People have worn jewelry for so long that it is virtually impossible to establish exactly when we began adorning our bodies with accessories. But what we do know for sure is that jewelry trends have constantly changed and evolved throughout the years. Different forms of jewelry have come into style over the years, new ones overthrew them, some resurfaced, and some were completely lost in the mire of history. Today we would like to discuss a brief period of time between 1900 & 1940 to assess the jewelry trends that defined this period. We hope it will give you a clearer understanding of the ornamental arts that gradually culminated into the style of jewelry we have today.
At the onset of the 20th century, an original and imaginative fashion of jewelry-making emerged from the European art scene. Art Nouveau directly translates to New Art, which was an artistic era that dominated the decades between 1890 to 1910. This form of art overlapped with the Victorian and Edwardian eras and was moderately brief in comparison to earlier jewelry eras. Art Nouveau was a broad form of art that encompassed architecture, interior design, glassware, etc., because the artistic class of the time believed that art should be part and puzzle of daily life.
Art Nouveau jewelers wanted to be recognized as artists instead of mere jewelry-makers and because of this, they were more meticulous in their craft, creating impeccable, breathtaking jewelry.
Art Nouveau jewelry had a soft, esoteric, and romantic feel to it, it almost reminds you of a fairy tale. It typically featured pale colors and intricate, undulating curves that gave the pieces a warm aura. As opposed to its Victorian and Edwardian predecessors that were heavily influenced by ancient jewelry, Art Nouveau jewelry was influenced by nature. Flowers, plants, butterflies, ferns, etc., which would explain why the jewelry had such sumptuous and refined designs.
Previous jewelry trends indicate that the gemstone was the most important aspect of any piece, but Art Nouveau jewelers seemed to break away from this thinking and focused more on elegance. Diamonds and precious stones were used more sparingly. The jewelers experimented with different materials such as shells, ivory, and copper, all in an effort to push their artistic visions to the limit.
Art Deco translates to Decorative Art and was an era of jewelry that portrayed the rapid growth in technology and development at the time. Like Art Nouveau, Art Deco encompassed architecture, clothing, vehicle designs, and most prominently, jewelry. The style continues to inspire jewelers in modern times with its flamboyant playfulness. Art Deco featured precise lines, sharp angles, and common shapes such as circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles. This style of jewelry also featured bold contrasting colors and geometric themes that mirrored the industrialization of the 1920s, the machine age.
Art Deco abandoned the fluid and sumptuous curves of the Art Nouveau age for a more futuristic look that echoed the flamboyant and flashy lifestyle of the time. Some researchers have also argued that Art Deco borrowed some of its features from ancient Greek, Egyptian, and East Asian jewelry that heavily featured contrasting gemstones, including rubies, diamonds, black onyx, sapphires, and emeralds. Art Deco jewelry was mostly designed from white metals including white gold and platinum that portrayed class, status, and the bright flashy future that was the foundation of this trend.
The most popular ornament of the time was the cocktail ring, which was a symbol of wealth, style, and prominence. The cocktail ring was an oversized and eye-catching piece that featured a large gemstone in the middle. Other popular and glamorous pieces of the time were diamond encrusted watches with circular or square faces, layered pearl necklaces, elongated pendant earrings, and chunky cuff-like bracelets.
Hollywood Glamour and Retro
The Retro era was the unapologetically glamorous jewelry trend of the 1930s, when Hollywood had just been born. The jewelry scene was heavily influenced by the glamorous mega-stars of the big screen and the jewelry scene was hellbent on replicating the pieces regularly adorned by these celebrities. This jewelry trend is sometimes referred to as Cocktail Jewelry or Costume Jewelry.
When you think about it, it is quite ironical that such a flashy trend emerged in a period when the word was facing an economic crisis (The Great Depression) as well as war. It would have made more sense if the jewelry was more restraint and minimalist, don’t you think? But instead, jewelry in the retro era was bigger, bolder, and flashier than ever. Due to Hollywood influence, people sought extraordinary, eye-catching jewelry that reflected the coveted highlife of their celebrity idols.
With the boldness of the Retro era came creativity, even though precious metals such as platinum and gold were in scarcity due to the realities of war. Jewelers, therefore, experimented with cheaper alloys all the while maintaining a certain standard of flamboyance. Jewelers would mix yellow gold with metals such as copper and silver to produce beautiful shades of green and rose. They also used synthetic rubies and sapphires or cheaper stones such as aquamarine and citrine since precious stones were also in short supply. But despite all the adversity the world was facing, people of this era succeeded in making cheaply made jewelry look like a million bucks, which is quite impressive by any standard.
While you may not be one to strictly dress according to what is currently considered ‘hot’ in the world of fashion today, we believe everyone has some interest what’s trending. We are especially interested in finding out what came before modern trends, trying to piece together how the trends of the past evolved to define the trends we have today. We hope this piece has been insightful and has enabled you to visualize what fashion was like back in the day.