Kenneth Jay Lane – Fabulous Faker

The Fabulous Faker

It’s not often you find a designer hawking his jewelry on QVC while at the same time showing his pieces in the jewelry department of Neiman Marcus, but then there has never been a designer quite like Kenneth Jay Lane (KJL).

Famous (or infamous) for copying the styles of both fine and costume jewelry makers from Bulgari to Hattie Carnegie.  His tony clients, who always could afford the real thing, often preferred to wear KJL’s fabulous fakes.   KJL  was the first to combine  upscale with downscale that is so popular today.  He even made it into a Lou Reed song “Sally Can’t Dance”.  KJL, a popular escort for society women was known for his wit and self deprecation,  even titling his autobiography “Faking It”.  

Kenneth Jay Lane is one of Madge’s all-time favorite jewelry designers.

Kenneth Jay Lane Jewelry
Kenneth Jay Lane's fun memoir of his life in jewelry, co-authored with Harrice Simmons Miller

Who Was Kenneth Jay Lane

Born in 1930 in Detroit, KJL studied architecture at the University of Michigan then attended Rhode Island School of Design where he graduated in 1954.  He moved to New York City shortly after graduation and quickly got a job as a layout assistant in Vogue’s art department.  Within a year he was hired by Delman Shoes, one of the oldest designer footwear brands in the United States, as an assistant designer. Within a year he was on the move again, over to Christian Dior, also manufactured by Delman, to work as an assistant to Roger Vivier.  As his reputation grew KJL also created shoe designs for Bill Blass, Norman Norell and Arnold Scaasi; all the while creating jewelry on the side. In fact it was Scaasi who prompted KJL to switch to jewelry design full-time when he requested earrings to match the buttons on a pair of shoes.

Out on His Own

After a very short stint with Hattie Carnegie, KJL started his own company in 1963 and his jewelry was an immediate hit.  Of course having early clients such as Jacqueline Kennedy and Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, certainly helped launch his name in the jewelry biz.

His first cover for Vogue in May 1965, featured Veruschka in a pair of stunning oversized earrings made of lightweight plastic, a real innovation at the time.   The photo set off a large earrings craze that epitomized late 1960s and early 70s style.

Verschuka Vogue Magazine KJL

Soon KJL was providing custom accessories for most of the smart set of the time, including CZ Guest, Brook Astor, Babe Paley, and of course the aforementioned Kennedy and the Duchess.  Famous for his lustrous costume pearls,  his most iconic piece was the three-strand faux pearl necklace custom-made for Jackie Kennedy.  The set sold at Sotheby’s after her death for $215,000 and a copy was made for Barbara Bush to wear to her husband’s presidential inauguration in 1989.

Jackie Kennedy & John John
Jackie Kennedy, John John and those famous pearls

Costume Jewelry Innovator

KJL was one of the first fashion designers to offer high-quality costume jewelry at several price points, a move other designers soon followed. Amazingly, his lower-priced lines for Avon, QVC, and HSN never tainted the popularity of his higher-quality pieces.

KJL jewelry cannot be easily categorized since he worked in every style imaginable from ethnic tribal pieces to figurals to over-the-top rococo and baroque designs.   Here are some of the varied jewelry styles currently available at MadgesHatbox.

Kenneth Jay Lane jeweled snake bangle
KJL Jeweled Snake Bracelet
KJL Jackie O brooch
Famous Jackie O Cruciform Brooch
KJL for Avon panther necklace
KJL for Avon Panther Necklace

He even introduced a “Treasures of the Duchess” collection based on pieces he originally created for the Duchess of Windsor.

Kenneth Jay Lane Treasures of the Duchess
KJL Treasures of the Duchess necklace available at MadgesHatbox.com

Recognizing Kenneth Jay Lane Jewelry

Vintage jewelry collectors can always find a KJL piece to fit their style whether they prefer demure or over–the–top outrageous.  Every piece is marked and pieces are fairly easy to date based upon that mark.    KJL was also smart to mark later reproduction pieces differently to avoid confusion with the originals. So if you see a piece of jewelry that is marketed as unsigned KJL, beware.  It’s not genuine.  Here’s a quick primer on marks:

1960’s – K.J.L. with dots or KENNETH © LANE, with a big ©

1970’s – KJL without dots or KENNETH © LANE, with very small ©

1980’s – K.J.L.© with dots, K.J.L.® with dots or KENNETH©LANE, ©

1990s – today KENNETH©LANE with © on the same line as LANE.

2000 –  today ©KJL Thailand or ©KJL China

QVC –

1991 – 2000 – ©KJL no dots

Avon –

1980’s – 2004 signed K.J.L. for Avon

2001 – to now KJL no dots

 

A Career to Remember

KJL received numerous awards during his long career including a a Coty Award, and a Neiman Marcus Fashion Award.  He was also named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1975.  Here’s a video from 2012 where he gives a tour of his showroom.

Kenneth Jay Lane passed away at age 85 in 2017 still designing beautiful jewelry right up to the end. 

Every well-dressed woman should have at least one piece of KJL in her collection.  I know Madge does.

P.S. If you love all the Kenneth Jay Lane vintage selections featured here,
you will love our huge KJL estate collection that debuted March 1, 2022.

Love & Hats Madge
Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Comment Below

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

7 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michele Davidson
7 years ago

Great article on a fascinating designer!
Good luck with the daily blog posts this month – I look forward to them!! <3

Carolyn O'Bayley
7 years ago

Really enjoyed this article. Good insight into this very prolific and talented designer. I’ve not seen a piece of KJL that I didn’t like. Well done. Always enjoy reading your posts!

Adrienne LaCava
7 years ago

Congratulations, Madge! Good luck with NaBloPoMo 🙂 Love the post too!

Snoskred
7 years ago

Hey there, I found you via the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

I can tell already that I’m going to enjoy your blog. What a fabulous post! 🙂 I love me some jewellery but I prefer “fake” things especially now they can be so amazingly sparkly.

My favourite ever stone is the Mystic Topaz because it has green and purple in it, but on a recent trip to Hawaii I found one with the usual green and purple, but also with pinks and oranges. I *love* that ring, probably too much. If anything happens to it I’ll be devastated, which is totally not the point of fake.

As part of NaBloPoMo I challenge myself try to comment on as many participating blogs as I can, and I add all participating blogs to my feed reader.

So I’m just dropping by to let you know I’ve added your blog to my feedreader, I’m reading you loud and clear, I have a link up going at my place so my readers can find participating blogs which you are more than welcome to add your blog link to.

Looking forward to seeing your posts, and you’ll likely see me drop by again during November.

Happy NaBloPoMo to you!
Snoskred
http://www.snoskred.org

Snoskred
7 years ago
Reply to  Madge

For some reason, blogher is making all the blogs open in a frame,which I found super irritating especially as I wanted the blog URL to add to my feed reader.. I’ve got the first 411 blogs without the frame on a list over at my place, and I’ll update that list once the final blogroll is posted.

Just in case you do find the frame thing as irritating as I did. 🙂

Pam WhimsicalVintage
7 years ago

A wonderfully thorough post and enjoyable read! Thank you so much!! Sharing to the Reference Guide:)

7
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x
%d bloggers like this: