This category encompasses businesses primarily engaged in manufacturing costume jewelry, costume novelties, and ornaments made of all materials, except precious metal, precious or semiprecious stones, and rolled gold paste and gold-filled materials. The products manufactured within this category include such items as necklaces, rings, artificial pearls, compacts, cuff links, and rosaries. Businesses primarily engaged in manufacturing jewelry of precious and semiprecious material are classified in SIC 3911: Jewelry, Precious Metal; those manufacturing leather compacts and vanity cases are classified in SIC 3172: Personal Leather Goods, Except Women's Handbags and Purses; and those manufacturing synthetic stones for gem stone and industrial use are classified in SIC 3299: Nonmetallic Mineral Products, Not Elsewhere Classified.
339914 (Costume Jewelry and Novelty Manufacturing)
There were slightly more than 900 firms actively manufacturing costume jewelry in the United States in the late 1990s. Many of the older companies were still based in Rhode Island (which hosts more than 270 of the firms in this industry). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, total product shipments for 2000 were valued $1.3 billion. This was down from the combined value of all goods produced by these companies in 1996, which totaled $1.6 billion. Only about 8 percent of the industry's total production was exported to other countries, including Canada, Japan, and Korea, the top three importers of American-made costume jewelry. Some of the firms were only involved in the manufacture of pieces using purchased components. The items were then sold to costume jewelry retailers, especially department stores. Other firms, however, both fabricate and market their own product lines.
The government was beginning to play an increasingly significant role in the industry in the late 1990s. Costume jewelry manufacturers found it necessary to upgrade facilities in order to comply with environmental legislation. While such measures meant increased costs, the industry remained healthy and was expected to benefit from free trade arrangements that recently were signed by the government.
American costume jewelry companies manufacture products in various ways, primarily using base metals like tin and lead to fashion such findings as clasps and pin-backs—the basic components of a finished piece. One manufacturing process used is stamping, a labor-intensive method that produces a finer, more polished piece of metal. The more typical method in the shaping of metal for costume jewelry, however, is casting, which involves pouring molten metal into a mold. This process lends itself more readily to mass production of the jewelry. Manufacturers also utilize relatively recent methods of centrifugal casting and injection molding of plastic. The findings produced from these processes are then used to fabricate finished pieces or are sold to individual costume jewelry houses. Another integral function is electroplating, the electrolytic process of coating base metals with a small amount of a precious metal to give the jewelry its gold or silver appearance.
Most large costume jewelry companies sell their wares through department stores, an innovative marketing strategy that evolved during the 1950s. Earrings are one of the biggest sellers, followed in volume by necklaces and pins. One-third of all costume jewelry purchased in the United States is purchased as a gift—Christmas, Mother's Day, and Valentine's Day are the peak selling seasons. Two-thirds are purchased for individual use. Costume jewelry also is a popular product on home-shopping networks found on cable channels both in the United States and, increasingly, abroad.
The industry is centered in the city of Providence, Rhode Island, which originally attracted fine jewelry artisans in the eighteenth century. A craftsperson by the name of Nehemiah Dodge introduced gold-plating technology to the area in the late 1700s. The costume jewelry industry benefited from the nineteenth century's great advances in industrial technology, including the development of new machinery that allowed inexpensive jewelry to be mass-produced; by 1900, these items had found a significant domestic market. Portuguese immigrants skilled in the necessary handiwork accounted for a large part of the labor pool and proved influential in the rise of Rhode Island as a base for costume jewelry manufacturers.
The term "costume jewelry" was first used in a 1933 article in the New Yorker. The development of the modern industry was directly influenced by such European fashion designers as Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. These designers commissioned original pieces that clearly were not real, and the sole purpose of which was to complement the sartorial ensemble. Many of the early examples of costume jewelry were larger-than-life imitations of fine jewelry, but the burgeoning industry soon spawned innovative artisans who experimented with a variety of shapes, materials, and color palettes. Designers of costume jewelry then, as now, were often allowed by the disposable nature of the product to experiment wildly and inject a good dose of imagination into their work, an attitude not often encouraged within the realm of more traditional fine jewelry.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, costume jewelry manufacturers primarily used cut-glass stones, imitation pearls, and enamel. Costume jewelry became overwhelmingly popular during the social upheavals of the 1920s, and the materials of choice for fashionable flappers were the glass materials of jet and crystal. The Great Depression that choked the American economy during the 1930s brought many new customers to the costume jewelry market, as those who lost fortunes could no longer afford fine jewelry. White metal became the most common material in inexpensive metal jewelry, but World War II restrictions on the use of metals was manifested in the proliferation of gold- and silver-plated pieces. In addition, the war caused American manufacturers to be cut off from their Czechoslovakian and Japanese suppliers of cut glass and pearls.
