Kenneth Jay Lane: Bold Vintage Jewelry April 19 2022

I love creative jewelry—statement necklaces, big cocktail rings, stunning, brightly-colored earrings. I am the firmest of believers that an outfit can be completely made with such an addition—or look woefully incomplete without it—and am always on the hunt for fabulous finds in vintage shops and thrift stores. Trust me, my eyes are always open for vintage Kenneth Jay Lane on such ventures. (On a side note, vintage finds aside, I am currently lusting for an octopus ring in turquoise!)

A graduate of the University of Michigan and the Rhode Island School of Design (as a fellow former-student, this makes me even more proud of the institution and the talent it turns out), Kenneth Jay Lane started his career in fashion as a shoe designer for Delman and Christian Dior and experimented with jewelry making in his free time. He launched his line in 1963, and rumor has it that when his designs were picked up by Saks Fifth Avenue the entire bulk of the store’s initial inventory sold out in the first day. As his popularity increased, so too did the celebrity sector wearing Kenneth Jay Lane costume pieces—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, the Princess of Wales, and many other influential fashion icons were recognized wearing his baubles.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wearing her famous three strand Kenneth Jay Lane pearl necklace

The designs of Kenneth Jay Lane were influential for the same reasons I love them—he would use inexpensive materials, add some rhinestones and other sorts of unique items in bright colors and distinct shapes, and meld them into something completely different. He was able to find the balance of whimsy, sophisticated, and flashy that many designers seek for a lifetime. Still in business today, the designs of the Kenneth Lane costume jewelry continue to run the gamut—they reflect Asian influences, incorporate animals of all sorts, are molded into unique shapes, and (okay, I’ll say it) toe the line of gaudy. In the 1980s and 1990s, a line for Avon was developed, and pieces were sold through QVC—perhaps not the most glamorous of retailers, but his designs have certainly made their way through all classes…so in the spirit of Pierre Cardin, who licensed his name for all manner of products, we’ll call it a win. According to Kenneth Jay Lane himself, “Elegance, luxury and good taste never go out of style.”

Vintage Kenneth Jay Lane Earrings at Rice and Beans Vintage

Written by Heather Cox for Rice and Beans Vintage