What is the difference between fashion jewelry and costume jewelry?

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Luxurious and expensive jewelry is especially appealing for most women and always has been. Jewelry plays a role in the history of clothing for humans, and it is not only a decorative item worn for personal adornment but also a symbol of personal or social status. However, not everyone can afford expensive jewelry. The term “costume jewelry” dates back to the early 20th century, and it reflects the use of the word “costume” to refer to what is now called an “outfit”.

What is Costume Jewelry?

Costume Jewelry is also called “imitated jewelry” or “fashion jewelry”. Originally, costume or fashion jewelry was made of inexpensive simulated gemstones and base metals. Examples could include rhinestones or glass jewelry, set in silver, nickel, or brass. These items looked expensive and gorgeous like real gemstones, provided wearers some kind of replication of fine jewelry, and made wearers look glamorous to complete the “costume”.

(Jewelry sets are commonly seen in costume jewelry because it’s inexpensive and makes a thoughtful gift or a glamorous accessory for your party season outfits. Item: 3W945 and 3W930)

Costume jewelry was also created to replace finer jewelry as everyday wear without fear of damage or loss. Wearers could keep their fine jewelry in good condition to be able to pass down to later generations as an heirloom.

Costume jewelry is also good for stage, theater, or anywhere the accessories needed to be seen by the audience because using real gemstones was not quite feasible.

Costume Jewelry vs. Fashion Jewelry

As mentioned before, costume jewelry is also called fashion jewelry, so fashion jewelry only differs from costume jewelry is that fashion jewelry is created mostly for following the latest trends and much less timeless.

Stainless Steel Top Grade Crystal Bracelet
925 Sterling Silver Top Grade Crystal Bracelet

(Item: TK3065 and LOS604)

Nowadays, you can find fashion jewelry at many fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara. Fashion jewelry satisfies the desires of the latest trends without having to invest in something that might go out of fashion after a few wears. For more affordable and quality costume jewelry and fashion jewelry, visit Alamode Fashion Jewelry.

Does fake jewelry make you look cheap?

Even though our company Alamode Fashion Jewelry primary sells fashion jewelry (we also carry a vast selection of 925 sterling silver and semi-precious stones — BTW), it may come as a surprise when you hear our answer. Can fashion jewelry make the wearer look cheap? Yes, yes it can. BUT so can flawless diamonds, rubies, and 24k gold. It all depends on how you wear it!

“Cheap” when talking about jewelry can mean inexpensive and economical or it can also mean tacky and tasteless. Both versions of “cheap” can be possible when talking about costume or fashion jewelry so we will tackle each category one at a time.

Cheap (inexpensive)

Well made fashion and costume jewelry will be indistinguishable from jewelry made from genuine precious metals and stones. In fact, cubic zirconias (CZ), the most common diamond simulant, only differs from real diamonds because they often had TOO much fire and sparkle. The industry has since dialed in the fire as to be indistinguishable from diamonds to the naked eye. Generally speaking, the easiest way to quickly spot a cubic zirconia is if it is too large and flawless to be found outside of a safety deposit box. The problem, though, is that cheaply and inexpensively made jewelry is common, especially at high volume fast fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara. Take these earrings from H&M for example.

These earrings look cheap because they are. They were probably stamped out of sheet metal and use a gold colored alloy instead of plating it with 18k gold and probably cost around $0.20 to produce. This type of accessory has its place but know that for probably two or three dollars more, you can buy similar earrings at retail that was cast, instead of stamped, and gold plated instead of using a gold tinted alloy.

Even more obvious than cheap base metals are cheap stones. Again, take these rings from H&M for example.

Even when photographed well, it is apparent that these rings are faceted plastic and only even remotely reflective because of the mirrored foil backing. Alternatively, take a well-made fashion ring such as this:

This ring also costs under $5 each and is made with stainless steel and cubic zirconia which are also not defined as precious materials but there would be no way to conclusively distinguish this from a platinum and diamond ring just by using the naked eye.

The key takeaway is yes, costume and fashion jewelry can look cheap but it can also look indistinguishable from the real thing. There will be a price difference between the costume jewelry you can spot from across the store isle versus ones that require a jeweler’s loupe to determine its authenticity but the price difference is often only a few dollars, not ten or twenty.

Cheap (tacky)

Tacky is usually described as ostentatious and vulgar and usually designated for jewelry that is explicitly designed to be pretentious to attract attention. Take for example this ring with a giant center stone encircled by smaller stones around the whole circumference.

If you were to see someone wearing this on the street, you would most likely assume this is fake and probably in poor taste. In fact, this particular ring is made of real diamonds and likely costs over $200k just in the raw cost of the stones alone. Even if this was made using cubic zirconias, it would likely cost $20 or $30 just to produce and would likely look indistinguishable to the naked eye compared to the original. The takeaway here is that you can use all genuine precious materials and still look tacky!