Kenneth Jay Lane, the celebrated American costume jewellery designer, left an indelible mark on the world of fashion. Known for his innovative and bold designs that blended high fashion with costume jewellery, Lane's creations remain sought after and cherished by collectors and style enthusiasts alike. Lane's designs were coveted by the fashion elite and everyday consumers alike, and his jewellery can still be found in collections around the world today.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1932, Lane's foray into the world of fashion began after he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. He started his career in the early 1960s as a shoe designer for Delman and Christian Dior. It was during this time that Lane began experimenting with costume jewellery, designing whimsical and striking pieces for his friends as a hobby.
In 1963, Kenneth Jay Lane took the leap and launched his brand. His designs quickly gained traction, drawing the attention of fashion icons like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, and Audrey Hepburn. Lane's pieces were inspired by a diverse range of sources, from nature to art, and utilised unconventional materials such as resin, enamel, and faux pearls. He quickly became known for his bold and innovative designs that combined high fashion with costume jewellery. Lane's designs were inspired by everything from nature to art, and often incorporated unusual materials such as resin, enamel, and faux pearls.
Lane's innovative use of faux pearls earned him the nickname "Faberge of Fakes." His faux pearls were so expertly crafted that they were frequently mistaken for genuine pearls. Lane's creations were often inspired by high-end jewellery but made accessible through the use of more affordable materials. This design philosophy enabled Lane to democratise the world of luxurious jewellery, making it accessible to all.
Lane's design philosophy was all about creating jewellery that was both beautiful and accessible. He believed that everyone should be able to own a piece of beautiful jewellery, regardless of their budget. Lane's designs were often inspired by high-end jewellery, but he made them accessible by using less expensive materials.
Kenneth Jay Lane became known for his faux pearls. They were so convincing that they were often mistaken for the real thing, and he quickly became known as the "Faberge of Fakes."
One of Lane's most iconic designs is the "Maltese Cross" brooch, inspired by a vintage piece of jewellery that Lane saw in Paris. The brooch features a large cross shape made from brightly coloured stones and enamel, and has become a signature piece of the KJL brand.
In addition to the Maltese Cross brooch, there are several other key pieces in the Kenneth Jay Lane jewellery collection that are worth exploring.
The brand's "Snake" collection is a must-have for any KJL fan. The collection includes everything from earrings to bracelets, each featuring the iconic KJL snake motif. The "Hinged Bangle" bracelet, which is made from gold-tone metal and features a coiled snake design, is a highly coveted piece.
The "Bamboo" collection is another standout, featuring bamboo-shaped earrings, necklaces, and bracelets with intricate detailing.
Some of our favourite KJl pieces include:
- Maltese Cross Brooch: A signature piece of the KJL brand, this brooch features a large cross shape made from brightly colored stones and enamel.
- Faux Pearl Necklace: One of Lane's most innovative designs, these faux pearls were often mistaken for the real thing, earning him the nickname "Faberge of Fakes."
- Snake Hinged Bangle: Part of the iconic "Snake" collection, this gold-tone metal bracelet features a coiled snake design, making it a highly coveted piece.
- Bamboo Hoop Earrings: These earrings are part of the "Bamboo" collection, showcasing bamboo-shaped designs with intricate detailing.
- Crystal Chandelier Earrings: These glamorous earrings feature cascading tiers of sparkling crystals, perfect for adding a touch of elegance to any outfit.
- Art Deco Cuff Bracelet: Inspired by the Art Deco era, this geometric cuff bracelet features a mix of colored crystals and enamel, creating a bold statement piece.
- Elephant Pendant Necklace: This playful necklace showcases a gold-tone elephant pendant adorned with colorful enamel and crystal accents.
- Cabochon Statement Ring: A large, colorful cabochon stone surrounded by smaller crystals makes this eye-catching ring a statement piece.
- Leopard Brooch: A gold-tone leopard brooch embellished with enamel spots and crystal eyes, showcasing KJL's love for incorporating animal motifs into their designs.
- Tassel Drop Earrings: These long, dangling earrings feature chains of sparkling crystals ending in delicate tassels, adding movement and shimmer to any look.
Collecting KJL pieces
Stamps through the ages
It's important to note that not all KJL pieces may have stamps, and some stamps may have worn off over time. However, the presence of a stamp can often help to identify the age and authenticity of a piece of Kenneth Jay Lane jewellery.
1960s-1970s: During the 1960s and 1970s, KJL jewellery was typically stamped with "K.J.L." or "Kenneth Lane." The stamps were often accompanied by the copyright symbol, indicating that the design was protected.
1980s: In the 1980s, KJL jewellery began to be stamped with "Kenneth Lane" in a curved font. The stamp was often accompanied by the copyright symbol and the year of manufacture.
1990s: In the 1990s, KJL jewellery was typically stamped with "Kenneth Lane" in a straight font, often accompanied by the copyright symbol and the year of manufacture.
2000s: In the 2000s, KJL jewellery continued to be stamped with "Kenneth Lane" in a straight font, but the stamp was often accompanied by the letters "KJL" in a stylized font.
Today: Today, KJL jewellery is typically stamped with "Kenneth Jay Lane" in a straight font, accompanied by the letters "KJL" in a stylized font and the copyright symbol. Some pieces may also include the year of manufacture or a country of origin stamp.
Caring for your KJL jewellery
When it comes to caring for your Kenneth Jay Lane jewellery, it's important to handle it with care. Many of the pieces are made from delicate materials such as resin and enamel, so it's important to avoid exposing them to water or chemicals. Store your KJL jewellery in a cool, dry place, and clean it regularly with a soft cloth.
The Legacy Continues
Kenneth Jay Lane passed away in 2017, leaving behind a remarkable legacy in the world of fashion. The Kenneth Jay Lane brand continues to thrive and evolve even after the passing of its founder in 2017.
His innovative approach to jewellery design and commitment to making beautiful pieces accessible to all continue to inspire and influence the industry. The brand continues to draw inspiration from Lane's archives while incorporating modern elements and even sells vintage pieces directly through their website.
To stay relevant, the brand engages in collaborations with designers, fashion houses, and celebrities, resulting in unique limited-edition collections. With a focus on innovative designs and trendsetting, the Kenneth Jay Lane brand remains a leader in costume jewellery, expanding its global reach and continues to captivate jewelry enthusiasts worldwide. Today, KJL's jewellery remains highly collectible, with pieces cherished by collectors and fashion aficionados across the globe.
Here's a selection of our favourite KJl vintage pieces from the current Kenneth Jay Lane website: