• Antiques in Oxford

What is costume jewellery?


The phrase costume jewellery was first used in the 1920s. However jewellery and ornamentation made out of non-precious materials have been worn since ancient times. While it is sometimes called fake or "fashion" jewellery, it often incorporates workmanship and materials on a par with, or even better than fine jewellery. The 20th century resulted in a sea change as to how jewellery was perceived and used. Before then, women wore jewellery made of precious and semi-precious stones and metals as a way of flaunting the wealth of their families and husbands. Jewellery was mostly worn by the upper classes to convey their position in society, although it could also symbolize one's religion, the state of a romance, or a time of mourning.


Early in the 20th century, due to the development of new materials and industrialisation, fashion designers began to experiment with jewellery as an expression of style and creativity using less expensive non precious materials so that pieces could be larger, bolder and in line with the Art Deco and flapper girl fashions that were emerging. Because these necklaces, earrings, and brooches were made of inexpensive materials and not designed to be keepsakes or heirlooms, they could be more outrageous and trendy, thrown out and replaced when a particular look went out of fashion.

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