Rihanna loves it. So does Gwyneth Paltrow. Why fake jewelry unites us ó and how to wear it well

June 11, 2018


Kenneth Jay Lane's rhinestone and gilt metal leaf necklace.

Fake is big, but you know that by now.

Fake news, fake Facebook accounts, fake product reviews, fake love, fake hair, fake body parts Ö

Fake has built its own little universe out there. So it makes sense that Kenneth Jay Lane is hotter than ever.

Lane, a jewelry designer whose flamboyant pieces have graced the arms, necks and earlobes of famously stylish women from Jackie Kennedy to Rihanna and Gwyneth Paltrow (or from Barbara Bush to Beyonce, if you want to get real) died last year at age 85. He was unabashedly fake to the not-so-bitter end.

The most beloved costume jewelry designer in the world of fashion, Lane, a Rhode Island School of Design-trained designer, imagined his pieces with an artistís eye, a flair for color and an unapologetic love of flashy, faux stones. The bigger, the better.

"He was emphatic about the fact that he was never using anything that was a real stone," says Victoria Tudor, a decorative arts specialist at the auction house Christieís. "It was all fake. It was all supposed to be."

Next week in New York, Christieís will auction Laneís estate, including the contents of his grand Park Avenue apartment and pieces from his jewelry archive, and on Wednesday, the auction house held a preview of select pieces of jewelry at Chicagoís Space 519, a fashion and lifestyle boutique with a growing following. At the preview, potential buyers ogled elaborate waterfall necklaces and fingered gem-encrusted earrings displayed at armís reach. They were jaw-dropping, sure, but meant to be worn, not squirreled away behind glass.

Laneís creations, which are estimated to sell for prices ranging from the low hundreds to around $1,500, will likely fetch lower prices than the paintings, furniture and objects he collected. Which he probably wouldnít mind. "His pieces are definitely worn by famous women," says Tudor, "but they were also for any woman to wear."

Fake news? Divisive. Fake jewelry? Democratic ó in the best sense. Long before Target mass-marketed style, Lane was making accessibility the bedrock of his jewelry line. He was so fake, he was real. Todayís statement jewelry trend follows a straight line back to Lane, who credited himself with making costume jewelry into bold, unabashed objects of high style. "Costume jewelry is getting bolder and bigger," says Jim Wetzel, co-owner of Space 519 with partner Lance Lawson. "Weíre in this moment where women want to be different. And with costume jewelry, original can be attainable."

Wetzel styles statement jewelry with simple, modern clothes or even with a T-shirt and cool blazer. He points out that getting your flair from a jaw-dropping piece of costume jewelry is a trick employed by "past masters" like Audrey Hepburn ó and it still telegraphs a sure-handed style. Itís not hard to follow that lead, Wetzel says. Just remember:

"Donít ignore the emotional. If youíre looking at something and youíre like, ĎI love that color,í then buy it. A color in a necklace isnít going to be unwearable if youíre doing it with neutral clothes. If you see a brilliant blue and youíre attracted to it, you can wear it.

"Love that one piece, and wear that one piece. You donít have to really pack on more friends. If you have an amazing pair of statement earrings, then that is the statement earring, and you donít really need to go much further.

"Take care of your jewelry. When you take it off at night, put it in the little sleeping bag. Because you want it to stay in good condition. It may not be a Cartier piece, but it might be the piece your grandmother gave you that she wore on Saturday when she went out to dinner with her husband. Thatís important.

And, of course the point that Lane never forgot: Fake doesnít have to be Putin-on-Facebook creepy. Fake can just be fun. Wear it with pride.



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services