Learning About Vintage Costume Jewelry( The Ultimate Guide)

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Have you come across vintage costume jewelry? Do you know that means or what makes the vintage costume jewelry unique or different from other kinds of jewelry?

The search for the perfect jewelry can get quite confusing, especially because there are countless options for you to choose from, and even after you narrow down your list of options, finding out that some of your options fall in the vintage costume jewelry can be frustrating.

The good news, however, is that you can easily make the best decision regarding your choice for costume jewelry by learning all there is to know about the vintage costume jewelry and what it means.

This article looks at everything you need to know about costume jewelry. We are going to talk about the definition of vintage costume jewelry, the brief history of costume jewelry and the pros and cons of vintage costume jewelry!

Vintage Costume Jewelry

What is considered vintage costume jewelry?


Before we go deeper into what the vintage costume jewelry means, let’s start with the basics – what does vintage mean? Vintage is a term that is typically used to refer to items/ jewelry that is more than 20 years old; on the other hand, you have antique jewelry, which refers to the jewelry that’s more than a few hundred years’ old.

The jewelry often features recurrent themes, most of which originate from the older antique jewelry designs, and you will find that most of the vintage costume jewelry feature elements like enamel, plants, animals, kitschy motifs, rhinestones, and figurals.

The vintage costume jewelry is mostly collectible jewelry that holds some novelty and/or sentimental value for most people.

It is, however, recognized as a separate kind of jewelry that is different from fine jewelry primarily because the vintage costume jewelry weighs heavy on the costume jewelry side as it is made of imitation gems and some of the most inexpensive materials.

This kind of jewelry is often sold off at more accessible price points, and you will also come across rare, high-quality jewelry pieces that will, for a lot of money, often thousands of dollars.

The vintage costume jewelry comes about from the fact that the costume jewelry has been around for about 300 years, and they first came into the market at a time when the jewelers started experimenting with the more inexpensive glass types – this was as early as the 19th century.

Throughout the decade, the styles of costume jewelry have evolved thanks to the changing social and political trends significantly, and costume jewelry more or less mirrors larger trends of the fine jewelry world.

The designers of the vintage costume jewelry have had a keen understanding of different works by designers, pieces, and styles that have been on the market for a bit of time now, and their decades’ worth of work has led to the development of the best vintage pieces of jewelry.

Based on the features of the jewelry, it is possible to assess the historical significance and the value of the costume jewelry.


The brief story of vintage costume jewelry

To learn more about the vintage costume jewelry, we need to take a look back into the history of costume jewelry, and we start from the 1920s.

The 1920s, better known as the Roaring Twenties, was a dramatic era politically and socially, and it saw a deep fascination for the costume jewelry designs. During this time, the national wealth more than doubled as a result of consumerism, and it is also during this era that women started to wear bobbed hair, a style that gave them the opportunity to show off their bold statement earrings, as well as the long, dangling necklaces that enhanced the wearer’s neckline. The pearls also debuted into the fashion scene during this time.

Costume jewelry from the 1920s features typical pieces like long earrings, short/ long necklaces, brooches, and narrow bracelets. The jewelry was mostly made of white metals, colored and clear glass, faux pearls, beads, and also marcasites. Some of the popular designers of the period are Elsa Schiaparelli and Chanel. The Art Deco movement had a huge influence on the jewelry worn in the 1920s.

Then in the 1930s, the vintage costume jewelry that was common at the time include double clips, pendant earrings, bracelets, pendant necklaces, pendant brooches, and the double-clip brooches. The materials used include inexpensive plastics, Bakelite, and molded glass. The designers that stand out from this time include Boucher, Coro, Eisenberg, Trifari, and Ciner. As you can tell, this period had an increased focus on accessorizing.

In the 1940s, the costume jewelry of the time had pretty much everything from the previous periods, but there was the entry of Hobe and Weiss into the fashion/ jewelry designer scene, as well as the use of new materials, including sterling silver, leather, wood, lucite, natural shells, and ceramic. It is obvious that WWII had a great impact on the style and the fashion designs of the time. Notably, jewelry was a lot subtle at this time, although there was also the introduction of the wide, 3-dimensional bracelets along with large brooches.

