Identifying factors of vintage costume jewelry include products made with glass, stone and non-precious metals, colorful jewels and big, bold, bright necklaces, bangles and pendants that reflect trends in a specific time period. Costume jewelry arose in the late 1920s and gained prominence in the 1930s. Unlike fine jewelry, costume jewelry was designed primarily for use with specific outfits, according to the Wisconsin Historical Museum, and it was not intended to pass along through families to successive generations.
Costume jewelry, like other jewels, has changed over time. In the 1920s, jewelry-makers captured the Art Deco and flapper fashion styles in their products. Trendy and eye-catching jewelry, such as Native American pendants, dragon necklaces and bracelets covered with hearts, are examples of costume jewelry from this time. Later in the 1920s, fashion designer Coco Chanel entered the costume jewelry market. Chanel bracelets and necklaces featured bold statement pieces like animals and flowers.
Costume jewelry from the 1930s and 1940s is made primarily of Bakelite, which is a durable and cheap plastic. Bakelite comes in many colors, including Salmon and Apple Juice. Bakelite is easy to manipulate, and created the smooth, polished beads and stones that characterize costume jewelry from this era, according to Collectors Weekly.
In the 1960s, abstract pieces, angles and bold colors characterized costume jewelry. Bangles were also popular. Several art movements, including Bohemian, Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, heavily influenced costume jewelry designs. Simultaneously, jewelers such as Eisenberg and Hobe introduced low-budget delicate costume jewelry that resembled pearls, silver and diamond jewelry that dominated the fine jewelry landscape.