Discontinued Collectibles Guide

Collecting Costume Jewellery & Fashion Jewellery

Often referred to as "fashion jewellery", either term is equally appropriate. "Costume" in this sense is an old fashioned term for what would now more likely be called an "outfit". It has nothing to do with theatrical costume or fancy dress although that is not to say that costume jewellery would not be used on stage or film sets in place of valuable gold or precious stones. Of course it would and many such items are now sought after as collectables.

Costume jewellery is also sometimes called "Fake jewellery" or even "junk jewellery". Such scatological terms are actually quite unfair since costume jewellery does not usually masquerade as "the real thing" in order to deceive anyone as the term "fake" implies. Neither is most of it junk in terms of quality.

Costume jewellery collectibles are frequently the products of well respected designers and lucky is the collector who can get hold of costume jewellery once worn by well known individuals which is not as unusual as one might think. Even celebrities wear costume jewellery to enhance their outfits.

Wearing decorative items made from what are now fairly ordinary materials is not a new practice by any means. In ancient times people were adorning themselves with bronze artefacts, probably before they even knew about gold. Even when gold, silver and precious stones were being used to create beautiful jewellery such items were the preserve of the rich and powerful. If ordinary people wanted to decorate themselves or their clothes they would have to be content with much more mundane materials. Even glass would have been beyond their reach.

It was not until the 18th Century that costume jewellery as we know it really began to take its place in our culture. It was about that time that glass became less expensive and jewellers, "real" jewellers that is, began to create jewellery using "stones" fashioned from it. No doubt they would have used scrap glass off-cuts as a cheap source of material.

The 19th Century saw further developments with the introduction of semi-precious materials to the manufacture of costume jewellery. Now the common people had a chance of owning jewellery that at least looked the part.

In the 20th Century demand for costume jewellery grew ever faster. Now there were no longer just the aristocracy and rich merchants and industrialists on the one hand and the oppressed toiling masses living in abject poverty on the other. A new section of society had appeared in between, the middle classes. These people were not fabulously rich, neither were they poor. They had incomes which, with care, could provide a comfortable life-style.

The middle classes had grown partly out of the industrial revolution. That had also created the means whereby all sorts of items previously regarded as luxuries, beyond the reach of ordinary folk, could be mass produced and sold at affordable prices. Costume jewellery was no exception and the better dressed middle classes were quick to take advantage.

Competition, plus customers’ desire for ever more attractive pieces soon drove up the quality of costume jewellery. By the middle of the century some of the best known designers were producing high quality costume jewellery at affordable prices. Names like Dior, Chanel, Miriam Haskell and Monet gave the products a high fashion cachet of respectability. In fact Coco Chanel did much to make the wearing of costume jewellery popular with her use of gold and faux pearls.

People who could well afford to wear the finest of "real" jewellery frequently chose to wear costume jewellery from the top designers instead. Jackie Onassis for example, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor all wore costume jewellery created by Kenneth Jay Lane. The same designer’s work was given the ultimate seal of approval by President George Bush’s wife Barbara, when she wore a three-strand faux pearl necklace created by him to the President’s Inaugural Ball.

The upshot of all this is that today, pieces of costume jewellery have become of great interest to collectors. In fact the higher end pieces, particularly those bearing the maker’s stamp on the reverse, known as "signed pieces", are the most collectable. These items are being seen to appreciate in value as time passes. The most sought after costume or fashion jewellery collectibles of all are signed pieces by Butler and Wilson, Crown Trifari, Coro, Miriam Haskell and Sphinx.

Such is the world of collectables that there is also growing demand among collectors for really good unsigned pieces by lesser known or even unknown designers. You don’t have to be rich to collect jewellery.

The following is a list of live auctions for "Jewellery Costume Jewellery" currently listed on eBay. Hover the mouse cursor over the current price for details of postage and packaging. If you would like to see more information on a particular piece and maybe even bid on it, simply click on the item description to be magically whisked away to the wonderful world that is eBay. Alternatively you may use the search box to look for a specific piece for your collection.

Please also check out the Jewellery Costume Jewellery Books, Related Dealers and Useful Resources listed at the end of this page.

Useful Resources

No resources are currently listed for Jewellery Costume Jewellery. If you know of a useful website that other Costume Jewellery collectors would like to know about please email us at

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