A Brief History of Costume Jewelry And A Gallery of My Collection
I started collecting costume jewelry in the early 80s. My mother would drag me on her yard sale and auction excursions every Saturday morning. I usually looked for books, comics, or cassette tapes, but when I saw that first sparkly brooch, I was hooked. After that initial taste, I looked forward to visiting other people's homes and pawing through their castoffs.
It became a hunt for me, and in the early days, I pretty much got what I wanted for pennies on the dollar. That changed when some picked up the cheap jewelry scent and soon I had to fight for what I desired. I would scour the yard sale and action listings. Those that mentioned any kind of jewelry were definitely first stops on my list.
Unlike a lot of collectors, I only bought what I liked. I did not worry with names, which is good because most of mine are complete mysteries. When I look at them now, only a handful have designer or manufacturer names, but that doesn't make me love the no-names any less. No sir, I treasure each and every piece of my collection because they remind me of those special days I spent with my mother.
I haven't been to a yard sale since she died almost 11 years ago, but I'll always have memories of griping about having to get up early on a Saturday morning and about how we had to go to McDonald's because I was starving, and also about the hole I almost fell in or how wet the grass was in the early morning hours...I think you get the idea. I complained, but I had fun. We made memories that I have today to get me through the tough times.
So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite costume jewelry pieces. I have a few Coro, CoroCraft, Sarah Coventry, Garne, Roget, Judy-Lee, and Weiss. Some are even marked "Made in Austria" and "Japan". Also, a brief history of costume jewelry follows the photos. Enjoy the view!
Costume Jewelry: A Brief History
The term "costume jewelry" was coined some time during the early 20th century and was used to describe cheap jewelry made specifically to adorn a costume or outfit. These colorful pieces were not meant to last for generations, and most were made of glass, plastic, and cheap metals.
There are three different periods of time that influenced the designs of costume jewelry.
❈The Art Deco period (1920-1930s) ushered in the geometric shapes used in cigarette cases, pendants, bracelets, and cocktail rings. This era ended with the dawning of the Great Depression and World War II.
❈The Retro period (1935-1950) brought on a dilemma for some designers. How to remain unique and true to design, while being able to mass produce. Items during this period were often plastic and featured sunbursts, ballerinas, and flowers.
❈The Art Modern period (1945-1960) began the era of more bold and fun pieces of jewelry. Chunky bracelets and animal pins were popular, as were Christmas pins and rhinestones.
Most costume jewelry you find today, can be traced back to one of these three periods. Unfortunately, some designers did not mark their pieces, so many are hard to identify. Some popular designers of costume jewelry were and still are: Avon (1886-present), Coco Chanel (1912-present), Coro/CoroCraft (1901-present), Sarah Coventry (1949-1981), Speidel (1913-present), Trifari (1918-present), and Weiss (1942-1971). Jewelry from these manufacturers stamped their products with identifying marks or names and collectors will often pay top-dollar for such items.