It was during the eighteenth century that manufacturers began producing costume jewellery using rhinestones, coloured glass, crystals or cubic zirconia in place of gemstones. Until then jewellery had been the prerogative of the wealthy. But it was much later, during the 1920s, that costume jewellery really came into its own gaining credibility as the big fashion houses – Chanel and Schiaparelli – began to produce their own pieces. Using relatively inexpensive gemstones, glass or plastic ‘gems’, costume jewellery is still hugely popular. Whilst the higher end products plate base metals in silver or gold to give the effect of being genuine precious metal, cheaper versions usually use nickel. In 2013 the costume jewellery market in the UK was £500 million whilst the market for the ‘real stuff’ reached over £3 billion!
I have always loved costume jewellery. That’s not to say that I don’t like the real thing (really, I do) but I like quite chunky pieces and to buy items in the size I like would cost serious money. My mother had very few gold pieces and she left those to my daughter; only her silver brooches and pearls were passed on to me. I too have only a few real pieces of jewellery but I do however love my collection of fake adornments, especially earrings. Unfortunately none came from the aforementioned, iconic houses!
To think that in 1901 Vogue reported the wearing of earrings as ‘semi -barbaric’! The early 1920s marked a change in fashion (especially in hemlines and shoes) and adornments became much more acceptable, and as hair became shorter, the exposed ears were calling out for some sort of decoration. I always wear earrings but have no time for dainty little versions – they are just not me. I like something more substantial. Since my ears are not pierced (they once were but the kind of earrings I like are too heavy), it’s always a challenge to find nice clip-ons. Gradually, however, I have managed to build up a decent sized collection, some modern and some from antique/junk shops (cotton wool buds soaked in surgical spirit followed by warm soapy water and a tiny jewellery brush, in case you thinking yuk)!
One of my favourite pairs is the amber glass one in the first picture above. Just above them are some with green and amber stones. To the left of those are crystal stones which change colour depending on the light, and they grey paste ones are my newest, a Christmas present. The collection of well-travelled diamante ones are taken on cruises – the perfect occasion to wear them.
Pearl-style earrings are a staple – I wear them a lot, just as I do the plain, gold coloured ones. And yes, my earrings are kept in the inner from a box of biscuits – it fits the drawer perfectly!