Gems: How to wear fakes with style

Today, fake gems in the windows, an exception. 

Situations where fakes make sense:

1. Big bad security worries. Not many women I've met live in that world, and those who do have custom copies made, hire private security (which, as Kim Kardashian knows, can fail) and develop close relationships with specialty insurers.

2. A taste for arresting, often flashy pieces that you are not even going to think of passing off as real.

Kenneth Jay Lane "aquamarine" and "peridot" necklace, a copy of one that belonged to the Duchess of Windsor; price, $700. A woman can wear this frothy number and have fun, if she is of the "What, this little thing?" style.

Whee! I enjoy the exuberance of voluptuous pieces like this. What I can't stand is fakes that take themselves seriously.

No one would mistake the KJL Duchess of Windsor copy for the sumptuous original, and a first clue is that you're not stepping out of a Bentley when wearing it. You might be by the pool in a crisp white shirt and this baby, but after your iced tea, you are probably sticking the glasses in the dishwasher yourself.

In Florida, I met a woman in a pair of iconic shell earrings; she told me they were by Seaman Schepps. I could see they were replicas. I'm not sure that she herself knew that; you'd be surprised how many women are given copies and accept them for real.

Can you tell which are the genuine pair of Seaman Schepps Turbo shell earrings and which are the KJL replicas?

Well, yeah, I thought you could! The Schepps earrings, at right, are about $US 4,120 at Betteridge; the earrings at left are $115 at Kenneth Jay Lane. Besides the clear difference in materials, the woman was not dressed in anything remotely at the level of the Schepps earrings.

Let fake be fake!

Below, three brooches that would not get the "Oh, is that real?" question, but stand on their own as alluring examples of the costume world, fake gem division.

Left: Alexis Bittar's safety pin brooch ($150 at Saks) set with small Swarovski crystals: great little drop of dazzle. You'd get a lot of wear from this; it's not too heavy to pin on a tee's neckline, or on a hat.

Top right: & Other Stories is an H&M spin-off. The ribbon brooch is €29. The riot of "pearls", "sapphire" and "diamond, tied with regimental ribbon, will pick up a navy blazer and spin it it till it giggles. 

Bottom right: Butler & Wilson vintage art-deco style dog brooch, rhinestone and enamel; price, about $45 from thecherishedweb. Who's a good boy?

Fake diamonds vs honest CZs

When I see a twentysomething in a simulated-diamond engagement ring, I cringe, not because it isn't pretty, but because she's wearing it everyday, and it won't hold up. Shown: Trilogy Petite ring with 3ct simulated diamond set in 9k white gold; from Carats London; price, $345.

Despite the sites which position them as the smart alternative to diamond, once CZ rings have some waltzes on them, they look listless as an empty ballroom. Better a simple gold or silver band, or, if she longs for a diamond, a small stone in a beautifully-designed setting.

Would I suggest that anyone buy one of these multi-carat fakes? Certainly not for regular wear, but if a woman needs a glittering accessory and does not have—or does not wish—to wear a diamond, they have a place. 

A former colleague attended her 25th university reunion and bought a ring like that to broadcast that she had made it, but she also wore the whole kit: sleek, one-shouldered red-orange silk cocktail dress, Louboutin sandals, evening bag, all borrowed. To look OK in a simulated gem, the ensemble has to be as if the jewellery were real—but even that will not ennoble garish high-polish fake gold or badly-set stones.

Hip sparkly pieces 

Once you leave the big, fake rocks aside, there is a very cool way to use cz: in a piece that is not trying to be other than what it is. But well-designed cz baubles are like Russian oligarchs living in London just now: not all that easy to locate. 

Crystal is easier to find and cheaper, but well-made cz will offer more brilliance because it can be cut with more facets, therefore giving superior dispersion of light.  

Left: Butler & WIlson cz chain necklace, (detail shown) which, worn with a simple shirt, would deliver above-the-table chic worn out to dinner, or zhuzh up your leather jacket. (Price, £98.) Because necklaces get a gentler ride than rings, this will hold up decently, and it's classic enough to enjoy for years.

Centre: Galaxy earrings: White czs set in rose-gold plated silver; diameter, 2.3cm; from Ciro; price, £395. The airy, spherical setting studded with little twinklers will animate your face.

Right: What I said about rings? I'd change my mind for this rhodium and black rhodium cz ring by Freida Rothman because it's an interesting pavé design accentuated by the contrast metal finished, and it's on sale for about $125 at Nordstrom's. 

Fake gemstones have their place, fake pearls do not, but you know I'd say that. If you want reasons, click here. And every word is still true!



LauraH said…
You have such a great eye, it's so much fun 'shopping' with you:-) Love those real seashell earrings, they are gorgeous. And the Scottie brooch is clever and fun. Thanks for the showcase, it brightened up a cold rainy day.
Jane in London said…
I so enjoyed this post - I love exuberant fakes worn in the right context. I have a pair of completely over the top fake emerald and diamond drop earrings set in silver tone metal, which I wear with a little black dress when I want to camp it up at the opera.

They also won compliments when I wore them to a dinner in a friend's dramatic candle-lit 18th century dining room (the Georgians were known to love a bit of fake paste "bling", of course!).

