Ever wonder why costume jewelry was made from Sterling Silver during the second world war? In a nutshell it had everything to do with WWII and the shortage of copper and other essential metals used by costume jewelry manufacturers.
Costume jewelry manufacturers like Coro, Hobe, and Trifari who often used copper as their base metal for their costume jewelry hit quite the bump in the road right after the United States entered the second World War. All of a sudden their access to unlimited supplies of copper vanished.
Once rationing began, some metals were progressively removed from the non-critical use list. Others were quickly removed from non-essential use, as was the case with copper and copper-based alloys, primarily brass and tin. Copper and copper based alloys were sharply cut off from many non-essential manufacturing application on May 6, 1942. This left our beloved jewelry manufacturers out in the cold.
The war even affected the ability to attain the metals for pot metal which contained lead and lead was needed for bullets and was in short supply. There were scrap drives that not only collected rubber and paper but all sorts of metals to be used in bombs and the over all war effort.
The government not only rationed but actively promoted the recycling of vital materials needed for the war effort. Companies were encouraged to ration themselves to help in the war effort, even if a particular commodity was not on the rationing list.
Because of the government’s marketing campaign, no one seemed to mind that much – giving up something for the war effort. Everyone felt as thought they were a part of something larger than themselves. It created a feeling of community and patriotism. This sense created an atmosphere where companies actively searched for ways they could contribute, thereby showing everyone that they, too, were a part of the war effort.
That being said, this provided jewelry manufacturers with a unique problem. In retrospect turning to sterling as their base metal was a logical choice. The result of that decision is a wide range of fabulous sterling silver pieces of vintage jewelry that can be directly dated to the war years.
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