Times of austerity have far-reaching impacts, one of the more cheerful of which is the trend for bold, colourful, truly personal statement jewellery. And this is where costume pieces really come into their own.

Costume or ‘fashion jewellery’ as it was once called, was thought to be the cheap alternative for those who could not afford fine jewellery, but this has slowly changed over the years, and with vintage pieces becoming more popular than ever. The shift toward using jewellery for a true personal statement has been a long time coming, especially recently with the pandemic, when everyone needed colourful, uplifting, and fun jewellery, to boost their moods.

Lot 4, Hermès - A brooch together with two pairs of earrings, estimate £100 - £200

Arguably, the birth of costume jewellery can be attributed to the legendary Coco Chanel, whose early designs were elegant, exquisitely made and fashionable, and which quickly did away with the stigma associated with wearing paste instead of gems. Once Chanel put her name to it, the world fell in love with costume jewellery, and other smart companies followed in her footsteps. The mid-20th century would then go on to see costume jewellery adorning some of the most famous names of the period, with known collectors including the likes of Wallis Simpson and Joan Crawford.

The post-war years saw a massive increase in demand, and the glamour of the Hollywood movie industry also helping to underpin the sales of affordable jewellery. And as the popularity of costume pieces took off, companies produced luxurious and opulent statement pieces, studded with man-made gems in intricate settings, with some of the largest jewellery houses dedicating whole lines to costume pieces, including the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Hermès, and of course Chanel.

Lot 3, Michaela Frey - A necklace, ear stud, bangle and ring suite, estimate £80 - £120

Costume jewellery’s appeal is vast, as it sits as comfortably in the jewellery box of the super wealthy as it does those just starting out a collection. We see a variety of different buyers all seeking out the best examples, from those die-hard designer jewellery collectors right through to people who perhaps have never attended an auction before. And in fact, auction houses can provide the best hunting grounds for wonderful mid-century costume pieces by some of the world’s most famous makers. Today’s market is focussed on anything with maker or designer’s names and logos, such are current tastes, however would be collectors would do well to note that in the early years, often these pieces were left unsigned. Instead, costume pieces would be adorned with tie-on or metal tags, which could easily be removed and which are still used to this day. 

Lot 1, Chanel - A pair of arabesque cufflinks, estimate £80 - £100

At the upcoming Jewellery, Silver & Watches Sale on 23rd November, we have a large collection of costume jewellery from a handful of collectors, including necklaces, bangles and earrings from the likes of Hermès, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, all with affordable estimates of between £80 - £200. These are all offered in fantastic quality, and we expect them to see a good deal of interest from not only jewellery afficionados but any fashion fans.

To view the jewellery section of the sale, please click here