Tag Archive | fashion

From Egypt to Hollywood, the evolution of costume jewellery

The term ‘costume jewellery’ was initially used in the early 20th century to describe imitation jewels and gems that fashion designers would create to complement their clothes, hence costume jewellery.

They were made from inexpensive materials such as glass, base metals and plastic. Although thought of a modern invention due to their mass production, this type of inexpensive jewellery can be traced back through to ancient times, from the Egyptians, through the middle ages, and medieval times.

In the early 18th century there was a greater prosperity within the middle classes who wanted to dress to impress, diamonds were, however, extremely expensive and relatively scarce.  The solution was a new glass imitation – paste. This hard brilliant glass could be cut and polished to produce ‘gems’ with a convincing sparkle. The most stylish pieces were bold and extravagant, some jewels were spring mounted and swayed when you moved. Examples of which can be found in the jewel room at the V&A quivering as you walk past!

1950s paste & faux pearl necklace

1950s paste & faux pearl necklace


Around 1720 ‘Pinchbeck’ (named after Christopher Pinchbeck) came into being an alloy of copper and zinc that successfully mimicked gold, and retained its colour without tarnish, it could also be worked and decorated in the same way as gold. The formula was widely imitated by other manufacturers and it remained popular until it gradually became replaced by rolled gold and other gilt metals.

These early discoveries led onto other technological advances and over the centuries a number of jewellery styles emerged which embraced the costume jewellery ethos. Unlike much of the costume jewellery available today these pieces were exquisitely made by highly skilled craftsmen.  They were often quality pieces which despite their intrinsic value stood the test of time and are still valuable and fashionable today!

When the United States entered World War II, base metals such as brass were rationed which led many of these costume jewellery manufacturers to start using sterling silver in their ranges.  An example of this is below in this 1940s brooch and earring set by American brand VanDell.





In the 1940s and 1950s Hollywood glamour came to town and a number of costume jewellery brands began making mass market statement pieces, early examples often imitating precious Art Deco jewels, this heralded the era of the ‘cocktail style’ and we still use the term ‘cocktail ring’ to describe a big, bold, bling ring; usually inexpensively made.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


A number of jewellery manufacturers from this era are now highly collectable names in the vintage jewellery market, and we will look at a few of these designers in a future post…





Simply charming…

We’re not sure what started it, but the upsurge in charm bracelets over the last few years has been astonishing.  Nearly every high street jeweller has brought out their own range, and some jewellers such as Pandora have based almost their entire business on the trend with over 600 individual charms available ranging in price from over £500 down to around £30.

Traditionally charm bracelets would be worn as a form of protection featuring amulets, and we’ll be talking about the history of charms in another post.  They have been in and out of fashion through the ages since ancient times, more recent fashion trends for charm bracelets followed the introduction of the iconic Tiffany charm bracelet in 1889, and during the second World War.  The idea was to  take the bracelet and embellish with charms personal to the wearer, they were traditionally bought on special occasions or given as gifts so the wearer would gradually build up a collection.  An example of an older charm bracelet and some of the charms is below:




This slideshow requires JavaScript.



The recent trend for charm bracelets has a different approach, with a tendency to feature bead like charms which are interchangeable even between brands which makes them really easy to individualise.  We’ve mentioned Pandora above, but Chamilia and Trollbeads are also popular brands.

There are still plenty of the more traditional style charm bracelets around.  Tiffany still make the more traditional style charms in a range of metals ranging in price from £1,825 to £65,  something to suit every price range!  However, we’ve also found that Etsy and Notonthehighstreet are great places to find the unusual, and unexpected when it comes to charms.  These tend to be pre-created themed charm bracelets, with themes as favourite films, pets, tv shows and hobbies which makes them a fantastic gift for anyone with a passion.  We also really love the quirky style of Aaron Basha and I have a personal favourite in these studded baby shoes.

We’ve also discovered a really unusual take on the charm trend too, with charms being added to more unusual items, such as these fantastic kilt pin brooches featuring charms from Hashtag Love on Etsy, we’ve picked a couple that might suit us to show you:

Hashtag Love - Etsy - Knitting charm brooch                 Hashtag Love - Etsy - wine charm brooch


These not only have the on trend charms, but stand out as a quirky and personal highly visible brooch which we love and is a great way to #bringbackthebrooch!


The charitable approach to jewellery

We’re both fans of charity shop jewellery bargains, and there are plenty of them to be had around here (more on this in a different post!) but the idea of charity based jewellery itself is interesting.

The most obvious one of course is the famous poppy, we pin them to our coats annually and whether you go for the good old pin and paper (how do you get those to work?!), the more modern pin badges or the stunning brooches or other jewellery offered on the poppy shop online (this being a personal favourite) that isn’t all there is to it.

Charity wristbands have been around for a while now, and admittedly they’re not quite the fashionable accessory they once were (you don’t see many people stacking them up any more) they are still a common sight out and about, and still very easy to get hold of.  The big question is, are they jewellery?

On the face of it yes, they are an item worn about the wrist as an accessory, in the same way that you might wear any other bracelet or bangles.  But people presumably don’t purchase these wristbands for the purpose of wearing them as a fashion accessory.  For example I have a Help the Heroes wristband not because it matches an outfit, or looks good, in fact I’ve never worn it.  I bought it because it was a way of supporting the charity and not too expensive…alright and also because my cat likes to play with wristbands so I try to buy them from organisations that I genuinely support.

There have been other examples in the past, such as pin badges, where accessories have been used to demonstrate personal or political messages, so perhaps this is just a follow on from that.  It’s interesting that whereas most of the time people will carefully select jewellery to reflect a piece of their personality or a preference for a certain style, the key thing about an item of jewellery is how it looks.  As far as I can gather the only thing that people are generally demonstrating with their wristbands is their own good nature in purchasing it, and a highlighting of a particular charity, presumably one personal to them.  This makes it quite a unique type of jewellery as it’s one worn not for how it looks but for what it represents.

That said I wonder whether there are people out there scouring charities for a wristband just the right shade of blue to match that bag…let’s hope not, but some people will do anything to stay “in the loupe!”  Either way our closing thoughts on the matter are that whatever the purpose behind the purchase the charity still gets the cash and the wearer raises awareness, whatever their motive.