Why Costume Jewellery Is Bigger & Bolder Than Ever

Costume jewellery is no longer yesteryear’s trend. Here's why faux jewels are more desirable than ever this season

Valentino spring 2019. Photo / Getty Images

Paste, crystal, glass, fake… the words used in the past to describe costume jewellery have never done justice to this joyously frivolous category.

Originally created to imitate the precious materials of “real” jewellery as closely as possible, it was only when continental fashion designers such as Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli popularised flamboyant pieces made from inexpensive materials that costume jewellery became a distinct, desirable genre of its own.

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The expression “costume jewellery” derives from a time when these jewels were made specifically for a particular outfit (costume in French), in contrast to precious, expensive pieces that were never intended to go with just one look.

Costume jewellers of the mid-20th century were big names in their own right, working with designers such as Balenciaga and Balmain to create riotously colourful and large pieces that kept perfect pace with the outfits they were made to accessorise.

Countess Cissy Zoltowska, who arrived in Paris from Austria in the 1950s, designed enormous rainbow-coloured bib necklaces and brooches shaped like fish or bunches of flowers for the great couturiers of the day.

Chanel had Maison Gripoix and Goossens Paris (two costume jewellery houses still going strong today), which created giant Maltese crosses, clip-on earrings featuring fake-pearl acorns and gold-toned leaves, and Mogul-style necklaces dripping with glass “rubies” — all of which are highly sought after by collectors today.

But costume jewellery is no longer yesteryear’s trend. The world’s most acclaimed fashion houses are again creating exquisite costume jewels that aren’t designed only to accessorise catwalk looks, but are a powerful commercial category in their own right.

It’s also a more financially realistic option for the younger, cooler fashion lover who is unable to invest in a gown costing several thousand from Erdem, but could save up for the brand’s sublime floral cluster earrings, featuring daisy-like flowers in blues and yellows radiating out from a faux-pearl centre, and all suspended from a huge glass “sapphire” stud. They have all the romantic whimsy of Erdem’s ultra-feminine clothing designs, but a far friendlier price tag.

Dolce & Gabbana has always created costume jewellery to complete runway looks — from eccentric tiaras and silk flowers strewn across gold chains to shoulder-dusting earrings heavy with charms depicting religious iconography. Many of these pieces are only for show, but the more wearable ones do make it to market — clip-on earrings with black stones and gold-tone charms falling from huge hoops, the charms a mixture of horseshoes, coins, hearts and lucky numbers.

Logomania continues with giant earrings consisting of a D and a G in brass, strewn with red enamel roses and shimmering crystals. Wear them with a black cotton broderie anglaise dress in the spring, and you’ll nail a complete Dolce look.

A love of logos is even more visible at Chanel, with chains from which dangle giant crystal-studded letters that spell out the house’s name, strings galore of fake pearls, giant cuffs with that double C in every possible iteration, and metal and leather hoop earrings mimicking the chain of the famous Chanel 2.55 bag.

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The beachy spring/summer 2019 collection injected candy colours into the costume jewels, with fake coral beads, pastel blue, pink and yellow leather weaving, and rhinestone-studded plastic chain bracelets in translucent pink tones. The pieces are joyfully shouty about loving the brand, but don’t have the same “I spent a total fortune” effect as the latest Chanel handbag.

Dior’s much-copied Tribale earrings are constantly reinvented, and the new designs for spring include a more baroque-style faux-pearl back with long, fine chains from which dangle creatures — a crystal-studded monkey in one case, a butterfly in another.

There are also gold-tone chokers, transparent resin Tribale earrings, and asymmetric ear climbers dripping with tiny bees, stars and faux pearl and diamond drops.

Playful costume jewels you can buy right now

Ruby earrings $45 from Rubynz.com; Karen Walker necklace $70 from KarenWalker.com; Lovisa brooch $20 from Lovisa.com. Photos / Supplied

Costume jewellery has become more and more prevalent at Alexander McQueen, and it can easily be argued that Sarah Burton has faithfully continued the late designer’s devotion to the showstopping examples seen in his early shows.

The Antique Relic Harness seen on the runway over a tailored blazer is a serious investment piece, despite being made from brass and crystal, while the huge jewelled armour earrings, with their pearls, crystals and gold-tone beads, look more like Victorian heirlooms than modern accessories.

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On the other end of the spectrum as far as frivolity goes, Simone Rocha’s costume jewels are impossible to be serious about — they’re joyful additions to her quirkily considered clothes, like a blood-red beaded flower necklace or 10cm-long shimmering white crystal strands to hang from the earlobe.

Whether you opt for Marni’s braided Perspex cuffs in lurid colours, Chloe’s giant Valeria earrings of gold-toned beads, Balenciaga’s brilliantly oversized hoops wrapped in printed silk twill reminiscent of 1980s scarves, or Valentino’s 1970s-inspired disc earrings showing a repeating swirl of the house’s name, costume jewellery is one of the most exciting — and statement making — ways to access some of the world’s most beautiful brands.

— The Telegraph

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