Fake Jewels Are a Girl's Best Friend

They're oversized, colorful and tantalizing as candy — and they're winding up on stars like Madonna, Cameron Diaz and Gwen Stefani.

Forget diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Never mind Tiffany and Cartier. Kiss those eye-popping pricetags goodbye.

Today's hot baubles are fake.

"The idea of colorful, faux jewelry is spreading to the masses," said Los Angeles jewelry designer Tarina Tarantino, whose line has adorned celebs from Madonna and J-Lo to Minnie Driver, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Drew Barrymore.

Tarantino (no relation to director Quentin Tarantino) makes big, crystal cocktail rings, eye-catching hairpieces and bright bead bracelets with materials like Lucite, Swarovski crystal (search), glass pearls and wood beads. Prices range from $25 for one of her Lucite bracelets to $300 for a multi-layer necklace.

"I like making jewelry that looks mouth-watering and delicious," said Tarantino. "It's candy-like. When people see it, they can't resist it."

Judging from how often the stars don fake jewels, the Hollywood set finds faux bling-bling as irresistible as the real deal. Besides Tarantino's line, White Trash Charms — which makes large, child-like charms and other pieces — is also popular with celebs.

The trend, said E! Networks lifestyle director Elycia Rubin, is to "have fun, be a little gaudy and pile on some fake jewelry. Jewelry is very playful. It's about having a good time."

And stars aren't afraid of wearing the fanciful trinkets everywhere from the red carpet to their album covers. Some might even be adorned in faux jewelry this Sunday at the traditionally funky Golden Globes.

At last year's Oscars, Diaz sported one of Tarantino's carved-rose turquoise Lucite bracelets. Hilary Duff wears a pair of Tarantino's earrings on her "Metamorphosis" (search) album cover. Stefani is frequently photographed with White Trash Charms around her neck. J-Lo was dripping in faux jewelry when she promoted the "VH1 Big in '03" (search) special at the end of last year and wears Tarantino's crystal-covered resin orchids in a forthcoming movie, "Shall We Dance?" (search) with Richard Gere.

The baubles bring back memories of bubblegum-machine plastic rings and bracelets popular with little girls.

"I did spend a lot of time fishing around in those gumball and candy machines as a kid," Tarantino said. "That could be one of my inspirations."

Of course diamonds and other precious gems aren't likely to lose their gleam among the glitterati.

"You should supplement with fake jewelry because it's fun, but there's nothing like the real thing," said Harry Winston celebrity stylist Carol Brodie, who said those in the precious-gem business call the faux stuff "paste." "For Hollywood jewels, it's all about Harry Winston."

But stars wanting to show off their individuality have embraced the less traditional accessories to accent their creative flair. And when stars do anything, it tends to be an instant hit.

"I don't think we're ever going to get bored of real jewelry. But for fun, why not throw something new into the mix?" Rubin said. "Celebrities are trendsetters, so if they wear a piece of fake jewelry, all of a sudden fake becomes hip."

The evidence of the trend going mainstream is obvious at chain stores like Urban Outfitters, Wet Seal, Target, Wal-Mart, Express and Claire's, which all carry different varieties of cheap, colorful plastic baubles.

And imitation accessories have actually become trendy ever since Kate Spade knockoff bags were all the rage a few years back.

"Knockoffs have become much more accepted," Rubin said. "Probably some of the wealthiest women on Fifth Avenue and around the country have one or two knockoffs in their closet."

It's particularly fashionable to blend the faux with the authentic.

"They're mixing it with some real [pieces]," said Rubin. "Just like with clothes — you wear your Gucci bag and a T-shirt from Target."