Every little black dress needs a bit of sparkle to take it from outfit to ensemble. And while diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, they’re her bank account’s worst enemy. I mean, can’t we all get along? Sadly, we’re usually forced to side with our bank accounts. So, I say, why buy diamonds when crystals will do?

As much as I love the occasional splurge on a vintage ring or a one-of-a-kind Neil Lane piece, I’m no stranger to costume jewelry. In fact, I love it. It’s a fun, more affordable way to build a jewelry collection that will set off every outfit in your wardrobe, from your favorite kaftan to your chicest cocktail dress.

Since costume jewelry can be so affordable, I say, be daring! You can take risks and be bold with jewelry in ways you can’t with your everyday basics. If you make a mistake with an accessory, you can always take off the turban (yes, I went there), change the statement ring, or retire the overly embellished bag that just doesn’t do it for you anymore. And even if you’re feeling timid, costume or fashion jewelry can add a pop of color or some sparkle that will take your look to the next level.


I asked my friend, mompreneur & owner of Evolution Vintage, Lisa Graystone (pictured with me above), to share some historical background about costume jewelry, as well as some tips for how to wear new and vintage pieces.

Oh, Coco


As with so many modern fashions, costume jewelry was brought to the mainstream by the one and only Coco Chanel. She was the quintessential jewelry maven, saying “Costume jewelry is not made to give women an aura of wealth, but to make them beautiful,” and “Jewelry should be viewed with innocence, with artlessness, just as we enjoy the sight of an apple tree in blossom at the side of the road as we speed past in a motor-car.”

Wise words! Even though Coco had plenty of precious jewels, she rarely wore them. She introduced her first costume pieces in the 1920s, and her beloved faux pearls remain a major element in Chanel accessories today.

The 1940s were the heyday of costume jewelry, and throughout the decades, high-end designers like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin, Dior, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Monet, Miriam Haskell, Napier, Coro, and Coventry have produced costume baubles. One name that particularly stands out in the world of costume jewels is Kenneth Jay Lane. You can still find his pieces, available at low and high price points, at stores like Shopbop.com and Neiman Marcus, or via vintage dealers around the globe. There is also a whole slew of new costume jewelry designers, such as Erickson Beamon, Alexis Bittar, Dannijo, Fenton & Fallon, Kara Ross, Lee Angel, Lulu Frost, and Mawi. In fact, I’ve been inspired to turn my jewelry obsession into two lines: Maven and my HSN Collection.


Wear It Well

Costume jewelry can be new or vintage, and you can wear it to make a big statement or subtly complete a sophisticated look. Try adding some bold bangles, a vintage cuff, or a chic cocktail ring to your go-to outfits, and see how the right accessory can transform your look. If you want to be more understated, try wearing one costume piece with your finer jewelry, like a cocktail ring for a night out, or chandelier or tassel earrings with jeans and a tee. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to costume jewels. Think big, and mix metals, colors, patterns, and shapes. For instance, I love semi-precious stones like agate, malachite, tiger’s eye, lapis, and abalone. These are often used in costume jewelry and can be just as beautiful as more expensive stones.

Belt It!

Ever used a belt as a headpiece? There are no limits, so be creative! Here are some of Lisa’s suggestions for experimenting with different types of belts:


A gorgeous gold or silver belt can double as a statement necklace. And then there are all of the belt-as-headband possibilities. A skinny braided belt can make great boho-chic headband. A canvas belt with metal holes can also create a cool headband look, and of course a beaded tie on belt makes a fabulous retro headpiece. Don’t be afraid to repurpose your favorite accessories in unexpected ways.

Start Your Collection

There are a few key pieces that every girl should have in her collection, and if you’re just getting started, these are pieces you might want to look for first:


Statement necklace or bib


Long, layered vintage chains

Cocktail ring


Mixed, stacked bangles


Bold cuff


Stone pendant


Chandelier, linear, or drop earrings

However you choose to accessorize your outfit, a chic and fabulous look cannot be complete without the right jewelry! Here are some great places to shop at a range of price points for fashion jewelry online:

Sparkling New


Vintage Treasures


For Inspiration…

Many higher end jewelry designers have also designed for stores like Target (Erickson Beamon) and J. Crew (Lulu Frost). Here are some sites to check out for inspiration.


Try Before You Buy

If you prefer to try before you buy, check out your local vintage stores and flea markets for baubles from bygone eras. The thrill of the hunt is half the fun, and there’s nothing like the adrenaline you feel when you stumble upon a vintage gem that’s under twenty bucks.

Of course, every girl will always find space in her jewelry box for fine jewelry – Dean knows this, and when he surprises me with the real deal, it’s very special. But the fun of costume jewelry is that it’s a great way to play with your personal style without breaking the bank.

What are some of your favorite ways to style costume jewelry? Upload photos of your favorite pieces of jewelry to your profile – then share the link to your photo album and your best tips for styling costume jewels in the comments below!

+ Comment