Pink Thread Wrapped Ball Pierced Earrings , Kenneth Jay Lane, 2018. Image courtesy of Kenneth Jay Lane

Pink Thread Wrapped Ball Pierced Earrings, Kenneth Jay Lane, 2018. Image courtesy of Kenneth Jay Lane

Making A (Costume Jewelry) Statement

In English dictionaries, “jewelry” is often synonymous with the luxury of precious metals and stones. However, most people would assign this classification to rings, necklaces, and earrings, regardless of their material worth. During the nineteen-sixties, the American costume jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane began to quickly redefine how fashionable women viewed these objects. Soon, magazine editors were pairing faux gems by Lane with designer dresses, and powerful women such as Barbara Bush and Diana Vreeland became ardent fans. Lane was unapologetically forthright about the fact that his works were often direct copies constructed out of artificial materials—going so far as to celebrate these attributes. Recently, a handful of designers have sparked a resurgent interest in the types of large, non-precious, statement earrings that the designer once popularized. The most notable of these contemporary styles, which were made within the very ecosystem Lane helped create, have been mimicked or overtly copied. Although designers such as Rebecca de Ravenel are largely responsible for the ascendant popularity of certain silhouettes, the shapes of these designs are not protectable under U.S. Copyright law. This further complicates any attribution of ownership, as many of these earrings bear a close resemblance to earlier works, including Lane’s own. Today, Kenneth Jay Lane continues to perpetuate a cycle of borrowing, frequently introducing further vintage reproductions as the house responds to current trends. Ulitmately, the legacy of Kenneth Jay Lane is a testament to the intrinsically nuanced, and continuously evolving, nature of jewelry design.

Exhibition Objects

Kenneth Jay Lane (American, founded 1962) Kenneth Jay Lane (American, 1932 – 2017) Pink Thread Wrapped Ball Pierced Earrings, 2018, original design: ca. 2015 Tin, silver, and viscose thread Courtesy of Kenneth Jay Lane

Kenneth Jay Lane (American, founded 1962) Kenneth Jay Lane (American, 1932 – 2017) Silver and Crystal Pearl Clip Earrings, 2018, original design: 1960s Tin, silver, rhodium plating, glass, and faux glass pearl Courtesy of Kenneth Jay Lane

Kenneth Jay Lane (American, founded 1962) Kenneth Jay Lane (American, 1932 – 2017) Ruby and Emerald Drop Clip Earrings, 2018, original design: 1970s Tin, silver, gold electroplating, glass, and plastic resin Courtesy of Kenneth Jay Lane

Kenneth Jay Lane (American, founded 1962) Kenneth Jay Lane (American, 1932 – 2017) Gunmetal, Crystal And Emerald Cabochon Teardrop Clip Earrings, 2018, original design: 1970s Tin, silver, gunmetal plating, and glass Courtesy of Kenneth Jay Lane

Kenneth Jay Lane (American, founded 1962) Kenneth Jay Lane (American, 1932 – 2017) Clear Doorknocker Clip Earrings, 2018, original design: ca. 2008 Tin, silver, gold electroplating, and plastic resin Courtesy of Kenneth Jay Lane