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What is Costume Jewelry? - Aurora Gems

Discover the essence of costume jewelry – an array of stylish accessories made from base metals and simulated stones, distinguishing it from fine jewelry.

12/2/20236 min read

costume jewelry
costume jewelry

What Is Costume Jewelry?

What exactly is costume jewelry? Costume jewelry, or fashion jewelry, constitutes inexpensive accessories crafted from low-quality materials. Typically, these pieces are made from base metals such as brass, aluminum, or copper, which are prone to tarnishing and may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. Jewelry plated with precious metals, like gold-plated jewelry, is also categorized as costume jewelry.

Costume jewelry often incorporates simulated stones such as cubic zirconia or plastic to create the illusion of precious or semiprecious stones. Originating in the early twentieth century, costume jewelry is characterized by using materials like plastic, glass, or resin. While "fashion jewelry" and "costume jewelry" are interchangeable, the latter is renowned for its artistic, stylish, and whimsical designs. This reputation may lead to a higher price tag due to its artistic quality and designer origin.

Prominent couturiers, including Coco Chanel, played a significant role in popularizing costume jewelry in the early 1900s. Figures like Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, and Madonna have further contributed to its prominence. Vintage costume jewelry of high quality is now a sought-after collector's item.

Synonymous terms for costume jewelry include fashion jewelry, trinkets, imitated jewelry, junk jewelry, fallalery, or fake jewelry. Coined in the early 20th century, the term "costume" in costume jewelry reflects an era when women purchased jewelry specifically to complement their outfits. This jewelry category often involves base metals like copper, brass, or aluminum and features simulated stones.

Given its cost-effective design, costume jewelry has become a prevalent choice in contemporary fashion. Many individuals choose costume jewelry as an affordable and appealing alternative, considering the impracticality of acquiring solid gold jewelry. Costume jewelry's versatility and aesthetic appeal make it a favored option for many consumers.

WHAT Constitutes The Makeup of Costume Jewelry?

This section delves into the typical components of costume jewelry, including:

1. Base Metals, Plated Metals, and Simulated Stones:

Unlike fine jewelry crafted from gold, sterling silver, platinum, or other precious metals, costume jewelry relies on gold or silver-plated metals, brass, bronze, or other lower-quality base metals and alloys. In contrast to the diamonds, rubies, and emeralds found in fine jewelry, costume jewelry opts for synthetic stones that replicate their genuine counterparts.

While costume jewelry pieces may closely resemble their refined counterparts, they cost significantly less. However, their durability needs to improve compared to fine jewelry, which can endure and be passed down through generations. Fine jewelry is often considered an investment, whereas costume jewelry is a transient embellishment.

2. Other Materials:

Beyond metals and gemstones, costume jewelry extends its repertoire to include leather, textiles, cords, and beads. Whether it's a handcrafted friendship bracelet or an elaborate designer piece featuring leather and fabric, both fall under the umbrella of costume jewelry.

Pros And Cons of Fashion Jewelry


  • Affordability: - Fashion jewelry is highly cost-effective, making it accessible to many consumers.

  • Ease of Replacement: - Due to its affordability, fashion jewelry is easy to replace, allowing regular updates to one's accessories.

  • Casual Wear: - Ideal for casual occasions, fashion jewelry provides a stylish and budget-friendly option for everyday use.


  • Fragility: - Fashion jewelry is prone to breakage and scratches, as it is often made from less durable materials.

  • Limited Lifespan: - Unlike fine jewelry designed to last for generations, fashion jewelry has a finite lifespan and may not withstand prolonged Wear.

  • Skin Discoloration: - Some individuals may experience skin discoloration or irritation due to the materials used in fashion jewelry.

  • Metal Layer Wear-off: - Over time, the outer metal layer of fashion jewelry can wear off, affecting its appearance and potentially exposing underlying materials.

Is there any value in costume jewelry?

A reliable method to determine costume jewelry's worth involves examining the pieces' prongs. Certain costume jewelry incorporates prongs like fine jewelry, indicating higher quality and value.

However, it's worth noting that even in high-quality costume jewelry, stones are frequently affixed using glue, impacting the overall value of the piece. Therefore, only costume jewelry of superior quality featuring prong settings holds significant value.

What is Fine Jewelry?

Fine jewelry encompasses pieces crafted from precious gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires coupled with precious metals like gold, platinum, or silver. The inherent value of these materials, even before being fashioned into jewelry, contributes to the distinction of fine jewelry. Notably, durable, fine jewelry is easily repairable by skilled jewelers, rendering it an ideal choice for heirlooms.

While fine jewelry is often associated with a higher price tag, it's not solely defined by cost. The pricing of fine jewelry depends on various factors, including the type of metal used and the gemstone's cut, color, clarity, and carat. For instance, jewelry made from sterling silver or 14k gold tends to be more affordable than pieces crafted from 18k gold or platinum. This cost difference is attributed to the composition of alloys, with the former containing a higher percentage of other metals.

