperity. In the years surrounding the World Wars, jewelry was produced with domestic supplies. Glass, plastic, and Lucite were common, and stones previously imported from Europe were no longer used.
The rise of the Hollywood screen siren in the '40s and '50s also created a demand for costume jewelry. Everything was colorful and exaggerated. The allure of glamour was irresistible.
So what is the takeaway lesson in this? Fashion and costume jewelry reflect the times. And if the current economic situation can be any indication, then costume jewelry is back in a big way.