20th Century Jewelry

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The term "Costume Jewelry" dates from the early 20th century. The origin of this term is explained in two ways. One story tells that the word “costume” what we would call today “outfit”. The ornaments that were worn with everyday fashion (costumes) became known as the Costume Jewelry. Another theory is that the term "Costume Jewelry" refers to the jewellery that was worn in theatre productions.

Costume Jewelry also known as Fashion Jewelry makes use of less valuable materials than gold and gemstones such as silver, copper, rock crystal, glass and various kinds of plastics.

As long as people are wearing jewellery, there are always copies created in the form of more affordable jewellery of base materials. The Greeks and Romans wore a lot of jewellery from glass that had the expensive look of real stones.

Although Costume Jewelry was worn during many periods, the golden age began during the 1920s and 1930s of the 20th century. This had different reasons. It was a time of great changes and new movements such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Arts and Crafts and Modernism. The industrialization came really on steam and more people could afford to buy stylish jewellery (great turnout of the middle class).

In Europe the popularity of the material rock crystal was huge. Thus there arose a great demand for jewellery in which extensive use was made of this popular material that, just like a diamond, cut in facets could be so wonderful. In addition using base materials gave designers more space for creativity than using only precious materials. The great popularity was strengthened again in the 1930s because many women imitated the glamour of Hollywood stars. The starts themselves wore Costume Jewelry very often at their work and in their private life’s.

In the 20s of the last century, the Jazz Age, the French fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883-1971) was responsible for a true revolution. She was very innovative in the field of clothing designs, but also in the field of jewellery designs. Her jewellery had an innovative look. The fashion of Chanel was elegant, simple, loosely and comfortably. Chanel added glamour to her fashion designs by the jewellery that she designed. Chanel stopped using gemstones and real gold loose and started designing Fashion or Costume Jewelry.

Chanel said "you need to have a lot of jewellery. If they are real, you are only showing off and really are there to show off, you walk with me and that shows bad taste. The jewellery that I make is very beautiful but also very fake! “She was the one started with using the name “Costume Jewelry”.

Chanel's jewellery was big and bold. She designed long strings of glass beads, dangling earrings and many plastic bracelets. This striking jewellery matched perfectly with the sexy look of the twenties', the independent and trendy rebellious woman. Soon young modern stylish women wore around the world Costume Jewelry! Chanel was followed by other designers such as the Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli (1896-1973) with her ultramodern and surreal designs.

The designer Costume jewellery was frequently praised in international fashion magazines Elle and Vogue because of their size and richness and grew into over-the-top plastic forms of amazing beauty.

Ornament-artists and jewellers such as Theodor Fahrner, Pentti Sarpaneva, Jakob Bengel and Italian brother and sister Coppola e Toppo made their pieces in limited edition under their own name, but were also often hired by major fashion and jewellery houses. Between artists, jewellers and fashion jewellery there was always an exchange of knowledge and understanding about ' it ' ornament. One of the many examples is the French Jewellers Marcel Boucher and Alfred Philippe who after their course at jewellery House Cartier immigrated to America where they applied the fine jewellery techniques at Costume Jewelry.

The Costume Jewelry became a hotbed for design ideas which are today still just as striking and nice as then. The masterpieces from bygone times today have the same value as jewellery of gold and diamonds.

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