Fashion Jewelry

Making a Statement with Fashion Jewelry

In the world of jewelry, pieces come in two broad types: fine jewelry, which is crafted from precious metals and precious and semi-precious stones, and fashion jewelry, which isn't. While there's some bleed-over between the two types, it's minimal -- occasional use of flawed or low-grade gemstones in fashion jewelry, gold washes or plating on inexpensive pieces, or novelty use of base materials in fine jewelry does occur on occasion. Although the differences might not always be obvious at first glance, there's a clear division between fine and fashion jewelry.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the fact that fashion jewelry is far more variable and widespread than fine jewelry could ever be. There's a limited suite of semi- to very valuable materials that can be used for fine jewelry, usually natural materials of mineral origin (although a few, like amber and jet, are organic in nature). On the other hand, fashion jewelry can be made of almost anything anyone can think of: glass, metal, ceramics, natural fibers, cloth, Bakelite, plastic, nylon, leather, wood, teeth, bones, shell, rubber, stones, ad infinitum. Materials can be natural or manmade in origin, and even within the class there's a tier of classification from high-quality costume jewelry made to look like the real thing to the toy junk little kids play dress-up with.

A little of this, a little of that

Don't confuse fashion jewelry with costume jewelry, because they're not always the same. Some costume jewelry, especially from the Art Nouveau era around the turn of the 20th century, is veritable artwork, and can make for very valuable antiques. Nor is fashion jewelry only worn by individuals who can't afford better; sometimes it stands in for valuable originals in everyday situations, but often those who wear it do so because they like it, even though they can afford fine jewelry. The best costume jewelry is difficult to tell from the real thing without making intrusive tests. For instance, it's hard to tell gold plating from pure gold, especially at a distance, and both synthetic gemstones and faux pearls can be made to look so real there's no visual difference.

Then you have the fashion jewelry more often worn by the hoi polloi, and popularized by megastars like Madonna and Britney Spears. We're talking about stuff like those cute rubber wristbands championing causes, the thin jelly bracelets sold in packages of a dozen or so, and even Kabala strings. Stores like Icing and Claire's sell tons of inexpensive silver-toned metal jewelry, from toe-rings to earrings, to everyone from pre-teens to their moms.

Mix and match

The fashion and fine jewelry worlds are hardly exclusive. As previously mentioned, even wealthy consumers often indulge in costume jewelry, either as camouflage or from preference, and sometimes wear both at once. The same is true of the average Joe and Jane on the street. It's unlikely that anyone you stop will be wearing an ensemble composed only of silver, gold, platinum, and previous gemstones; there might be a funky glass-bead necklace thrown in, or a shell bracelet or hematite ring. Similarly, even the most hardcore devotee of antique Art Nouveau jewelry or LiveStrong-type rubber wristbands is likely to be wearing a gold earring or something of the sort. At the very least, the married among us will be wearing our wedding rings, which in almost all cases qualify as fine jewelry.

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