The 50s had more of the brooches, jewelry sets, pendant earrings, cluster earrings, bib earrings, etc. The materials used also featured textured metals, art glass, and decorative beads, and it is during this period that Juliana and Christian Dior made their place the scene, joining names like Hobes, Weiss, Ciner, Channel, and Elsa Schiaparelli.

In the 60s, the most popular designer was Kenneth Jay Lane, and there was the introduction of new materials like Perspex and vinyl, on top of what was used in the 60s. The large pendants, hoop earrings, multi-strand necklaces, and ball-drop earrings were popular in the 1960s.

The 70s saw the rise of Haskell and Coro, more bangles, pendants, dangly earrings, and chains, as well as the use of bones, shells, stone, and wood. There was a rise in geometric designs, even as the birth of Disco influenced the costume jewelry world, bringing forth bling and a lot more sparkle.

The 80s saw the rise of Vivienne Westwood, imitation pearls, gold-plated pieces, and faux gemstones. The typical pieces of this time included jelly bracelets, beaded necklaces, large hoop earrings, big, bold brooches, and cocktail rings.

Over the years, vintage costume jewelry styles have shifted a lot as designs are more influenced by culture, art, and history. Thanks to the impact of the society and politics, costume jewelry regarded as vintage is making up super-fun collectibles with a high novelty value and the highest possible quality in craftsmanship.


The pros and cons of vintage costume jewelry


  • Vintage costume jewelry boasts superiority in quality and the craftsmanship of the jewelry. The vintage costume jewelry pieces were made with a mix base metal that was triple-plated in either silver or gold. The result of this production process is one of the reasons why most of the decades’ old jewelry remains tarnish-free.
  • Safe on the skin. With the base metal so far away from the skin, this jewelry is often safe on the skin and safe even for people with severe skin sensitivities. The other materials used, such as the imitation pearls, enamel, celluloid, stones, wood, shell, Lucite, glass, etc.,  are all safe on the skin.
  • Long-lasting sparkle
  • Unique jewelry designs
  • Easy to care for
  • The jewelry is quite valuable  
  • There is rich history around the vintage costume jewelry


  • You cannot fix it once it breaks, especially if it is made of materials like wood, plastic, shell, stone, etc.


How do I know if my vintage jewelry is valuable?

There are different ways of determining the value of vintage jewelry, and the tips below will help you find the information you are looking for with ease.

1.Learn how to identify the vintage jewelry

First, you need to keep in mind that not all jewelry that is regarded as vintage jewelry is actually vintage.

Knowing the characteristic features of different kinds of jewelry will go a long way in making sure that you are buying an actual vintage.

Essentially vintage jewelry is not as old as the antique jewelry, but if you are shopping at a flea market/ shop, most of the jewelry you come across is vintage.

The main vintage costume jewelry designs include different styles such as art deco, retro, the 70s, and 80s, as well as the mid-20th century jewelry.


2.Examine the features of the jewelry

Here, you need to know that jewelry from different times had different features.

So, take note of the level of craftsmanship, the materials used, the design of the clasp, cut for gems, evidence of the designer creating at the time, the jewelry types, and you could also track down the paperwork from the store/ seller.

For example, signs of machine crafting will place the jewelry in the 1940s or 1950s.

Keep in mind that the best quality jewelry will feature fine polishing from top to bottom – so check the underside. Consider the materials too.


You cannot feign ignorance when you find out that the jewelry you purchased isn’t vintage.

Make use of Google to identify the features that you need to look out for, such as the markings or stamps, photos of the clasps, latches, or markings similar to what’s on the jewelry.

Also, take note of the time periods that are associated with the materials used for costume jewelry then, and also consider the online selling price for pieces from that era.

Finally, find a buyer. You could work with a professional jeweler and have them find a buyer; then, you will pay them their fee after appraisal and sale.



Costume jewelry on the market today might be very cheap, but they are not durable, and they have no resale value.

But if you are a collector or if you’ve come across a vintage piece of jewelry, you will be happy to note that the jewelry is quite valuable, and it will be a good investment should you wish to sell it off later.

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