Jewelry is an important mode of expression and personality. A statement necklace can make you feel bold and ready to take on the world, while wearing your grandmother’s antique earrings helps you feel more connected to your family.
Since jewelry is so personal, every era has provided a wide variety of styles for consumers to choose from. However, jewelry trends have been dramatically impacted by changes in social thought and the economy. Understanding how trends have shifted through the decades will help you appreciate the vintage jewelry you come across in the future.
Vintage Jewelry from the 1920s
The Roaring Twenties were an era of wealth and industry. During this decade, intense social change was accompanied by a shift away from ornate, older styles and toward form and simplicity. Long necklaces, narrow bracelets, and brooches were quite popular. Short, bobbed hairstyles allowed women to show off long statement earrings.
Jewelers often used white metals, marcasite, and clear or colored glass stones. Faux pearls were also quite popular. Regardless of the material used, jewelry was generally intended to flow gracefully as the wearer danced the night away.
Vintage Jewelry from the 1930s
As the Great Depression took a hit on consumers’ budgets, many women could no longer afford fine jewelry and new clothes. Costume jewelry became popular as a way to change up the same old outfits without spending too much money. As the decade progressed, the Art Deco style evolved and jewelry styles became more whimsical and colorful.
Pieces with baskets of fruit or flowers (“tutti frutti’ or “fruit salads”) were popularized by Cartier and other fine jewelers in the 1930s. Double clip brooches also made an appearance in this era and were often used to decorate necklines, hats, purses, or belts.
Vintage Jewelry from the 1940s
In the 1940s, different materials became popular due to wartime restrictions and shortages. Sterling silver, seed pearls, and imitation turquoise, coral, and jade became quite common. Costume jewelry continued to grow in popularity and increased in quality as many fine jewelers switched over following the Depression.
People often gravitated toward vibrant but subtle jewelry. While other aspects of life were pared down due to wartime efforts, jewelry remained a fun addition to a look.
Vintage Jewelry from the 1950s
The 1950s were the era of matching sets and rules. Bib necklaces, earrings, and bracelets all had to be perfectly matched in any given outfit. Jewelry wearing was carefully defined for different occasions; most women would have found it unthinkable to wear a piece while grocery shopping and then wear it again during an evening out.
The “simple strand of pearls” became the go-to accessory to dress up any outfit. Charm bracelets and chandelier earrings also became increasingly popular styles.
Vintage Jewelry from the 1960s
The 1960s saw the rise of large pendants, hoop earrings, ball drop earrings, and multi-strand necklaces. Jewelry reflected new philosophies of free-thinking and progressivism through over-sized accessories, ethnic themes, bangles, and “flower power.”
Technology advancements led to the growth of inexpensive plastic materials in jewelry. Pop art had an influence on jewelry through bold color combinations. In many cases, the goal with jewelry was to create a shocking visual impact.
Vintage Jewelry from the 1970s
Economic recession, political strife, and a spirituality movement heavily influenced the jewelry of the 70s. Jewelry often came in colors and shapes that would have been unusual in prior decades. Geometric and Bohemian pieces were popular, as well as layered necklaces.
Consumers turned toward body jewelry and natural materials that meshed well with an appreciation for Mother Earth. Wood, stone, shell, and bone became popular, as well as earthy colors like olive green and brown.
Vintage Jewelry from the 1980s
Fashion in the 1980s was all about being bold. With rising wealth, jewelry buyers demanded designer labels, large cuffs, and edgy accessories. Jewelry was made in strong, powerful styles with a touch of punk.
The decade saw a resurgence of pearls, gold, and gold plate. A common style was to wear pearls of all colors in bunches and with their ends tied in knots. Brooches came back in style as a way to make a big statement.
Vintage Jewelry in Seattle
Fruitcocktail can help you determine the value and history of your antique or vintage jewelry. Established in 1998, we have more than 20 years of experience helping clients from around the Pacific Northwest with estate sales, appraisals, and consignment. Contact us today for a free consultation.