There is a Huge Difference Between Fine Jewelry and Costume Jewelry In this post I'll talk about the difference between costume jewelry and fine jewelry.
Fine jewelry is made with valuable metal such as gold and platinum and is set with natural, precious gemstones. Funnily enough cultured pearls are considered a "gemstone." They are in the organic category. Therefore they are part of the fine jewelry category.
Basically, costume jewelry can be made of any almost any material—including plastic. Manufacturers typically copy more expensive fine jewelry by substituting the expensive materials for less expensive ones. Often the pieces are highly stylized and fashionable. Many costume pieces, are quite artful and attractive and command high prices.
Fine Jewelry and the Finer Things
The nicer jewelry items with real gemstones and noble metals are called fine jewelry. Fine jewelry will always be more expensive than its imitative costume versions.
Fine jewelry includes pearls and gemstone beads. Whether in necklaces or worked into pins, it is their genuine status and not how they are used that makes them fine.
Cheap Costume vs Nice Costume Jewelry
Manufacturers often copy more expensive fine jewelry by substituting the expensive materials for less expensive ones. This is copy-type costume jewelry.
There are however jewelry designers designing specifically for the costume jewelry market. Often the pieces are highly stylized and fashionable. Many costume pieces are quite artful and attractive and command high prices.
The Idea of Costume Jewelry for Outfits
In the 1920's Coco Chanel popularized the idea of buying "outfit" jewelry. A set of inexpensive accessories that matched the outfit and complemented it, for a finished and fabulous look.
Hollywood movie stars took this trend from the screen into the mainstream.
Costume Jewelry for the Famous and the Masses
Kenneth Jay Lane was a famous costume jewelry designer in the 60's. His most popular design was the three strand faux pearl necklace worn by Barbara Bush. Kenneth also designed unique pieces of costume jewelry for Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis.
The Problem with Costume Jewelry
The problem with costume jewelry is that if it breaks, it can be next to impossible to repair. It may be completely unworkable to solder a post back onto a costume earring.
This is due to the fact that the heat generated from the soldering flame causes the thin gold coating to evaporate or blacken. Or the plastic to simply melt. Most costume pieces just can’t stand the heat!
Fine Jewelry Can be Repaired and Re-worked
On the other hand, fine karat gold and platinum jewelry can be soldered any number of times. This type of jewelry can be worked on again and again.
It can be passed on for generations and last for over a hundred years. I saw some amazing pieces of jewelry from the Egyptian tombs that were thousands of years old. They held their beauty and fascinating looks.
Sometimes a piece is beloved, like the rhinestone multi-layer necklace my ballroom dancing client wears to competition. She had her necklace customized to go with that necklace. It broke before a competition and I was able to drill into the metal and do a "don't look close" repair.
I'm not saying costume jewelry can't be fixed. I'm saying it can be expensive and inelegant when done. And plenty of pieces are not worth fixing.
Costume Jewelry as Gifts, Not Always a Good Choice
There’s nothing more maddening than a broken piece of jewelry that can’t be fixed and can never be worn again. It’s like being told your Corvette has to be junked because it has a flat tire and can’t be driven anymore.
That’s not right. Fortunately, Corvettes can be repaired. Not so, the plastic and gold tone Corvette earrings your boyfriend impulsively bought for you at the car show last month. He should have sprung for the 14kt gold ones instead!
Another Post About Costume Jewelry
See my blog post on taking a favorite piece of costume jewelry and replicating it as fine jewelry. I've done this a number of times. Sometime if you can't repair it, you just put your foot down and say, "I like that design." We will make it up so it'll last.