The 20th century ushered in the golden era of costume jewelry thanks to a rising middle class with upper-class sensibilities. Seemingly every middle class woman donned the affordable statement pieces, often replicas of beautiful and admired authentic heirlooms. Produced worldwide and sold predominantly in the United States, the jewelry featured low-cost materials, including base metals, glass, and plastic, intended to be fashionable for a short period of time.
Now, they have returned to the fashion scene as highly valuable, sought-after vintage accessories and collectibles. The genre is so vast that we’ve decided to breakdown and expand our coverage of costume jewelry into a special on-going series, starting with these remarkable red glass vintage necklaces.
Coco Chanel, the queen of costume jewelry, covered a wide range of styles using inventive techniques over the years. Some of her most noteworthy pieces were made of molten glass that had been poured into a jewelry frame to create the stone, giving it a polished sea glass look. This exquisite necklace, commissioned in 1981 to Maison Gripoix (a family that worked with Chanel in the 1920s), is a prime example of this procedure. The 3/4-inch-wide glass stones in red—one of Chanel’s favorite colors—dot a versatile 65-inch chain. Available at
This distinctive 1920s necklace, signed Czechoslovakia, is made of stunning Bohemian marbled red glass. Despite its great condition, the true charm of the necklace lies in its impurities: If you look closely, you can see soft fingerprints on the beads where they were hand-molded while the glass was cooling. The chain and components, which were originally silver gilded, have turned to brass over time. The tassel necklace measures 18.5 inches and the center glass piece is about an inch in diameter. Available at Judy’s Gems.
Three strings of vibrant red glass beads and oblong rhinestone rings make this Art Deco necklace a bold vintage fashion statement reminiscent of the “Gatsby Era,” circa 1920s. This fiery piece features a slight wear to the silver that’s typical for pieces of this age; still there’s nothing about this necklace that doesn’t pop. It’s signed Japan and boasts a detailed design characteristic of the country’s signature costume jewelry pieces. Available at Vintage Jewelry by Teresa.
[Photography courtesy of Douglas Rosin Decorative Arts and Antiques (above), Judy’s Gems (center) and Vintage Jewelry by Teresa (left)]