Recent Articles
Explore All In Gemstones
Recent Articles

Vintage Costume Jewelry - Discovering Its Magic

Vintage costume jewelry refers to jewelry pieces that are made from non-precious materials and were created in the past, typically from the 1920s to the 1970s. These jewelry pieces were designed to imitate the look of fine jewelry but were made with less expensive materials such as glass, plastic, base metals, and rhinestones.

Apr 29, 202341 Shares1.3K ViewsWritten By: Johnny K.Reviewed By: Luke Williams
Jump to
  1. History Of Vintage Costume Jewelry
  2. Popular Styles Of Vintage Costume Jewelry
  3. Collecting Vintage Costume Jewelry
  4. How To Wear Vintage Costume Jewelry?
  5. Where To Find Vintage Costume Jewelry?
  6. People Also Ask
  7. Conclusion

Vintage costume jewelryrefers to jewelrypieces that are made from non-precious materials and were created in the past, typically from the 1920s to the 1970s.

These jewelry pieces were designed to imitate the look of fine jewelry but were made with less expensive materials such as glass, plastic, base metals, and rhinestones.

Vintagecostume jewelry gained popularity in the early 20th century as a more affordable and accessible option for fashion-conscious individuals who wanted to accessorize with stylish and trendy pieces without the high price tag of fine jewelry.

History Of Vintage Costume Jewelry

The history of vintage costume jewelry can be traced back to the early 20th century when fashion trends were changing rapidly, and people were looking for more affordable options to accessorize their outfits.

During the Art Deco era of the 1920s and 1930s, costume jewelry became popular as it offered bold and geometric designs that were reflective of the modernist movement of the time.

These jewelry pieces were made with materials such as Bakelite, celluloid, and glass, and were often embellished with colorful stones and intricate enamel work.

In the 1940s and 1950s, vintage costume jewelry continued to evolve with the changing fashion trends. During World War II, there was a shortage of precious metals and gemstones, which led to an increased demand for costume jewelry made from more affordable materials.

As a result, base metals such as brass and copper were widely used to create patriotic jewelry pieces, featuring motifs such as American flags and military insignia.

After the war, the popularity of costume jewelry grew as women sought to adorn themselves with glamorous and feminine pieces to celebrate the end of the war and the return of peace.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the counterculture and bohemian movements influenced fashion trends, and vintage costume jewelry reflected this shift with the use of natural materials such as wood, leather, and shells.

The hippie culture embraced unique and unconventional jewelry pieces that were handmade and had a rustic and earthy feel.

Vintage costume jewelry from this era often featured bold and chunky designs with vibrant colors, beading, and macramé techniques.

Vintage costume jewelry comes in a wide variety of styles, each with its unique characteristics.

  • Art Deco- Art Deco vintage costume jewelry is known for its geometric shapes, bold designs, and use of vibrant colors. During the 1920s and 1930s, Art Deco jewelry pieces often featured streamlined and angular designs with intricate metalwork and gemstone embellishments. These pieces were made with materials such as Bakelite, celluloid, and glass, and were often influenced by the modernist movement and the machine age aesthetic.
  • Mid-Century Modern- Mid-century modern vintage costume jewelry emerged in the 1940s and 1950s and was characterized by clean lines, simple forms, and minimalist designs. These pieces were often made with base metals such as brass and copper and featured abstract and futuristic motifs. Mid-century modern jewelry was popularized by designers such as Trifari, Coro, and Monet, who created affordable yet stylish pieces that were inspired by the modernist art movements of the time.
  • Retro- Retro vintage costume jewelry refers to pieces that were made during the 1940s and 1950s and were influenced by the glamour of Hollywood and post-war optimism. These jewelry pieces were often large and bold, featuring oversized stones, colorful enamel, and intricate metalwork. Retro jewelry was known for its playful and whimsical designs, including floral motifs, animal shapes, and bow designs. This style of vintage costume jewelry was often made with gold-tone or silver-tone metals and featured rhinestones, glass beads, and faux pearls.
  • Hippie/Bohemian- The hippie and bohemian movements of the 1960s and 1970s had a significant influence on fashion, including vintage costume jewelry. During this era, jewelry pieces were often handmade and featured natural materials such as wood, leather, shells, and beads. The designs were eclectic, with a mix of colors, textures, and cultural influences. Bohemian vintage costume jewelry was known for its free-spirited and non-conformist aesthetic, often featuring long beaded necklaces, chunky bracelets, and oversized earrings.
  • Mod - Mod vintage costume jewelry emerged in the 1960s and was characterized by its bold and graphic designs. This style of jewelry often featured bright and vibrant colors, geometric shapes, and pop art-inspired motifs. Mod jewelry was popularized by designers such as Kenneth Jay Lane and was often made with plastic, enamel, and metal. The mod style of vintage costume jewelry was associated with the youth culture of the time and was a reflection of the changing social and cultural landscape.
Crystal Beads In A String
Crystal Beads In A String

