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Did you know that costume jewelry was started by the late, famed French haute couture designer, Coco Chanel, who wanted jewelry that would specifically go with her costumes?  Thus…the birth of costume jewelry! Contrary to what many think, these pieces were not inferior in craftsmanship in any way.  In fact, some were easily equal to the best fine jewelry on the market, both in the way the stones were cut as well as in the metal working. 


  • The actual difference between costume jewelry and fine jewelry has nothing to do with art, but rather with material.  In fine jewelry, real gemstones and real silver or gold are used. 


Right now, we are having a renaissance of interest in all types of costume jewelry, with many vintage pieces selling for thousands of dollars.  That may sound steep, but auctioneers insist the price is still way below value. So, collectors be alert!  Many say this field is a natural to buy into now…the prices will never be so low!  In the meantime, just compare costume prices with those of fine jewelry: 


  • A vintage piece that sells for $4-5,000 in costume jewelry

      would probably sell for $60-70,000 or more in fine jewelry.  


Some of these costume jewelry pieces were originally very inexpensive and sold in all sorts of public bazaars, from farmers’ markets to the five-and-ten.  A truly spectacular necklace or bracelet with fine craftsmanship could have gone for as little as 25-cents!  Imagine!        


PENDANTS REIGN:  Today, we have all sorts of special materials and manufacturing techniques to allow us to recreate in an inexpensive way some of the best jewelry ever made.  Few jewelry categories have benefited more from this advance than pendants, a traditional jewelry form that goes back to antiquity.  Beautiful pieces made from magnificent stones with fabulous gemstone embellishments can today be made from worked, common stones or new plastics…and the results are amazing!


Some of the most intriguing pendants originally came from Asia, or were associated with specific tribal groups in Africa or the United States.  American Indian pendants, often in turquoise, are a good example.  All of these pendants benefited from magnificent carvings, often in jade, or another semi-precious stone.


An old Humphrey Bogart movie set someplace like Morocco, complete with exotic shops and calculating characters would certainly be the perfect setting for such exquisite jewelry.  Can you imagine one of these pendants to be at the center of an international jewelry theft investigation? .  Ahhhh…the romance and fascination of it all! But…that is often what this jewelry is all about:


  • Pieces that look one-of-a-kind, are outrageously expensive,

              and are surrounded by mystery and intrigue.



The antique rage goes deeper than retro and is in full force where pendants are concerned.  Many antique-looking circular pendants in smooth or hammered silver are very popular right now. Antique American Indian pieces are likewise very hot.  Pieces that express a European medieval inspiration, especially those with filigree work, are also big. 


One Gothic piece particularly worth mentioning has a rose window design, based on the Roman wheel-inspired windows of medieval cathedrals such as the Cathedral at Chartres, France. These make an amazingly handsome and very updated look when hung off a medium length chain and  teamed up with a medieval-looking cross on a shorter, choker-length chain.


RUNNING IN CIRCLES:  Circles are, of course, the main image for pendants, East and West.  Their symbolic representation of spiritual completion is just one of many reasons this geometric form has always enchanted designers and the public, alike. Circle pendants   come in all sizes and in a wide variety of materials, and run the gamut from Oriental to Southwestern styles. 



A very handsome Southwestern faux turquoise circular pendant is a focal point for outfits with a casual, Arizona-to-California look, looking as great in Las Vegas as on Rodeo Drive. Circles also move into modern design territory in pendants.  Consider multiple circles hung off a long chain:  Moving dynamite!



Of course, all pendants aren’t historic.  Many are fun, hot, up-to-the-minute now.  Many  are small sculptural representations of animals, like dolphins, crabs, Scottie dogs, cats, and the like. Others replicate the more popular jewelry themes of the day. For example, hearts make very beautiful pendants and are very big sellers. Puffy red hearts, big polished silver hearts, even a symbolic broken heart can all take pendant popularity to new heights.



FLAG WAVING TIME AGAIN:  Now that we are in a political convention week, how about pendants to stir the hearts of America?  American flag pendants are just one idea. Hobbies also come up strong on the hot trend list for pendants.  Here you’ll find little sewing machines, all sorts of sports from soccer to hockey, golf bags and clubs, and more.  Sometimes these pendants double as pins, in which case the buyer gets double duty return on his or her money!


There’s just no question that pendants are one of the most fascinating jewelry items on the market now.  And, they apparently have always been, if we take their spectacular history into consideration. Plain or faux gemstone embedded, they are classy, bold or simple, they make ideal gifts for yourself or another, and are remarkably well priced.  In true Coco Chanel fashion, they finish a costume and still manage to stand out themselves as artisan-worthy signature jewelry designs.

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

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