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Key Looks in Vintage Jewellery Part 1

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

When it comes to vintage fashion, accessories and jewellery are just as if not even more important as the clothes. Jewellery actually pre-dates most other fashion with wearable artifacts made from bone, wood, stone and shell being traced back to prehistoric times. Jewellery is also the oldest form of currency, but it is so much more than a symbol of wealth and social status. The Pagan belief is that a string worn around the neck will stop a person's soul from flying away and the Ancient Egyptians believed that amuletic jewels were the key to the afterlife. Jewellery can represent so many messages from social, economic and spiritual to political and sexual. It is in intricate and incredibly interesting part of fashion history and one which I simply had to explore.

Whether you are a collector, enthusiast or simply want to dress in iconic looks from certain eras, let me take you on a little journey through time. In Part 1 of my vintage jewellery guide, I explore the key looks in vintage jewellery from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. So grab a cuppa and let's get started...

1920s Vintage Jewellery

Art Deco was of course one of the main influences of 1920s fashion and jewellery in particular. The fan and the chevron were the most popular motifs of the period and appeared in interior design and architecture as well as fashion and jewellery design. Fan shaped hair combs would often be worn by women who didn't have the modern short bob of the time, often adorned in colourful beads or enamel. Another hugely popular style was that of the Egyptians. In 1922, Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen and the fascination of these artifacts quickly threw this style into high fashion.

Beads were very much in vogue and they could be produced in a wide range of colours and intricacies. Long beaded necklaces that were once called sautoirs were now re-named 'flapper beads. Combined with tassel earrings and fringed or bejeweled flapper dresses, the sense of flair and movement was a total phenomenon with new crazes such as Charleston dancing.

1930s Vintage Jewellery

The geometrics of the Modernism movement were still popular in 1930s jewellery; namely circles, chevrons and stepped motifs. There was, however, a renewed trend for floral designs and flower motifs. This time round they were more streamlined and stylized rather than being very figurative. Another typical jewellery styling of the era was filigree, made from gold and silver plated sterling with crystal or glass gems.

One of the most popular style in 1930s Hollywood was known as 'white on white', a glossy and luxurious look. The starlets of the era were styled with white fur and marabou feathers combined with striking diamond and pearl jewellery. This was a perfect fit for the monochromatic demands of black and white film.

1940s Vintage Jewellery

World War II meant there was a distinct lack of precious materials for the manufacture of jewellery. This led to a shift in both design and trends during the era. Designers began to look elsewhere for inspiration which pathed the way for fashion experimentation. Many Italian designers, including the infamous Salvatore Ferragamo, used combinations such as wood and metal for their creations. There was also an increase in the popularity of sterling silver as it was one of the few precious materials still allowed for use in the making of costume jewellery. Sterling silver contains a minimum of 92% silver which is then fused with another metal, usually copper.

Film was still a huge influence on popular culture and fashion, and women longed to emulate the glamorous women they saw on screen. This models and actresses would be dripping in diamonds and the demand for this razzle dazzle was met with the introduction of rhinestones. Rhinestones are multi-faceted stones made of glass that offer an excellent imitation for the real deal, at a tiny fraction of the price. Many women were living and working under rigorous conditions and jewellery and fashion gave them the fantasy and romance they craved away from this. There was a neo-Victorian nostalgia during the war which saw decadent floral inspired necklaces, earrings and brooches becoming hugely popular.

That brings us up to the end of the 1940s in vintage jewellery, be sure to come back next week for Part 2 of this mini-series of blogs where I will be focusing on the key looks of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

In the meantime, you can shop on our website for vintage jewellery 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the comfort of your sofa. There are new arrivals here almost every week so keep checking regularly.

Until next time

Emma x

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