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COSTUME JEWELRY

COMING INTO FASHION

 

Long dismissed as peripheral by many in the diamond trade, fashion jewelry is getting a second look. And so it should. According to data provided by Allied Market Research, its worldwide value will be in excess of $30 billion in 2018, and it could pass the $40 billion mark by 2022.

Touted as the more affordable cousin of fine jewelry, not all fashion jewelry is inexpensive. Pieces by Miriam Haskell, for example, an American designer who created and sold affordable jewelry from the 1920s through the 1960s, today fetch thousands of dollars, with a 1950s Edwardian revival necklace being sold in 2010 for $13,000 at an auction in New York.

Joseff of Hollywood, which founded was in the late 1920s by Eugene and Joan Joseff, created a massive volume of costume jewelry through the 1960s, much of which is considered collectors’ items today.  These include the snake-motif bracelets worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the movie, Cleopatra, the necklaces that graced Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, and the gold-plated clip-on earrings with fake diamonds worn by Marilyn Monroe in the famous promotional shoot for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

 

NORTH AMERICA DOMINANT, ASIA-PACIFIC RISING

North America held the highest market share in fashion jewelry’s global market in 2017, and the region is projected to maintain its dominance, owing to rapidly growing online retail market, and increases in the prices of precious metals and diamonds, which makes it easier for fashion jewelry manufacturers to defend their market niche.

As is the case in the fine jewelry sector Asia Pacific is projected to be the fastest growing region, and this a result of rising disposable income, abundant availability of raw materials, urbanization, westernization, and growth of e-commerce websites. Emerging economies such as China and India are creating immense opportunities for the growth of the market.

Key players in the fashion jewelry sector include names such as such as Avon Product, DCK Concessions, Buckley London and Swank and BaubleBar, as well as jewelry powerhouses like Stuller. Even high-end players like Louis Vuitton and Cartier have a stake.

There is a much stronger connection between the clothing and apparel sectors and the fashion jewelry industry, in part because the fashion houses feel that they are they are better able to defend price points when they are less beholden to the sometimes extreme fluctuations in the cost of raw materials of fine jewelry, which are more common with expensive gemstones and particularly gold and platinum.

A set of earrings by the famed fashion jewelry designer, Miriam Haskell.

Elizabeth Taylor, wearing fashion jewelry by Joseff of Hollywood, in a role as Cleopatra, in the movie of the same name.

A variety of items by Lightbox Jewellery, featuring white and fancy color synthetic diamonds, produced by De Beers’ Element Six subsidiary.

LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS SHIFT THE BAR

What defines a piece as fashion jewelry is less the value of the item and more the components from which it is comprised, although the two are obviously related. Indeed, if the metal is not 18K or 24K gold and the stones not diamonds, rubies, sapphires or emeralds, chances are that it will be referred to as fashion jewelry, costume jewelry, and possible by the tongue-in-cheek term “junque” jewelry.

But recent developments are blurring the distinction, with the most significant probably being the influx of laboratory-grown diamonds into the marketplace. This was not a given, and indeed was a twist in the story that many synthetic diamond producers had intended to avoid. The goal for many of them was that their product would remain fixture of high-end jewelry, with prices pegged just a few notches below those of natural diamonds.

What changed the equation was the launch by De Beers of Lightbox Jewelry, a fashion jewelry line featuring diamonds that have been created by Element Six, the company’s synthetic producing subsidiary. Lightbox lab-grown diamonds will be sold for a fixed price, retailing  from $200 for a quarter-carat stone to $800 for a one-carat stone, and they come not only in white colors, but also pinks and blues,  in a selection of reasonably-priced earring and necklace designs.

“Our extensive research tells us this is how consumers regard lab-grown diamonds – as a fun, pretty product that shouldn’t cost that much – so we see an opportunity here that’s been missed by lab-grown diamond producers,” said De Beers’ CEO, when the product line was announced. “Lab-grown diamonds are a product of technology, and as we’ve seen with synthetic sapphires, rubies and emeralds, as the technology advances, products become more affordable.”