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Expert in vintage costume jewelry from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s & 1950s

Brighten Your Mood with this Glittering Jewel

Brighten your mood with this dazzling brooch.

As the months of near-quarantine drag on, the idea of dressing up to stay at home may seem like an oxymoron. You may be surprised to learn that psychologists are encouraging us to do just that. Studies have shown that how we dress affects how we feel about ourselves. So whether you’re dressing for another work-from-home day, a Zoom conference meeting, or an intimate get-together, consider putting aside your sweats and tees. Instead, why not brighten your mood with an outfit that expresses your personality and accessorize with a sparkly jewel? I have just the piece for you.

Have you ever seen a starfish as dazzling as this one? The “star of the sea” is a popular theme in jewelry and has many meanings associated with it. My favorite is its symbolism of renewal and rejuvenation, which is just what jewelry is expected to do – bring new life to an outfit. From the New York company Alice Caviness, this whimsical, yet sophisticated 1950s starfish brooch can be worn in many ways. Let me describe the piece, offer some styling tips, and tell you a bit about the maker.

The Brooch

This bold and glittering jewel is three inches in diameter. Five “arms” with raised edges and a cluster of stones in the center make this piece three-dimensional. The shimmer results from the iridescent coating of the round diamantés. Known as Aurora Borealis, this treatment of the surface of faceted glass beads and stones was invented in 1955 by Manfred Swarovski, the grandson of the founder of the Swarovski Company. Costume jewelry designers everywhere immediately began to use this finish, which reflects light and adds movement to jewelry. As a result, stones appear to change color under different lighting. Dior was among the first to feature Aurora Borealis stones in his winter 1956 collection.

This brooch comes with matching ear clips, each shaped like an arm of a starfish. Although women in the 1950s typically wore matching sets of jewelry, you don’t have to do that. If you wear earrings, I would suggest simple gold studs or hoops.

Styling Tips

If you associate brooches with your grandmother or Queen Elizabeth II, think again. Runway models, red carpet stars, and members of Instagram’s #bringbackthebrooch movement have embraced this forgotten accessory and infused it with a contemporary spirit. Let me show you how to wear this shimmering jewel, to inspire you to express your personal style with vintage jewelry.

The first example in this group is my favorite. This luxurious brown silk blouse has an intricately-detailed stand-up collar. You could simply pin the brooch at your throat. Or for even more glamour, use the jewel to attach a faux fur scarf around your neck on a blouse like this or another garment. The brooch really stands out against the deep, warm tones of the fabrics and their contrasting textures.


In these two outfits, the placement of the brooch is more traditional. The simple blue, boiled-wool jacket on the left needs some oomph. The covered buttons provide a single-tone background for the sparkling pin instead of competing with it. Because this jacket has no lapels, the brooch sits well on the shoulder. The lapel of a jacket or coat is an excellent alternative as a backdrop for this glorious piece. And imagine it on the pocket of a denim jacket – it’s big enough to cover the button on the flap. On the right, the brooch is pinned to the shoulder of a sleeveless hot-pink dress. The gold setting compliments the gold-metal trim on the dress. Notice how the stones reflect the color of the fabric.


I’ll bet you’ve never thought of wearing jewelry in your hair. All you need is a few bobby pins to secure it to an elegant or casual hairdo that’s styled up, as seen on the left. Did you know that hair accessories have become a popular alternative to bridal veils? On the right is another idea – embellish a hat band with a scarf and this glitzy brooch.

For more tips on how to wear brooches, see this article by Beth Bernstein, jewelry historian, collector and writer.

The Maker

Details about American costume jewelry makers long out-of-business are often hard to document, and Alice Caviness’ company is no exception. Both the opening and closing dates are difficult to determine. What I can tell you is that by 1949 she was established as a designer, manufacturer, and importer of costume jewelry in New York City. Operations continued until at least 1980, when Caviness retired.

The company created bold and imaginative pieces, such as this amazing starfish brooch and earrings, using high-quality materials in often unexpected combinations.

For more examples, see the Alice Caviness Jewelry collection. Read more about the company here.


Patsy campbell

Dear Barbara I enjoyed this blog post very much. I have often admired the “Starfish” brooch while enjoying scrolling through your jewellery shop collection. Thank you for the tips on wearing brooches. I am dressed up casually with a brooch on, while commenting on your article. Keep up the good work!

Barbara Schwartz

Thank you for your compliments, Patsy! Glad to hear you’ve joined the #bringbackthebrooch movement!

Patricia Gostick

Great styling tips! I’ve always liked Alice’s striking design sense.
Bravo for another great article!

Barbara Schwartz

Thanks very much, Patricia!

Patricia Gostick

Great styling tips! I’ve always liked Alice’s striking design sense.
Bravo for another great article!

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