Right now costume jewelry is the hottest thing since apple pie. It’s the affordable (and sometimes, even equally as pricy) alternative to estate jewelry that seemingly only comes in thirty or so classic designs. Costume jewelry can be worn in all types of situations, at all types of functions, and by all types of women, as long as you’re smart about what you pair it with. Whether you prefer to keep it safe with a pair of zirconium flourette earrings by Ben-Amun or you’re a bit more wild at heart and have a desire to decorate your décolleté with a rainbow colored Swarovski Dannijo necklace, there’s literally a finery for every femme. Together I have compiled a list of this season’s (and invariably, next season and the season after that) top twenty costume jewelers. Enjoy a little bio about each designer while you contemplate your next powerfully pretty purchase that won’t feel like paying penance. Be bold – be brave – be beautiful – bling it on!
The Snyder sisters grew up in sunny Florida, where they used their cardiologist father’s medical tools to teach themselves how to make jewelry while in middle school. Once the two reunited in New York after their college years, they went back to their childhood hobby and created a capsule jewelry collection for Danielle’s non-profit L.W.A.L.A. (Live With A Lifelong Ambition), which fundraised for grass-roots initiatives in Africa. Seemingly overnight, the two built their jewelry passion into a mega-successful brand. Since its inception, DANNIJO has advocated creating sustainable economic opportunity for women in underdeveloped areas of the world. All DANNIJO.com packaging is handmade in Rwanda as part of their women’s empowerment initiative.
Shourouk established her eponymous company in 2007. As a true Parisian, Shourouk graduated from the Studio Bercot before honing her technique at prestigious fashion houses such as Chloé and Roberto Cavalli. With her unique signature style, her designs have become unmistakable in the fashion industry. Her designs are sold in some of the worlds leading retail boutiques. Swarovski crystals are the main component of her designs. Every season, she explores new techniques and materials to make what are to become statement pieces. One fine example is fashionable bibs made of hand stitched crystals from climbing ropes. She shakes up the code of classical joiaellerie by using hand painted neon stones into intricate embroideries. Through the usage of her own technique of coloration, she designs everything from flashy pop-colored tones to nude pastels to warm autumnal jumbles. Shourouk is currently in the process of finalizing her second collaboration with website Net-A-Porter.
3. Erickson Beamon
Founded and designed by Detroit natives Karen & Eric Erickson, Erickson Beamon was born out of the same spontaneous spirit that carries the brand forward today. Working with a local designer on their premiere runway show in the early ’80s, Karen Erickson knew that jewelry was necessary. But little did she know that by merely stringing crystals and beads onto suede, she was launching a company that would soon be featured in Vogue, and credited with creating the chandelier earring. Erickson Beamon opened a European division in 1985, and the opening of a flagship boutique in London’s Belgravia soon followed. Erickson Beamon is now sold in over 600 stores in 75 nations worldwide.
Though the collection has grown exponentially in the past 30 years, the same handcrafted aesthetic is still Erickson Beamon’s trademark. Walk into their design studios in Manhattan’s West Chelsea and visitors will find artisans sitting before trays laden with crystals and semi-precious stones, meticulously assembling each piece by hand. Heritage and handcraftsmanship are the Erickson Beamon hallmarks. Karen and Eric work alongside their two daughters, Mandie and Monique. Plans for the next generation: a global luxury brand that will encompass handbags, shoes, and a retail world. In 2010, Erickson Beamon will debut ‘House Jewels’, a collection of frames, mirrors, candelabra, jewelry boxes, pillows and more, to bring the iconic look home.
4. Lulu Frost
Lulu Frost is a jewelry brand founded in New York City in 2004 by designer Lisa Salzer. The Frost family, led by Lisa’s material grandmother Elizabeth Rock Frost, has been involved in the estate jewelry business for generations. Lisa’s work blends antique, vintage, and modern elements to reinvent timeless classics.
Few designers can list the struggling metropolis that is Detroit among their muses. Vicki Sarge is one of them. “You can take the girl out of Detroit, but you can’t take Detroit out of the girl!” quipped the jewelry designer, a Motown native. While you may not know her name, you’ve most certainly seen the over-the-top, often dark-tinged baubles Sarge designed during her nearly 40-year tenure at celebrated bijoux brand Erickson Beamon. Together with her co-founders, Karen and Erik Erickson and Eric Beamon, Sarge adorned countless celebrities (Madonna, Beyoncé, Kate Moss, and Lady Gaga among them), collaborated with a bevy of designers (like John Galliano and Dries Van Noten), and transformed “costume jewelry” from a dirty secret to a coveted accoutrement. The resulting collection of costume jewelry is an intriguing fusion of the designer’s tongue-in-cheek approach to opulence, and her memories of the Motor City. “In the sixties and seventies, Detroit was a really great rock ‘n’ roll place,” Sarge recalled. She credits Iggy and the Stooges—who used to play at her high school dances—with making it as such.
ISHARYA was launched as a passion project in 2004 when sisters-in-law Gauri and Radhika Tandon noticed a lack of high quality, Indian inspired fashion jewelry. They set about creating a jewelry assortment consisting of embellished wood and resin jewelry, chandelier earrings, intricate cuffs, and bold cocktail rings to address this void, and named the line ISHARYA after their kids – ARmaan, IShaan and ArYA. Their unique products quickly drew the attention of editors, stylists, celebrities, and retailers who wanted to purchase their jewelry. In 2007, to cater to the demand, they decided to dedicate themselves full time to turn their passion project into a global fashion jewelry brand, while raising their children.
7. Alexis Bittar
Alexis Bittar has been described as “One Of The Greatest Jewelry Designers Of The 21st Century”, Alexis Bittar went from hawking his wares on the streets of New York, to selling his eponymous jewelry collections in more than 34 countries around the globe. Designer collaborations include Nicola Formichetti for Thierry Mugler, of which Bittar created an exclusive futuristic earring for Mugler’s Paris Fall 2013 runway show. Collaboration with 3.1 Phillip Lim saw Bittar and Lim partnering in designing a Gold chandelier earring for Lim’s New York Fall 2013 Runway Show. In 2008, Bittar opened his second store in New York city, which was followed by the opening of his first store in 2004. Bittar counts his first major clients as Harrods in London and Isetan in Japan.
Isaac Manevitz, designer and founder of luxury jewelry brand Ben-Amun (pronounced ben-AH-moon) established himself as an innovator in the fashion industry more than 30 years ago. With his exquisite line of hand-crafted one-of-a-kind jewellery, he has long been celebrated for staying ahead of the trend.
As a pioneer of the statement-making jewelry movement in the early 1980s, Manevitz brings his love of art to his collections by working with fine, unusual materials such as lucite, pewter, glass and crystal to create unique, innovative and inspirational designs. Ben-Amun jewelry can be characterized as “wearable art” – bold, interesting and statement-making. All pieces are handcrafted in Ben-Amun’s factory in New York’s iconic fashion district.
9. Eddie Borgo
Eddie Borgo began his exploration of adornment at university, establishing his pioneering point of view at that time. A fascination with discovering the symbolism in jewelry evolved from a stage of experimentation, when he began making jewelry as one-off pieces. After being introduced to a select number of stylists and editors, he was commissioned to create jewelry from the runways of Marchesa, Joseph Altuzarra, and Proenza Schouler. He formally launched his collection with Spring/Summer 2009. Eddie Borgo’s design philosophy comes from an attraction to the timelessness in modern sculpture and shape, and an obsession with capturing the spirit of this in his work. As each collection evolves, so does his ability to redefine our ideas of modernity in jewelry, sculpture, and object. In 2010 Eddie Borgo was awarded runner up in the CFDA/Vogue fashion fund as was a co-recipient of the first ever CFDA/Vogue fashion fund Tiffany & Co. development grant.
10. Pamela Love
Native New Yorker Pamela Love began making jewelry in her Brooklyn apartment in 2006. Since then, she has created a full production facility and design studio in Manhattan’s garment district.
The line is committed to sustainability and localized production. All gemstones and semiprecious stones are ethically sourced and almost all metal used is recycled. The entire jewelry-making process, from design to sampling to full-scale production, is completed domestically with the majority of it done in-house at Pamela Love’s Manhattan studio.
11. Tom Binns
“Do the unpredictable”. You’d have trouble finding anyone else in the fashion industry who quotes Apache legend Geronimo, but that’s fair enough, because there isn’t anyone else in the fashion industry quite like Tom Binns. If jewellery design is, by its nature, a solitary craft that requires patient, fiddly focus and an eye for the smallest detail, Binns comes across as a Rabelaisian figure whose hunger for life would surely steer him to sweeping gestures, much bigger pictures.
And yet, check the list of creative renegades who’ve been his inspiration: Duchamp, Genet, Neruda, Beckett, all of them working on an intimate scale, carefully dissecting aesthetic orthodoxy. “Scale is immaterial,” as Binns so rightly insists. “The world is a small place.” And that is a partial explanation for how and why he has, for at least the last three decades, been re-writing the book on jewellery design, ever since he made fluorescent rubber bits and pieces to go with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s Punkature collection in 1983.
That association brought Binns overnight success, which eventually led to Princess Diana as a client. More recently, it’s been Michelle Obama’s turn to sample the Binns magic.
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12. EK Thongprasert
The essence of EK Thongprasert of Antwerp’s design philosophy is a strong approach toward the conceptual aspect; each collection is a complex combination of thoughts and design elements which come from deep analysis into a concept. As a result is a collection with pure uniqueness and originality. Each silhouette in the collection is totally individual from any other. Each silhouette also tells a different message through detail, color, shape, and cutting, which come together to complete a whole story. The brand was found in collaboration between fashion designer EK Thongprasert and jewelry designer Noon Passama. The two meet upon meeting at one of the most prestigious colleges in Thailand. With a degree in architecture, Thongprasert moved on to the prestigious Royal college of Art in Antwerp where he still works today.
13. Joomi Lim
After a fortuitous colliding of worlds, Joomi Lim, a free-spirited and self-taught adventuress from Seoul and Xavier Ricolfi, an industrial designer from Paris, hit it off right off the bat. Sharing a love for design, they decided to join forces in 2009 to launch the first collection of their high fashion-jewelry line, Joomi Lim.
No stranger to the business, Joomi arrived at jewelry by way of her previous careers as a make-up artist and owner of globally recognized brand, Joomi Joolz. Meanwhile, Xavier had been working on cutting-edge projects for French enterprises like S.T. Dupont, E.D.F., Valois and Grey Advertising. His career took a sharp turn when he met Joomi and together they discovered a new calling.
Together, the team’s unique design sensibilities converge to create a line of trail blazing jewelry that defies convention. Joomi’s eye for style and lively spirit injects femininity and playfulness into the designs like intricate crystal motifs and unexpected pops of color. Xavier’s background as an industrial designer informs his approach to design, adding unorthodox materials, finishes and innovative technologies as an essential and distinct aspect of their jewelry. The result is a line of fresh designs featuring sleek spikes, pyramids, spheres and titanium coatings. Chic pearls, crystals and effervescent colors round things out to create the perfect balance. Their jewels are hard yet soft, sweet but tough, punk yet glam– the perfect juxtaposition of styles for those who want to stay ahead of the curve.
14. Juliet & Company
Juliet & Company effortlessly mixes what is “now” and “chic” with classic vintage. They pride themselves on continuously finding innovative ways to design accessible jewelry, while enhancing the overall joy of the fashion experience. The brand represents the perfect Buy Now Wear Now jewelry ethos. Juliet & Company has been featured in magazines including but not limited to Glamour and InStyle.
15. Adia Kibur
Founder and Creative Director, Nadia Lee, could not be further from the world of fashion when she was an aspiring diplomat traveling in the Far East. Having attained her degree in International Relations, Nadia was exploring the globe and visiting a metal works factory when she came across a little girl, playing with make-shifts bracelets from tiny metal springs. As Nadia watched, she felt an immediate connection; she too loved to make pretty things for herself when she was young.
It was then Nadia realized what really inspired her, was the search for such connections. Seeing accessories as a way to bring people together, she launched Adia Kibur by the age of twenty-one to renew her creative passion. The company’s initial collection was met with immediate success; a line of metal-spring inspired jewelry, with its materials and approach so unique, the designs soon captured the attention of major buyers, cementing the brand as one of the most trend forward companies on the marketplace.
Today, Adia Kibur’s collection of contemporary jewelry can be found in over 3,000 quality boutiques, chain and department stores across the globe. Beyond the scope of design, the studio provides consultations on trend and brand directions, for clients looking to make sense of fashion, one unique look at a time.
Designed by twin sisters Nadia and Saadia Zaafar, Zaafar embodies the combination of high-end fashion with traditional South Asian embroidery and beading techniques to create a new and exciting fashion jewelry genre. All Zaafar jewelry pieces and accessories are sourced and crafted by hand in India. The duo works feverishly to pursue the perfect balance of fashion and wearable art, all while doing so in their Manhattan apartments.
Nocturne is a contemporary jewellery and ready-to-wear womenswear label based in London. Each season, they blend their unique aesthetic with refreshing perspectives to create highly individual clothing and jewellery with a playful, feminine spirit.
Their Autumn/Winter 2013 collection marks a new chapter in the story of their label – an evolution driven by their desire to embrace the possibilities of creativity and craft. Expressing their commitment to craft and detail, each piece of jewellery and clothing embellishment is handmade by their team of skilled artisans in Nanzha.
Launched in 2004 by Claudine Bertinotti Lenoble, Nocturne is led by a small team of London designers with prior experience at Paul Smith, Chloé and Loewe. Inspired by the spirit of Orientalism, Nocturne has established a reputation for effortless chic and exquisite craftsmanship – a reputation that continues to grow and evolve with each collection.
18. Vanessa Arizaga
Venessa Arizaga’s love of jewelry grew from her passion for travel. Splitting her time between New York City and her father’s birthplace, the island of Puerto Rico, the contemporary jewelry designer draws inspiration from the duality of these cultures. While both locations are very different, Venessa loves the energy created in both settings; one bustling urban metropolis is balanced by the vitality of the ocean combined with the mellow comfort of the beach. With this lifestyle in mind, Vanessa Arizaga has a distinct lens with which to steer her jewelry design.
After graduating from Parsons in 2003, Venessa began her career as a designer at Tuleh. In 2006 Venessa then achieved a longtime goal when she started as Designer under her design idol, Carolina Herrera, she then eventually landed at Zac Posen, taking the lead as his Design Director. With this amazing experience, Venessa not only gained valuable exposure in design, merchandizing, and styling, but she also had the privilege of dressing some of the world’s most accomplished women in the entertainment industry. That said she still dreamed of exploring her own aesthetic, under her own name and vision, and she finally felt armed to do so.
Venessa creates bespoke pieces for the woman with a chic, yet playful sense of style. Capturing the unique duality of her jet setting lifestyle, Venessa’s collection has a modern urban aesthetic with an exotic island twist, offering versatile designs that complete any look.
19. Jenny Packham
One of the UK’s most successful and independent fashion brands of recognition, Jenny Packham, the design house of choice for evening and bridal wear, has since launched a their eponymous jewelry line. Launched in 1988, Packham’s distinctive style and fine-tuned eye has led her to see the growth of her ready-to-wear, couture, and accessory lines. Packham has flagship stores in London, Paris and Milan and her collections are available at some of the world’s most discerning stores such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Bergdorf Goodman to name a few. At the established age of 49, Packham’s pieces have graced the likes of nearly every celebrity in modern culture.
The house of Lanvin enjoys the duality of being both a contemporary women’s clothing line as well as a full-out jewelry line. Founded in 1889 by Jeanne Lanvin, the House of Lanvin is now run by Alber Elbaz who arrived in 2001. With an insatiable curiosity and a vision of beauty fuelled by the imaginary, Alber Elbaz knows exactly how to keep the Lanvin spirit alive. A strong link developed between the house and the designer and thanks to this complicity, a beautiful fashion story has been written. Of the House Elbaz says, “My work with Lanvin is based on an evolution, not a revolution. I like the idea of perpetuating Lanvin’s lifespan. Creating an identity which is familiar and sustainable; it is unmistakably Lanvin, and Lanvin forever after.” Lanvin’s designs are decidedly poetic, feminine at heart, and on the cutting edge of whats new in the Parisian market.