Pros & Cons of Fine Jewelry


  • High-quality

  • Durable

  • Great heirloom


  • Often expensive

Fashion Jewelry Versus Fine Jewelry

Fashion jewelry is crafted from synthetic materials or base metals, while fine jewelry is meticulously fashioned from natural and precious stones alongside valuable metals. The notable difference in materials makes fashion jewelry significantly more affordable than its refined counterpart, albeit without the same enduring qualities.

Both fashion and fine jewelry possess their unique beauty. When navigating the realm of jewelry shopping, the choice between the two hinges on factors such as budget, lifestyle, occasion, purpose, and personal style. Using precious materials, fine jewelry stands out as a long-term investment that future generations can cherish.

Aurora Gems and Minerals, with a penchant for designing using natural stones, gold, and silver elements, exclusively offers fine or semi-fine jewelry. The latter category represents a balance between quality and affordability, providing customers the best of both worlds.

Read more:What to Do With Old Jewelry?

Deciding Between Fine Jewelry and Costume Jewelry

Striking a balance between costume jewelry and fine jewelry can be a wise approach. Costume jewelry serves as playful trinkets to uplift your mood, offering various options, from affordable pieces to those that exude an expensive appearance while maintaining a lower intrinsic value.

On the flip side, fine jewelry captures timeless elegance. It has the potential to become a cherished heirloom within your family, symbolizing enduring love and a lifetime of experiences. Beyond its sentimental value, fine jewelry can be a tangible investment, appreciating its worth over the years. Choosing between fine and costume jewelry depends on your preferences, style, and the specific occasions or moods you wish to complement.

Drawbacks of Costume Jewelry

Costume jewelry comes with certain drawbacks that should be considered:

1. Allergies and Skin Reactions:

- The metals used in costume jewelry can trigger allergies in some individuals, leading to contact dermatitis characterized by rashes and itchiness where the jewelry comes in contact with the skin. Additionally, certain costume jewelry items may cause the wearer's skin to turn green.

2. Irreparable Damage:

- Unlike fine jewelry, costume jewelry cannot be easily repaired if broken. Once damaged, its usability diminishes significantly and lacks the longevity of fine jewelry that can often be restored.

3. Limited Durability:

- Costume jewelry is less durable than fine jewelry, prone to tarnishing, and susceptible to bending. These issues can render the jewelry unusable over time, contributing to its comparatively shorter Lifespan.

While costume jewelry offers affordability and a wide range of styles, these drawbacks highlight considerations regarding potential skin reactions, irreparability, and limited durability. Individuals seeking long-lasting, repairable options may find fine jewelry more suitable.


In conclusion, the jewelry world presents diverse options with characteristics and considerations. Costume jewelry, crafted from affordable materials, offers a budget-friendly and stylish alternative, albeit with drawbacks such as potential skin reactions and limited durability.

On the other hand, fine jewelry, composed of precious gemstones and metals, represents a timeless investment with enduring qualities and the potential for intergenerational significance. Striking a balance between the two can provide a versatile and personalized approach to accessorizing. Ultimately, the choice between fine and costume jewelry rests on individual preferences, lifestyle, and the desired longevity of the pieces.

Read more: Pink Gemstones: A Guide to Shades, Meanings, and Jewelry Options

Faqs for costume jewelry

1. What is considered costume jewelry?

Costume jewelry refers to inexpensive accessories crafted from low-quality materials such as base metals (brass, aluminum, copper) and simulated stones (cubic zirconia or plastic). Unlike fine jewelry, it is often designed for fashion trends and does not involve precious gemstones.

3. What is the difference between jewelry and costume jewelry?

The difference lies in the materials and cost. Traditional jewelry, often called fine jewelry, is crafted from precious metals (gold, platinum, silver) and genuine gemstones. Conversely, costume jewelry is made from less expensive materials like base metals and synthetic stones, emphasizing affordability over intrinsic value.

4. Why is it called costume jewelry?

The term "costume jewelry" originated in the early 20th century. Women purchased jewelry to complement or "costume" their outfits during this period. Unlike fine jewelry, which was more reserved for valuable pieces, costume jewelry served as accessories to enhance the overall appearance of an ensemble. The name reflects its association with enhancing costumes or outfits rather than being purely valuable.

4.How do you tell if costume jewelry is real?

To determine if costume jewelry is real:

  • Check for Metal Markings: Look for metal purity markings like 14K or 925 on fine jewelry.

  • Examine Gemstone Quality: Real gemstones often have imperfections, while simulated stones may appear flawless.

  • Consider Weight and Feel: Fine jewelry is typically heavier due to using precious metals.

  • Inspect Clasps and Settings: Fine jewelry usually has higher-quality clasps and settings.

  • Watch for Tarnishing: Costume jewelry may tarnish over time, especially from base metals.

  • Conduct a Magnet Test: Precious metals like gold and silver are not magnetic.

  • Seek Professional Appraisal: Consult a jeweler for a professional assessment.

  • Evaluate Price and Source: If the price seems too low for claimed materials, it may be costume jewelry.

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