Collecting Vintage Costume Jewelry

Collecting vintage costume jewelry has become a popular hobby for many fashion enthusiasts and collectors alike. These unique and nostalgic pieces offer a glimpse into the history of fashion and design and can be a statement accessory to complement modern outfits.

  • Educate Yourself - Before starting a vintage costume jewelry collection, it's essential to educate yourself about the different styles, materials, and designers. Research books, and online resources, and attend antique fairs or vintage jewelry shows to learn more about the history and characteristics of vintage costume jewelry. Familiarize yourself with popular designers, marks, and signatures to help identify authentic pieces.
  • Examine the Quality- When collecting vintage costume jewelry, it's important to pay attention to the quality of the materials and craftsmanship. Look for pieces with well-made clasps, secure stones, and minimal signs of wear or damage. Avoid jewelry pieces with missing stones, chipped enamel, or rusted metals, as they may be difficult or costly to restore.
  • Consider the Condition- Vintage costume jewelry can come in various conditions, ranging from mint condition to pieces that may require some restoration. Consider the condition of the jewelry when collecting, as pieces in excellent condition may be more valuable and desirable. However, if you come across a piece that needs some repair, consider the cost and effort required for restoration before adding it to your collection.
  • Look for Designer Pieces- Vintage costume jewelry from well-known designers or brands can be highly sought after and valuable. Look for jewelry pieces from renowned designers such as Trifari, Weiss, Coro, Monet, and Napier, among others. These designers were known for their innovative designs, high-quality materials, and attention to detail, making their vintage costume jewelry highly collectible.
  • Consider the Rarity- Vintage costume jewelry can also be collectible based on its rarity. periods or collections. Pieces that are hard to find or have a unique story behind them can be highly desirable for collectors. For example, vintage costume jewelry from a particular era, such as the Art Deco period, or jewelry pieces that were made for a specific event or occasion, such as a commemorative piece for a world fair, can be valuable additions to a collection.
  • Mix and Match- One of the joys of collecting vintage costume jewelry is the ability to mix and match different styles, materials, and eras to create your unique look. Don't be afraid to experiment and have fun with your collection. Try layering necklaces of different lengths and styles, stacking bracelets and rings, and combining pieces from different designers or periods to create a one-of-a-kind statement look.
  • Care and Storage - Proper care and storage are crucial for preserving the condition of vintage costume jewelry. Avoid exposing the jewelry to harsh chemicals, moisture, or direct sunlight, as it can cause damage to the metals, stones, and enamel. Clean the jewelry gently with a soft cloth and store it in a cool, dry place, preferably in individual compartments or in a jewelry boxwith cushioned lining to prevent scratching or tangling.
  • Authenticity- Authenticity is an important factor to consider when collecting vintage costume jewelry. With the popularity of vintage jewelry, there are also many replicas and fake pieces in the market. It's essential to be vigilant and learn how to identify authentic vintage costume jewelry from reproductions or fakes. Look for hallmarks, maker's marks, and signatures on the jewelry, and familiarize yourself with the characteristics and materials used during different periods.

How To Wear Vintage Costume Jewelry?

Vintage costume jewelry can be a versatile and stylish accessory to complement your modern wardrobe. Here are some tips on how to wear vintage costume jewelry.

