Oh, costume jewelry. You love it and hate it at the same time.

We are easily pulled into hyperconsumerism and social media selfies, and, we tend to ignore the ethical impacts of our shopping. When you don’t see the process with your own eyes, you tend to care less about the effects it has on your fellow humans and our precious Mother Earth.

But, should you avoid it at all costs? Simply speaking, yes, you’re better off in the long-run (and so is the planet) when you avoid costume jewelry.

So why do we buy costume jewelry in the first place? It seems most people settle for costume jewelry because:

  • It’s cheap
  • It’s readily available
  • It may come in a variety of colors or patterns which leads to buying multiples for different occasions

The best alternative is to purchase longer-lasting jewelry that puts quality above mass production. And, you’ll want to seek out companies that ethically create memorable pieces for you and your special someone.

The consequences of buying and wearing costume jewelry can be severe. Long-term you could continue messing up the planet with every cheap bangle you throw away, or you could even harm your health or your children’s health if you’re not careful.

Let’s dig into why costume jewelry should be avoided.

It’s Less Meaningful & It’s Gaudy

Costume jewelry tends to look cheap. And, believe it or not, the human eye is oddly trained to detect a cheap product versus something more substantial. When you buy quality pieces, they’re more expertly crafted meaning they’re made with care.

Costume jewelry is also not very meaningful. When you buy costume jewelry, it doesn’t signify anything except pure fashion. But, when you take the time to select and personalize your jewelry collection, you end up feeling better.

You buy jewelry for people that have meaning, so why short yourself? You deserve to wear custom made jewelry that is attractive and brings out your unique personality. Costume jewelry may look unique on the surface, but it won’t last, and you don’t know if you’ll find the same piece a year from now if it needs to be replaced.

When you buy quality jewelry for yourself or for your sis or BFF, you may realize later that it has the potential to be an heirloom piece that you can pass down to your kids or grandchildren.

Also, cheap gold pieces may flake, which is not only embarrassing but is annoying as heck to pick off of your outfit.

Cheap Materials May Be Dangerous

Can costume jewelry actually make you feel sick? The answer may surprise you.

Cadmium is abundant and is a cheaper metal used in alloys for jewelry-making. Few states in the US have regulations on cadmium use in jewelry, and if they do, it’s not enforced well. Some retailers use it and we as consumers never know if our jewelry has it or not.

Cadmium exposure can cause kidney, lung, and bone damage. Longer exposure can even cause cancer and mess with your hormone levels (ugh, no thanks). And, if you have children, they can find it and put it in their mouths, which equals bad news for the kiddos! Children’s bodies absorb cadmium more easily than adults, and their smaller organs mean faster disaster. It’s absorbed through your skin, too, which is just not cool!

You can avoid these effects by:

  • Buying from a reputable source that presents materials they use
  • Keep away from children--don’t buy if you’re a parent!

About 10% of people are allergic to nickel. While it is unavoidable for most jewelry, it may be a good idea to stay away from it if your skin tends to be sensitive.

Also, zinc is used a lot in quick jewelry-making. Zinc can cause that ugly green stain on your skin that reeks of cheapness and will quickly fall apart on you.

Invest in high-quality jewelry that sticks to sterling silver and strong gold alloys.

Costume Jewelry Isn’t Ethical or Sustainable

When you buy jewelry, think of the labor involved in making it. 

Businesses that prioritize quantity and price point over ethical labor practices harm us all. By purchasing costume jewelry over and over, we are contributing to lower labor costs which means the people making your costume jewelry in a foreign country are not able to support themselves or their families. 

You’re claiming that you are okay with taking advantage of desperate workers. This may even include forced child labor. Just… no.

Also, lots of minerals, metals, and stones are mined in exploited countries that also can sometimes kill low-wage workers who are on the frontlines.

Costume jewelry = cheap, fast fashion.

By avoiding costume jewelry, you are saying “NO” to exploitation and wage theft.

Climate change is real, and the fashion industry is slowly but surely addressing this issue. When we produce anything, there is a footprint. So how is this related to costume jewelry?

Once again, when cheap, weak jewelry is made in bulk, it is created to sell as many as possible without being conscious of the process. So you buy it, and a week later, your necklace is too tangled to undo without damage, meaning you’ll throw it away. Or, the ring turns your finger green, and you hate it, so you dump it.

Increase Costs Over Time

When you buy cheap, you buy often. Some of us may have heard a similar phrase over the course of our lives.

Think about it—if you are buying jewelry that is around $10, you are buying it maybe for the style, but really, you feel an impulse to put it in your shopping cart because of the price. Why buy 1 item for $60 when I can get 6 items for $10 each!

Well, you may regret it later. You’ll cycle through costume jewelry a lot more quickly, and you're not really helping Mother Earth out.

We get it. Many of us are not rolling in the dough.

But, one thing to consider: that $60 item, if purchased from a reputable seller, could last you a lifetime. And, if you can find a brand with little to no markup, even better. Also, think of the emotional investment: you may be able to pass this down as an heirloom piece.

Ways to Avoid Costume Jewelry

Here are some ways to avoid costume jewelry and to have peace of mind:

  • Quality over Quantity. Instead of buying new jewelry every couple of weeks, consider putting that money in a jewelry fund. You don’t have to completely break the bank to get quality jewelry at a fair price.
  • Know the metals in your jewelry. Avoid cadmium as much as possible. Zinc will stain. And make sure you’re not allergic to nickel.
  • Find a jewelry brand or two that you love and stick to them. Most of us have a base style that we evoke - so if you enjoy simple, yet meaningful jewelry, you’ll want to find a brand that matches your personality as your go-to for multiple pieces.
  • Research their practices. Higher-end brands that aren’t too big usually discuss their social responsibilities on their website and may even discuss the materials they use. You can also read reviews to find out if anyone has issues with it.
  • Before you buy, ask yourself why you’re buying. Stop for a second and think about your potential purchase. Will it bring value to your life? Are you tired of always buying jewelry? Do you feel green with envy at other people’s quality pieces?

Costume Jewelry is No Bueno

Whether you wear your jewelry every day or just on special occasions, it pays to pay more for quality, and to lessen the guilty feeling that comes with rushed costume jewelry pieces.

Costume jewelry just doesn’t cut it. There are ethical jewelry brands that not only sell high-quality jewelry, but thoughtfully craft it using ethical practices and offer personalizable options. 

And, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing your bling will last you for years, or even for your entire life.

Sources:

https://www.becausehealth.org/cadmium-a-k-a-the-sneaky-hitchhiker-in-your-jewelry-2623323053.html

https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/01/numbers-economic-social-and-environmental-impacts-fast-fashion

https://ecowarriorprincess.net/2020/06/fast-jewellery-true-cost-of-costume-ethical-pieces/