Gretchen said…
I always wonder about women who feel the need to buy fakes and pass them off as real, rather than buying the best they can afford. But at the same time, buying fakes and glorying in it is plain fun, so I really cannot judge anyone for their choices. I’m fond of an Etsy jeweler, Shana Adams, who makes hand-set CZs that look like Old Mine Georgian pieces. I would love to get a pair of her earrings, not TOO huge, but would never ever imagine owning the real thing. I’d be far too nervous on the subway.
royleen said…
Oooh, those seashells! Thanks for this post. I always learn something from you.
Duchesse said…
LauraH: This was a fun, and even tempting, topic to tackle.

Jane in London: Oooh, I would love to see those. But the main thing is, your friends do, and you are also doing a service to the opera-going public. Have you noticed all the women in their astoundingly boring little bar earrings? It will do them good to see yours.

Gretchen: It's the same mentality as the "replica" handbag owner, who has bought into the status of brands and thinks a fake can be passed off. I do judge them when they try to pass it off (but remain silent unless the person is •really• obnoxious. So OK, once I told a woman who was going on an on about her "Rolex" that she might want have it authenticated.

I could not find her on Etsy, but Shana Adams' work can be found at
Duchesse said…
Royleen: Thank you! The epitome of American high jewellery; when you look at their archives, you can see where many costume jewellery designers got their ideas:
Gretchen said…
Duchess, you’re surely spot on about the obnoxious ones. It’s the people who know they’re fake and say they couldn’t buy what they wanted so they blew cash on garbage I feel badly for (just like buying a dull, poorly cut real diamond all for the carat size. Why bother). The Etsy shop is ShanAdams jewelry out of Dallas-I think she’s a trained jeweler which is likely why her pieces sing.
LauraH said…
If you're still looking, found that shop on Etsy under space.

Just abut to dive into the SeamanSchepps site.
Duchesse said…
LauraH and Gretchen: Thanks! The Etsy shop features the Georgian-style pieces and Touchstone web site has a broader range, but also seems to be affiliated with her.
I love a good fake - as long as you don't try and pass it off as real. That first necklace is amazing - I can only imagine what the original must have looked like!

I have a long time friend and she once told me how disappointed she was when a woman first showed her a diamond bracelet as she said it wasn't nearly as shiny as the rhinestone ones her mom had always worn! She still loves Swzorofsky(?) Crystal jewelry!

Some of us will never be able to afford "the real thing" - but it doesn't stop me admiring the craft and the skill of those who create these wonderful pieces. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with a piece of costume jewelry that brings you joy. But yes, I've seen those women on the subway with the huge "diamond" rings - and while, at first glance they look gorgeous, it doesn't take much longer to realize that it's a fake. I just hope that they don't all think they are the real thing.
Mardel said…
Great post, and fun. I don't understand why anyone would spend money on imitation stones, or reproduction jewelry, with an aim to impress of pass something off, although I suppose if one has never seen the real thing, one might not know the difference. I'm all for fun jewelry just to have fun. The top necklace would be amazing at a summer party, and you could still relax and kick your shoes off if you wanted.
Duchesse said…
Margie from Toronto: Crystal jewellery can be marvellous, and the colours are really fun. However, it is not readily mistaken for diamond, unless the diamond is low quality. (I have seen some really junky diamonds that are less sparkly then new crystals.) They don't perform the same, though, and this will become evident over a short time. When quality crystal like Swarovski is new, it is quite brilliant, but in time it will scratch; the dust in the air will scratch it, as well as wear.

Crystal is glass. Swarovski have precision cutting and a proprietary process to coat the crystal to make those yummy colours.

Mardel: That's the appeal of well-designed and made fake gems. And I suppose the Duchess of Windsor kicked off her shoes in the real thing- imagine!
Lynn L said…
Oh my, I had never thought of looking at what a woman is wearing as a means of determining whether her jewelry is fake or not. I am sometimes that woman who wears jeans and a nice shirt with expensive "real" jewelry. I inherited some very nice pieces from several generations of women who thought buying gems was more fun than saving. Since I rarely dress up I never wore it until I decided that was silly -- why not enjoy it? I have no idea what people think....
Duchesse said…
Lynn: I had thought I was being clear, and will take another run at it. IF a person wants to present fake as real, it is much more convincing if the entire ensemble is at the "real" level. The inverse does not hold. Don't ask me why, it's like you use outdoor furniture indoors but not indoor furniture outdoors.

People will make the assumption that a woman in a Dior suit is wearing real gems unless it is so wildly, obviously fake that a six year old can tell it's "pretend".

As for whether your heirlooms are read as genuine stones or not when you wear them in jeans and a nice shirt depends on the beholder and his or her experience with jewellery, and the environment you are in. This evening, a friend told me about a woman friend of his, who wears big diamond pendant earrings with jeans, when she travels. He said, "You are going to places where you could be murdered for those earrings" and she replied, "No one thinks they are real."

Lynn L said…
I guess I had never really thought about people trying to present fake as real. I have jewelry that spans the spectrum from nice diamonds and sapphires to semi-precious stones since the grandmothers collected the "precious" stuff and my mother made jewelry using semiprecious gems. I realize now that I am very lucky to be in this position.
Mardel said…
Oh, in case I wasn't clear, I completely get the appeal of fake gems. I just don't get trying to pass them off as real.
Susan said…
I really enjoyed this post!! I have a favorite pair of "special occasion" earrings that are fake--from Ben Amun. i just love them. My husband has offered to have them made for me with real diamonds. I have declined as I wear them infrequently and would worry about them. The "diamonds" are small and I think the style of the earrings is so pretty. I don't care if anyone things they are real OR fake. I just like them.

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