“If it’s good enough for Jacqueline Kennedy…” Guest Writer Sonia Hudson on Costume Jewellery.

Not many people know that Jacqueline Kennedy’s triple strand pearl necklace, worn throughout John F Kennedy’s presidency, was in fact a high quality costume piece, by Kenneth Jay Lane.

Jacqueline Kennedy Circa 1960s

Many personalities like Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana, Queen Sophia of Spain, Audrey Hepburn, The Duchess of Windsor, and Catherine Deneuve wore costume jewellery. Why? Well, one of the advantages then and today, is that when travelling it can be very risky to take fine jewels with you. Vintage couture designer costume jewellery is of such high quality that it looks like the real thing. They sometimes have a lot more ‘personality’ than fine jewels, and you will receive many compliments, without worrying about the possibility of theft.

Costume jewellery was initially intended to imitate fine jewellery and in the past was often worn during the day, whilst fine jewellery was worn in the evening. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli were the first to use costume jewellery with their couture fashion collections. The Hollywood film industry glamour greatly influenced fashion and costume jewellery was worn by the stars of that time.


Vintage Parakeet Brooch by Christian Dior

Today, vintage designer costume jewellery is collected throughout Europe and America for its ‘built to last’ high quality, made in Italy, France, Germany and North America. They are an investment that you can enjoy wearing as they increase in value, unlike the mass produced jewellery of today.

The beauty and artistry of celebrated designers like Christian Dior, Givenchy, Yves St Laurent, Valentino, Lanvin, Balmain, Balenciaga, Celine, Fendi, Lagerfeld, Trifari, Ciner, Kramer of New York, Oscar de la Renta and Nina Ricci amongst others, allow more women to access these beauties …if they are able to find them. For instance, Nina Ricci jewellery is triple plated in 22 karat gold and the necklaces have two clasps…why? One for a right-handed person and another if you are left-handed. They don’t do this today, even with highly expensive fine jewellery.


1980’s Rhinestone and Faux Ruby Panther Necklace by Nina Ricci Paris

Another designer is McClelland Barclay who is renowned for his beautiful Art deco designs. Barclay began his jewellery line in 1938, however he died in 1943 – making his pieces extremely scarce. He was behind some of the most stunning vintage jewellery ever made and according to Frank Rezazedah’s primer in his book, COSTUME JEWELRY: A PRACTICAL HANDBOOK & VALUE ,”If you ever come across a piece of jewellery marked McClelland Barclay, buy it without hesitation, for if you don’t you may never see it again. Barclay jewellery is not only extremely rare, but is also among the very best costume jewellery ever made in America.” (p. 111)

Alfred Phillipe, Crown Trifari’s head designer in the 1940s – 1960s, jewellery is also an excellent investment. He previously worked at Cartier, and Mamie Eisenhower wore Trifari to the inauguration ball! Christian Dior and one of his head designers, Grosse, both made their lines in the same German factory, whilst much of Givenchy’s vintage costume jewellery was made in France. Such elegance and beautiful faux stones are hard to find in the world today.

Valentino 1960’s Black Enamel & Rhinestones Clip Earrings

Valentino 1960’s Black Enamel & Rhinestones Clip Earrings

Take care of your pieces by putting them on five minutes after spraying your perfume and hairspray, as these chemicals may damage the polish, tarnish rhinestones and ‘eat’ the surface of your pearls. Never immerse your rhinestones in liquid because the water that gets into the back of them may give the appearance of ‘dead’ rhinestones e.g. a dark hue. All they need is a wipe with a soft cloth.

Over many years on my world travels, I have amassed a private collection of beautiful costume jewellery from the 1920s–1980s, by my favourite designers. I am passionate about the beauty, elegance and glamour of the vintage years. The small selection curated for The Antique Guild all carry the signature mark of the designer, which assures the authenticity and adds to the allure of the piece. These beautiful pieces deserve to be enjoyed and worn once again, so that they may be admired, and these couture designers are once again acknowledged for their superb artistry. Know that when you wear a signed piece of couture designer vintage jewellery, you are wearing a piece of art and history that has been built to last.

A beautiful necklace is the ‘spark’ that ignites a simple dress for a chic look.

Note:  The Valentino 1960’s Black Enamel & Rhinestones Clip Earrings, Nolan Miller Vintage Triple Strand Long Pearl Necklace and many other costume jewellery pieces are available at THE ANTIQUE GUILD today!