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Today, Cubic Zirconia Is a Girl's Best Friend

June 30, 1989|EVAN CUMMINGS | Evan Cummings is a free-lance writer. This is her second piece for Orange County Life

Carol Andreson wants every woman to feel rich and beautiful. Her line of costume jewelry--called Rich & Beautiful--apparently helps them do just that because it has been enjoying brisk sales to men and women from all walks of life.

"Fabulous fakes" is what she calls her line of cubic zirconia and simulated gems--rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

The former actress is also a registered nurse who actually played a continuing role as a nurse on the old "Dr. Kildare" television series starring Richard Chamberlain.

Her Huntington Beach waterfront condominium is filled with mementos of her days as an ingenue, including studio photographs from movie scenes opposite Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis. Although she speaks fondly of those days, she insists that she has found the next best thing.

The glamorous blonde imports her line of cubic zirconia and other simulated gems from Switzerland and West Germany and travels to Hong Kong once a year to purchase fine jewelry--fresh water and cultured pearls and an assortment of Cloisonne beads, bracelets and assorted objets d'art.

Cubic zirconia, she explains, has improved dramatically during the past few years, so much so that it would take an expert to tell the difference between real and fake jewelry.

"Many celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are known to wear fake duplicates, while their real jewelry is stored away in a vault," Andreson says, adding that many wealthy women in Orange County also wear fakes.

While many people buy fake gems because of the skyrocketing insurance rates on the real thing, there are those like Eve Thompson, the wife of a Seal Beach physician, who say they simply prefer the faux jewelry.

"I love it," she says. "I have complete peace of mind. I don't have to worry about robberies or losing an earring. And, when you wear the right clothes and act the part, no one can really tell the difference."

Andreson's roster of happy clients includes female executives who want to look successful and young couples starting out who cannot yet afford the genuine article. She said many couples buy the bride's wedding ring with CZs with the plan to replace them in a few years, with the real thing.

Cubic zirconia is a generic name (the stones are marketed under more than two dozen trademarks) and quality can vary greatly with each source. Typically, a pair of one karat CZ stud earrings costs about $40. A CZ version of the popular tennis bracelet fashioned from individually cut stones and set in a 14-karat channel setting is priced at about $750. Actresses Linda Evans and Joan Collins wore custom-designed CZs on the hit show "Dynasty," and Andreson carries a copycat version in her line.

She offers the following tips when choosing faux jewelry: Look for brilliance and clarity; each stone should be individually cut; and set in 14-karat gold, sterling silver or vermeil, and should come with a written guarantee.

Andreson arranges for private showings at the homes of her clients and in fine hotels like the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point. She frequently donates her time to charity by arranging fashion jewelry shows for groups such as the Orange County Medical Assn. and the Soroptimists of Newport Beach. Recently she produced a special show to benefit the Huntington Beach Library.

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