Food for Thought about the Costume Jewelry Industry in America

Can you guess where the world’s biggest costume jewelry manufacturing centers are? I bet you would never think… is in the smallest state of the United States…..Providence, Rhode Island. Way over half of all costume jewelry is produced in Rhode Island. The jewelry industry refers to costume jewelry as being “fashion jewelry.” Within the category of fashion jewelry there are inexpensive to medium priced adornments for men, women and children.

If you were dreaming of working in a fashion jewelry manufacturing company, Rhode Island is the place to go. They have around 900 jewelry firms providing employment for lots and lots of people. I think that would be a fun job! I might just pack up and head out to Rhode Island and see what kind of jobs I can find in the fashion jewelry firms.

While working every day, a person would come in contact with thousands upon thousands of earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pins, pendants, rings, chains, and so on. Jewelry is definitely the largest manufacturing segment in Rhode Island. Just think of how many pounds of costume jewelry is shipped out of Rhode Island every week. It has to be tons and tons and a huge money making industry for Rhode Island.

Rhode Island’s costume jewelry manufacturing has been a success for at least 100 years and more. One famous man in our history to develop a process of plating base metal with gold in 1794 was “Nehemlah Dodge.” He made the discovery from his small Providence, Rhode Island shop. He obviously was a pioneer in the costume jewelry manufacturing sector. Of course after one man’s success comes more success and other companies soon popped up around Nehemlah Dodge’s factory using his same techniques.

There are costume jewelry producers in Massachusetts towns; however, nearly all of them are within 30 minutes to Providence, Rhode Island. Some of the more well-known companies are Monet and Bulova. Most of Rhode Island’s jewelry factories are small, as one might guess, due to the state being so small probably and they are family owned having usually not more than 100 employees in each firm. The Spiegel company is also in Rhode Island.

New York, New Jersey, California and Florida are some of the biggest producers of the more expensive jewelry made from precious metals and stones like diamonds and rubies…..Costume jewelry sells almost as much as the more expensive jewelry. Costume jewelry is definitely a booming industry and has been for over 20 years now. However, the U.S. is not the ones who enjoys the most benefits from costume jewelry manufacturing. As with many other products, foreign imports have prospered greatly.

It is no longer the case that costume jewelry is seen as stuff to throw away or eventually stored away in old shoe boxes. People everywhere are digging out the old costume jewelry and putting together new novelty designs using base metals, paste, jewelry glue, rhinestones, coated glass beads as well as adding these things to handbags, shoes, and clothes of all kinds. I am seeing lots of t-shirt like material tops for women almost covered in rhinestones, like on a V-neck and around the V-neck area there will be lines and lines of sparkling rhinestones.

I think it is a little hilarious how costume jewelry, once referred to as “junk jewelry” and my favorite kind, ha, ha, has gone from junk to full blown fashion stories everywhere. Everywhere you look there is some kind of story about fashion jewelry. We don’t hear too much about rubies and diamonds anymore and anyone like Marilyn Monroe singing “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Now it is, “rhinestones are a girl’s best friend,” and handmade dangle earrings too. There is just something addictive about beads. Just empty out a little bag of sparkling beads onto your jewelry mat and see how beautiful they really are and even more beautiful set into jewelry pieces. And I am reminded now of how the flea markets are probably flooded over with stands of handmade costume jewelry. I will have to visit some flea markets and set up a booth as well.

And if you read much at all about jewelry, you will see some of these pieces of costume jewelry are selling for as much as over $1,000 for a pair of earrings. I suppose though these prices would be more of a rarity, yet, I do believe a lot of our handmade jewelry is going to keep going in value regardless of where it is. Fake pearls set into different types of pins and earrings are selling for as much as $300 per pair in some areas. Don’t neglect the little owl charms and butterfly charms on handmade jewelry pieces you see, they might someday be worth a fortune to somebody…..

Some food for thought about the costume jewelry industry……

Written by: Connie Limon





Materials used:

2 antique copper 11×15 mm leverback earring hooks

2 antique copper 2″ Ball Pins

2 antique copper 1.5x4mm Rondelle Metal Beads

2 antique copper 8 mm Bicone Metal Beads

2 lime 6 x 12 mm Flower beads

Carmilita Earrings


Author: connielimon2014

Bead Jewelry Artisan, mother of one daughter and grandmother of two grandsons, daughter of Korean War Veteran.

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