What is Costume Jewellery?

Most of us are not in the position to pop out and by a new gold necklace for a night out, so costume jewellery can be a great alternative: it looks great, there’s an endless range – and it doesn’t cost the earth!

What is Costume Jewellery?
Costume jewellery is typically jewellery which looks great to go out in, but is not generally meant for every-day use. The term ‘costume’ is derived from the early 20th century when ladies would buy jewellery to go with a certain costume. Now we say ‘outfit’ (or clobber or gear…☺) but the concept is the same.
High end costume jewellery usually looks as though it is made of gold, rose gold or silver – indistinguishable from the genuine article to the ordinary eye. However, as it costs a fraction of the price, it means that anyone can go out looking fabulous, whether it’s a small zirconia pendant around the décolleté or a huge statement bling piece to create a talking point.

What is it made of?
Costume – or fashion jewellery as it is known, is typically made of relatively inexpensive gemstones, glass or plastic gems, set in pewter, nickel or brass. High end costume jewellery usually means that the base material is then plated in silver or gold to give the effect of being genuine precious metal. If it is silver-plated, the piece will tell you so, with a small stamp, usually at the catch of a bracelet or necklace, or inside a ring or brooch.

How to Maintain It?
Looked after well, costume jewellery can last many decades and beyond. Much of the costume jewellery from the World War II era are now collectors’ items, with many having been created by famous names such as Chanel, Dior and …even Woolworths, who recreated pieces worn by Vivian Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor, to make it possible for ordinary women to own and wear similar jewellery.
To maintain your costume jewellery, you should care for it as you would any other accessory for your outfit. At the end of the evening, take it off, put it somewhere safe from the elements and occasionally buff it up with a silver cloth. Care should be used for parts exposed to high humidity environments because in such environments, when the silver layer is porous or contains cracks, the underlying copper will become exposed. However, silver plated copper maintained in a moisture-free environment can retain its original condition for many many years.