The word 'jewelry' is a really broad term. Gift shops sell jewelry. So does Tiffany's. You can buy a rope bracelet on the street for a few dollars, or you can spend $30,000 on a diamond or gemstone.
The word 'jewelry' is kind of like the word 'food' (maybe that's where my mind is at the moment). It's so broad that there are hundreds, if not thousands of subcategories. There's wedding jewelry, gold jewelry, diamond jewelry and who-knows-how many more.
There's one type of jewelry you've probably heard of many times, yet might not know exactly what it means: costume jewelry.
So What Is Costume Jewelry?
Turns out, the term 'costume jewelry' is pretty broad too.
While existing for a few hundred years, the term was first used in the early 1900s. Traditionally, jewelry was made using precious metals like gold and platinum, which holds real value, and is therefore pretty expensive. People could only buy one or two pieces of jewelry back then, if any at all - the period when costume jewelry first became popular spanned the Great Depression. This type of expensive, precious jewelry is known as fine jewelry.
Costume jewelry got its' name because it is lower cost, and can be bought to perfectly match or compliment one's 'costume' (outfit). If someone had ten outfits, for example, they could afford to have ten piece of costume jewelry to match every outfit - all for less money than one piece of precious metal jewelry.
For it's versatility and lower cost, costume jewelry became its' own category and has grown to be a HUGE sector of the jewelry industry!
What Is Costume Jewelry Made Of?
Since costume jewelry is such a broad term, let's break it down into a few categories.
Metals Used In Costume Jewelry:
While fine jewelry is made of metals like gold or platinum, costume jewelry is made of materials like brass, stainless steel, titanium and other metal alloys.
These metals are often referred to as 'base metals'. Why? Because they're often plated (basically coated with) actual gold, but the base material is brass or something similar.
Stones Used In Costume Jewelry:
Everyone knows of diamonds. Most have heard of emeralds, rubies and other gemstones, too. There are many alternatives to these that are commonly used in costume jewelry:
Instead of diamonds, costume jewelry is made with cubic zirconia (CZ) and rhinestones. These sparkle in the light and look like a diamond, or at least like a precious stone, giving them the look of a diamond. Some cubic zirconia is very high quality and a casual jewelry fan may not notice the difference unless examining both side by side.
Instead of gemstones like rubies and emeralds, costume jewelry is made using colored glass that looks just like the real thing.
Is Sterling Silver Fine Jewelry, Or Costume Jewelry?
Sterling silver is seen by many as a hybrid between fine and costume jewelry.
You may have seen the number '925' associated with sterling silver. This is because true sterling silver is made up of 92.5% pure silver. The other 7.5% includes copper, nickel, zinc or a combination thereof.
Why is that? By itself, silver can scratch easily and is generally not as durable. Sterling silver is therefore more suited for jewelry usage than pure silver.
Make sure your sterling silver jewelry is stamped with one of the following, to ensure it's genuine: "925", ".925" or "S925" are all authentic markings.
And to answer the original question: yes, sterling silver is typically considered fine jewelry, rather than costume jewelry. There are plenty of silver-plated pieces out there that cover the base metals previously discussed though, and these are considered costume jewelry.
Is Costume Jewelry Safe To Wear?
Generally, yes - costume jewelry is safe to wear. Some people to have allergies to specific metals, though.
Gold, for example, causes an allergic reaction on the skin for some. This usually applies to grades 14k gold and higher. This is a good thing to check out prior to buying a wedding band!
Nickel is another metal that some find irritating. This is mostly a non-issue if the jewelry is made and sold in the US due to complying with maximum allowable content standards.
Speaking of silver-plated jewelry, some people have an allergy to this, too. Luckily, this is not the case for genuine .925 sterling silver - only silver-plated jewelry.
Costume jewelry has a specific purpose, along with its' own niche within the world of jewelry.
Costume jewelry is a great choice over fine jewelry if:
- You want to have many different pieces of jewelry
- You are a fashion maven who is constantly changing looks
- You don't want to spend too much
- You want to worry less about damage, loss, etc.
We hope you've enjoyed this article!