Costume Jewelry

What is “Costume Jewelry”?

-Back in the 1930s when many of the most collectible pieces by Trifari, Marcel Boucher, Eisenberg and others were made, it was common to call these sparkling treasures junk jewelry.

-Costume Jewelry was made to be worn for a season or two while it was in style and then replaced with pieces to compliment more current fashions as they progressed.

-While there are some exceptions, in general, costume jewelry is made with artificial stones and base metals, known as “pot metal”.

-Occasionally, you may find pieces made with semi-precious stones or have gold or silver plating.

-Majority of pieces are made using decorative components such as rhinestones, hard plastics or art glass.

-Sterling Silver was used in the making of costume jewelry ranging from high-end pieces in the 1940’s when other metals were scarce to novelty pins made in the 1950’s & 60’s.

-You can find costume jewelry made of various materials ranging from plastics to wood and even ceramics.


Most Collectible & Valuable Costume Jewelry 

-Some of the most collectible costume jewelry takes the form of finely crafted pieces made during the 1930’s & 40’s.

-Some of these examples mimic fine jewelry styles introduced by jewelers like Cartier’s famed “Tutti Frutti” Jewelry.

-Rather than using rubies, sapphires and emeralds carved to look like miniature fruits, Trifari produced pieces with brightly colored molded glass stones collectors refer to as “Fruit Salad”.


Other Collectible Materials for Costume

-Outside of pieces made to mimic high-end jewelry makers, some collectors look in a different direction – towards materials like Bakelite.

-The colorful, chunky bangle bracelets and whimsically carved brooches made of this type of plastic were originally sold in dime stores.

-Today, however, these pieces can bring hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

-The history of costume jewelry lends itself to a variation of styles, each style and period holding its own collectible value.

-Ex: Sweetheart Jewelry of the World Wars and Pop Cultural Influences such as Queen Victoria & Elizabeth II.

Sweetheart Jewelry of the World Wars

-Sweetheart jewelry first became popular during World War I, as a means of connection between wives, mothers and sweethearts back home and the men fighting overseas.

-It was one of many things that soldiers either made or purchased, along with pillowcase covers, handkerchiefs, compacts, and the like.

-The concept really took off during the Second World War – Sweetheart jewelry of World War II vintage was made of a variety of materials.

-Due to the rationing placed on metals during the war, many of the items were made from alternate materials such as wood and plastic.

-As mentioned earlier, sterling silver was not rationed, so it was used to produce better quality jewelry.


Costume Jewelry Influenced by Queen Vicky 

-In the late 1800’s Queen Victoria adopted a new jewelry style and with mass production, this style made its way to the middle classes in England and America where ladies mimicked the queen’s jewelry with costume examples.


   Queen Elizabeth II’s influence

-After Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the popularity of Crown & regalia brooches hit a new high.

Popular & Common Costume Jewelry Designers




-DeLizza & Elster


-Miriam Haskell



-Coco Chanel

-Louis Vuitton

-Christian Dior


List of Costume Jewelry Makers: 1700’s – Present – https://www.retrowaste.com/list-of-vintage-jewelry-designers/