The popularity of ornate gilt pieces and the continued use of crystal, jet, and inexpensive stones grew during the 1950s. An important court decision at that time was instrumental in solidifying the respectability of the creators and manufacturers of costume jewelry. When First Lady Mamie Eisenhower wore Trifari pieces to both presidential inaugural balls in 1952 and 1956, the much-publicized act spawned legions of copycat pieces. Trifari successfully filed suit to protect the copyright of their designs.
Innovative uses of materials and forms were the hallmark of costume jewelry styles in the 1960s. After the profitable synthetics industry burgeoned in the aftermath of World War II, molded plastics such as Perspex became commonplace as a material for inexpensive jewelry that could be easily transformed into daring shapes and colors complementing the outrageous fashions of the decade. In 1971, the U.S. gold market was deregulated, which set off waves of sizable price increases over the next decade that raised the cost of fine jewelry. This had a beneficial effect upon costume jewelry manufacturers, as more consumers turned to higher-end costume pieces from upscale designers, including Kenneth Jay Lane and Robert Lee Morris, rather than purchasing the genuine article from fine jewelers. Sterling silver also became a popular material during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Even the British punk movement of the late 1970s exerted its influence on costume jewelry trends of the 1980s, as the "creative salvage" look, utilizing leather and rubber, became popular. The legions of women that began entering the work force in the 1970s also were influential in the development of costume jewelry styles. The working woman's choice of clothing often was restricted to conservative styles that fit into a business environment, and thus costume jewelry became a way of personalizing a wardrobe. In the 1990s, an interest in multiculturalism was evident in the use of motifs and materials inspired by indigenous cultures and natural elements, a prime example of which was the popularity of faux-ivory materials. By the mid-1990s, one of the most popular new looks in costume jewelry was the cubic zirconia, a simulated diamond. It can be made transparent to resemble a diamond, or colored to simulate precious stones, and is used primarily in rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.
The value of industry shipments fluctuated throughout the late 1990s, increasing from $1.28 billion in 1997 to $1.31 billion in 1998 and then falling to $1.21 billion in 1999. Shipments bounced back to $1.31 billion in 2000. Manufacturers spent a total of $471 million on materials in 2000, compared to $555 million in 1998. Industry employment also fluctuated during the late 1990s, although it ultimately increased from 14,720 in 1997 to 15,096 in 2000.
Legislation regarding environmental issues had an adverse effect on the industry. Clean air and water laws enacted in the 1990s presented challenges to manufacturers, particularly those firms involved in electroplating, causing the cost of the process to increase significantly. Generally, such establishments were required to have wastewater treatment facilities that removed harmful chemicals and metals from discharge water, and some manufacturers also were required to install air scrubbers to clean exhaust.
The top company involved in the costume jewelry industry in 1995 in the United States was Illinois-based Artra Group, a publicly held conglomerate founded in 1933. Artra held many subsidiaries, including the numbertwo firm, Lori Corp. Lori Corp.'s 1995 sales totaled approximately $160 million. Third in line was the Napa Co., with origins dating back to 1875, making it the oldest costume jewelry manufacturer in the United States. Its 1995 sales totaled approximately $70 million. The New York City-based firm of Trifari Krussman and Fischel Inc. was fourth in production and sales, with origins that date back to the early 1920s and sales totaling around $63 million. Industry leaders in the Rhode Island area included Victoria Creations Inc. ($43 million), Swarovski Jewelry U.S. Ltd. ($50 million), and Monet Jewelers ($7 million).
Employment figures for the costume jewelry industry rose from a five-year low of 166,000 by the close of 1992 to 180,000 by 1995. The boon in costume jewelry, however, soon waned and, by 1996, the industry employed 166,000 workers. Employment was expected to remain flat into the new millennium. Hourly wages for production workers in the field also remained relatively flat. On a more positive note, the increase in public awareness of such repetitive-injury afflictions as carpal tunnel syndrome resulted in improved working conditions for costume jewelry industry employees.
In 2000, this industry employed 15,096 people, of whom 9,514 worked in production. They earned an average hourly wage $9.94.
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