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Angelina may wear the real thing, but it's likely the version popping up at the office Christmas party isn't authentic. See more celebrity pictures.

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It's not an uncommon sight, a woman wearing emeralds the size of a small child's fist. And when they're hanging from Angelina Jolie's ears, chances are they're real. When they show up at the office Christmas party, unless you work for royalty or Liz Taylor, it's safe to assume they're costume.

What difference does it make, aside from whether it costs your child's college fund? There are lots of high-end fakes that look remarkably like the real thing. When the industry rakes in a few billion dollars a year, you know there are far more massive ruby brooches out there than there are people who can afford them [source: Sloane].

The thing is, the people wearing them can look perfectly classy and elegant.

Sometimes.

Looking classy in costume jewels is not a sure thing. Looking classy in genuine jewels is not even a sure thing, and it can take a bit more to pull off the fake stuff.

You see it all the time, women (or men) looking ridiculous in costume jewelry. It can impart a decidedly cheap look, an air of the tacky. It's easy to recognize the effect. It's harder to define the causes. What exactly is it that determines whether glass, crystal, plastic, foil, and/or a little paint appears stylish or just plain sad?

In this article, we'll find out what it takes to escape costume-jewelry sadness. We'll learn what distinguishes quality from crap, and we'll see how anyone can look fabulous in the fake stuff.

It's really not that hard to tell a nice costume (aka "fashion" or "bridge") bracelet or necklace from something that could've come from a dollar store. You just need to know what to look for.