It has always bothered me when women refer to their costume or high fashion jewellery pieces as “junk”…writes Sujata Assomull
Style icon Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s three-strand faux pearl necklace purchased for around US $500 dollars was sold for over US $200,000 by Sotheby’s at an auction. While much of its perceived value came from provenance- the woman who wore it; women of style and substance such as Diane Vreeland, Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel knew that costume jewellery is far from junk, it’s a style statement. Investing in a beautifully made fashion accessory is like buying a good handbag – it can last you a lifetime.
Even though I am the proud granddaughter of a Mumbai based fine jeweller, I have always mixed my fine pieces with fashion jewellery, it just looks more effortless. At my own wedding, my diamond bangles were combined with metal bangles.
So when “India-Proud” fashion jewellery brands, Isharaya asked me to moderate a webinar with art historian, author and jewellery expert, Dr Usha Balakrishnan, one of my first questions to her was about India’s cultural heritage with costume jewellery. I wanted to know why so many Indian women refer to costume jewellery as junk’.
“If you go back in history, jewellery in ancient times was in fact made from items we may refer to as junk such as steel, beads and feather,” she said. It seems junk and not precious materials was the basis for jewellery, perhaps this explains where the term “junk jewellery stems from. Dr Usha added, “Costume is precious, Junk is important.”
That is so true, yes of course fine jewellery is an investment buy-and why it was given to women at marriage times was for its economic value; it was their safety net. But in contemporary dressing, jewellery is about more than just cost, it is also about how it makes you feel. I still own the first Chanel faux pearl strand bought with money saved up from a part-time job. My first boyfriend bought me a pair of Butler & Wilson faux pearl button earrings-something I kept for years and wore with as much pride as my diamond solitaires.
There is more to jewellery than adornment, status and cost-it really is about your connection to the piece, the story it tells and its craftsmanship. I have always found it very pretentious when a woman declares, “I am allergic to fake jewellery”. Of course, many people are allergic to certain metals and it is best for them to avoid fashion jewellery. By the way, if you have a nickel allergy then even keys will give you a reaction (And how come no ever says I am allergic to keys?).
Good quality costume jewellery should be made in brass, and then it will last a lifetime. Isharya uses hypoallergenic nickel-free brass which is then plated with high micron gold. Steel is another great option (a material handcrafted jewellery brand En Inde uses often), for silver, there are so many options in India (Tribe by Amrapali is my go) and Deepa Gurnani uses handcrafted textile techniques for their pieces. So there are many options for those who do have allergies.
And honestly, there is nothing like a piece of beautiful bling to add a touch of glamour into your life. Something we all need now-so even if it’s not made of precious materials let us never call our jewellery pieces “junk”.