Not all jewelry is made of precious metals and stones. In the jewelry business, there is a term called “look of real” that is used to define jewelry that looks as though it is made of precious metals and stones, but is actually made of much more common and less expensive materials. This type of jewelry is referred to as costume jewelry, and although it is much less expensive than fine jewelry, it is certainly not without value. Furthermore, costume jewelry often goes up in value when it is a few decades old.
Vintage costume jewelry can be valuable for a few reasons. First of all, if a piece was created by a noted or collectible designer, it has inherent value. The value of the piece will then increase depending on how rare it is. In order to find out how rare a piece of jewelry is, the owner should research the designer who manufactured it. She should try to find out if the piece was in stores for just one season or if it was produced and sold for some time. The owner may also find out how valuable a piece is by searching for similar items on auction sites and sites dedicated to vintage clothing and accessories.
Even if a piece of vintage costume jewelry was not produced by a famous designer, it may have value. If, for example, a piece comes back into fashion, then it will be in high demand. Many fashion-oriented people who pay close attention to trends prefer to wear vintage clothing and accessories that have come back into style rather than new productions of an old style. For example, bell-bottoms were incredibly popular in the 1960s and '70s, but they made a comeback in the 1990s. At the time, fashionistas arrived at vintage stores in droves hunting for vintage bell-bottoms.
The same has happened with costume jewelry made from Bakelite®, the first official synthetic plastic, which was a popular material used to make costume jewelry in the first half of the 20th century. Because of its unique look and its historical appeal, jewelry made from this material has become quite collectible and, therefore, it has also become valuable.
This is not to say that all vintage costume jewelry is valuable. If a piece is out of style, common, or produced by a designer without name recognition, it might be worth very little. People who own a piece of costume jewelry that falls into this category, however, may want to hold on to it. Trends can change very quickly, so even a seemingly out of style item might suddenly be in demand.