The fine things in life aren’t all high-priced jewels and precious metals, for over 300 years jewelers have been creating intricate pieces and wearable art from materials that fall into the class of Costume Jewelry. Don’t let the name mislead you, the items that fall into this category aren’t components of dress up for the stage or Halloween, but a realm of expression unencumbered by jewel elitism.
Costume Jewelry initially was conceived to be a part of an outfit or “costume”, a piece of a whole. This is fundamentally different than other categories of jewelry which is a piece in of itself and can be considered an investment or collector’s item. When jewelers began experimenting with less than precious materials which in turn made their pieces more affordable in the early 20th century. The lowering of costs meant that cufflinks, bracelets, and necklaces were no longer reserved for high society, but style could be present in all classes and specifically the newly created Middle Class.
The explosion of Costume Jewelry is linked to the economic depression and recovery. The Great Depression forced company’s hand to create cheaper alternatives to rubies and diamonds, lending itself to rhinestones or Lucite. This trend of “cheaper” alternatives carried through the World Wars as base metals were reserved for the war effort, leading to jewelry made from sterling silver. The economic disasters of the early 20th century forced talented artists to be more creative with the materials available.
Although Costume Jewelry has been with us for a few hundred years, it was the 20th century which made it its own style. The rise of the Middle Class and businesses pushing more towards the affordable meant that this broad category must be further defined and so it was, in the artistic era it was manufactured. Time periods are the classification of Costume Jewelry, such as the Art Deco of the 1920-30s or Retro Period of mid 1930-s to 1950s. Every art movement giving rise to a particular style that defined cufflinks to broaches or earrings.
The Missing Link is a store that collects cufflinks from all eras and has amassed quite the selection of Costume Jewelry. Here are some examples of the ingenuity of Costume Jewelry:
Last week I discussed Lawrence VRBA as one of the kings of Costume Jewelry and this topic presents the opportunity to further demonstrate that. The deep blue circled by lighter blue rhinestones creates a new heart of the ocean that would rival a gem’s luster on one’s wrist. This pair of cufflinks is a prime example of how the contemporary can be blended with vintage materials, as almost all of VRBA’s pieces are.
Have you ever wanted to see the Northern Lights or communicate the lustrous beauty of them? These cufflinks capture the shimmering night sky for any occasion of your choosing. One of a kind and signed by Lawrence VRBA, this rare pair would be a welcomed addition to any vintage collector.
Amethyst and silver go together like wine and cheese. We all know that good wine does not have to be an expensive wine, the same is true of cufflinks. That is most of the point of Costume Jewelry, an affordable beauty that glimmers as much as any other bejeweled adornment.
Don’t be fooled by the pretentious snobbery that bars rhinestones or sterling silver or Bakelite. Style is not made up of diamonds or rubies, but statements and designs. Costume Jewelry can be wonderous, intricate, taking great skill and ingenuity. Be bold and explore all forms of self-expression in your formal wear or casual button down, no matter the materials or class of cufflinks or jewelry you find it.
Welcome to the Missing Link, unearthed.