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Costume jewelry began in the 18th century, when jewellers started to make various jewelry pieces from glass. Then it expanded further in the 19th century when it began to be popular to make jewelry out of semi-precious stones in addition to fully precious ones. The growing middle class wanted jewelry that they could afford.
However, it was the 1920s that heralded the golden age of costume jewelry. Mass production had advanced enough to produce convincing heirloom replicas, which made a lot of jewelry more inexpensive. Even working-class women could now a couple of pieces of costume jewelry while middle-class women could own a considerable amount if desired.
Initially, costume jewelry faced a lot of resistance. After all, they were cheap copies of “real” jewelry, replacing the diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones with inexpensive alternates. Many of the people who could afford the real version scorned people who settled for anything less while some less wealthy people felt they would rather wear no jewelry than cheap knock-offs. Of course there were still many people who bought costume jewelry but at first it didn’t have as much glamour associated with it.
However, costume jewelry was validated by the advent of numerous prominent designers who produced both high and low-priced brands, designers such as Crown Trifari, Dior, Coco Chanel, Miriam Haskell, Napier, and Kim Craftsmen etc. The jewelry was further popularized by its use in Hollywood movies. In the 1940s and 50s, many stars wore costume pieces produced by a range of designers. You could buy copies of necklaces and earrings worn in movies by Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Russell, and others; the actresses would often even appear in adverts for the relevant jewelry pieces.
Non-actress celebrities also helped to make costume jewelry popular. For example, designer Kenneth Jay Lane is especially famous for the three-strand faux pearl necklace he designed for Barbara Bush that she wore to her husband's inaugural ball. Costume jewelry was no longer just a jewelry substitute for the poor. It had received glamour and style all its own.
A lot of high-end fashion jewelry has now achieved a collectible status, especially if they’re “signed pieces” with the maker’s mark stamped on the reverse. However, there still remains a lot of demand for quality unsigned pieces, especially those with unusual designs, such as Juliana. Still, despite the popularity of this vintage jewelry, the largest market for costume jewelry remains people looking to pay less money to decorate their bodies. The jewelry’s development proves that you no longer need to make a lot of money in order to look good.