  • Make a Statement- Vintage costume jewelry is often bold and unique in its design, so let it be the star of your outfit. Choose a statement piece, such as a chunky necklace, a cocktail ring, or a pair of oversized earrings, and let it take center stage. Pair it with a simple outfit in neutral colors to allow the jewelry to stand out and make a statement.
  • Mix with Modern- Vintage costume jewelry can also be paired with modern clothing to create a unique and eclectic look. Mix and match different styles, materials, and eras to create a personalized and fashion-forward ensemble. For example, pair a vintage brooch with a denim jacket, or layer a vintage pearl necklace with a little black dress for a touch of elegance.
  • Dress Up or Down- Vintage costume jewelry can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Pair it with a vintage-inspired cocktail dress or a formal gown for a special event, or wear it with jeans and a blouse for a casual daytime look. Vintage costume jewelry can add a touch of glamour and sophistication to any outfit, regardless of the dress code.
  • Accessorize with Confidence- Vintage costume jewelry is all about self-expression and creativity, so don't be afraid to experiment and accessorize with confidence. Mix and match different colors, textures, and styles to create your unique look. Layer necklaces of different lengths, stack bracelets, and rings, and experiment with different earrings and brooches to create a cohesive and eye-catching ensemble.

How To Examine & Inspect Costume Jewelry To Determine Value.

Where To Find Vintage Costume Jewelry?

If you're interested in starting a collection of vintage costume jewelry, there are various places where you can find unique and authentic pieces.

  • Antique Shops and Vintage Stores- Antique shops and vintage stores are often treasure troves for vintage costume jewelry. You can find a wide range of pieces from different eras, styles, and materials. It's important to do your research and have a good eye for authenticity when shopping at these places, as not all pieces may be genuine vintage costume jewelry.
  • Estate Sales and Garage Sales- Estate sales and garage sales can be a great opportunity to find vintage costume jewelry at affordable prices. Many people inherit or accumulate jewelry over the years and may sell them at estate sales or garage sales. Keep an eye out for advertisements or signs for upcoming sales in your local area and be prepared to dig through boxes or trays to find hidden gems.
  • Online Marketplaces - There are numerous online marketplaces where you can find vintage costume jewelry, such as Etsy, eBay, and Ruby Lane. These platforms offer a wide range of vintage costume jewelry from sellers all around the world. However, it's important to be cautious and verify the authenticity of the jewelry before making a purchase, as there may be replicas or fake pieces for sale.
  • Thrift Stores and Consignment Shops- Thrift stores and consignment shops can also be great places to find vintage costume jewelry at affordable prices. These stores often have a rotating inventory of second-hand items, including jewelry, and you may come across unique and authentic pieces. Be prepared to spend some time searching through the racks to find hidden treasures.
  • Family Heirlooms and Inherited Jewelry- Many vintage costume jewelry pieces are passed down through generations as family heirlooms. Ask your family members if they have any vintage jewelry that they would be willing to pass on to you. Inherited jewelry often comes with sentimental value and can be a cherished addition to your vintage costume jewelry collection.

People Also Ask

What Are Some Common Materials Used In Vintage Costume Jewelry?

Vintage costume jewelry can be made from a variety of materials such as glass beads, enamel, rhinestones, faux pearls, and metals like brass or copper.

What Eras Are Known For Their Distinctive Vintage Costume Jewelry Designs?

Vintage costume jewelry designs vary by era, with notable examples from the Art Deco, Retro, Mod, Victorian, and Mid-Century periods.

Vintage costume jewelry can be mixed and matched with contemporary pieces, used to dress up or dress down an outfit, and can be used to make a statement or add a pop of color or texture to a look.

Why Is Vintage Costume Jewelry Considered Sustainable Fashion?

Vintage costume jewelry is considered sustainable fashion as it promotes reuse and reduces the demand for newly manufactured jewelry, which can hurt the environment.

What Makes Vintage Costume Jewelry Unique Compared To Modern Jewelry?

Vintage costume jewelry often features unique designs, craftsmanship, and a sense of history and nostalgia that sets it apart from modern jewelry.


Vintage costume jewelry holds a special place in the world of fashion and jewelry enthusiasts alike. With its unique designs, history, and nostalgic charm, vintage costume jewelry continues to captivate collectors and fashion lovers alike.

From statement pieces to delicate brooches, vintage costume jewelry offers endless possibilities for styling and accessorizing. Its versatility, sustainability, and durability make it a wise choice for those who appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of the past.

So, whether you're a seasoned collector or a fashion enthusiast looking for a unique addition to your jewelry collection, don't overlook the allure of vintage costume jewelry.

Embrace the timeless beauty and charm of vintage costume jewelry and let it be a cherished part of your style for years to come. Vintage costume jewelry truly stands the test of time as a timeless and exquisite form of self-expression.

Recent Articles