A Brief History of
jewelry has certainly come a long way from the
Georgian times when it
was made for and worn by the kings and queens only to foil robbers! I
often wonder what the makers of that day would think about the
market of today. Who could have imagined that a throw-away item would
now be desirable and even costly in some cases.
So what exactly is costume
jewelry? Well as you might have guessed, the market for expensive
looking jewelry sort of created itself. Throughout history women wanted to look
beautiful even with limited resources and they wanted what they saw the the rich
wearing. Most working women could not afford jewelry made out of precious stones
and gold nor could they shop in the boutiques of
and her peers for
higher end costume jewelry. Jewelry made out of rhinestones and other
inexpensive materials fit the bill. They could afford to buy an inexpensive
piece of jewelry to jazz up an outfit knowing that they could buy another when
they were ready.
As I referred to above,
not all costume jewelry was inexpensive and
gemstones were often used.
During WWII, when base metals were needed for the war effort, sterling silver and metal plated with silver, gold and
rhodium were used to create some of the most sought after vintage
reflects history and fashion trends. Fashion and jewelry are very
closely associated and jewelry design movements sometimes grow out of
social or political events. During and after WWI woman's clothing styles
changed dramatically as did the type of jewelry and accessories they
wore. Silhouettes changed, the bustle disappeared in favor of a sleeker
During the Art Nouveau period, artists tired
of designs with so many flourishes opted for a simpler line. During the depression, jewelry made out of colorful
plastic (Bakelite) and
Art Deco rhinestones were in vogue
for example. During this same period Coco Chanel started completing her
outfits (costumes) with paste jewelry. I do not think that Chanel
created the term, however I am sure she and her contemporaries such as
Elsa Schiaparelli and
Hattie Carnegie popularized the term.
During WWII many designers
had to use sterling silver as the base metal for their creations. The
United States government needed most other metals for the war effort. A
thin layer of gold was often applied over the sterling.
Vermeil or gold- wash, as it is sometimes called, was a finishing
method used by many. Rhinestones were harder to find and you will see
many wood pieces made during these years. Plastic pin backs were
used instead of metal as seen on the Miriam Haskell brooches and clips
of the 1940 war years.
After the war, costume jewelry
began more widely accepted, produced and consumed. It was not until 1954 when the
federal government passed the copyright law to protect designs that this form of
jewelry was taken seriously however. After all, it wasn't' REAL jewelry, no
precious stones! In 1962 the hallmark required law passed.
Vintage Krementz Ad From My Collection
What is vintage
jewelry? Ask several people and you will probably get different
answers. At Amazing Adornments we think of an item as being vintage if
it was manufactured prior to the 1980s. See below
Dating Jewelry by Definition. Check out our
vintage jewelry patent chart
for help in identifying when your jewelry find was manufactured. It has
jewelry patents from 1836 to 1980.
Below are American
and European jewelry timelines. These timelines are meant to be a brief
history . Several of the periods overlap.
History of American Costume
Art Nouveau - 1890s -
Developed in the "French" Nouveau style.
Prosperous age of Tiffany, art jewelry, naturalistic motifs. Mass
produced sterling silver from the Unger Brothers, Gorham and William B. Kerr
that depicted maidens with flowing hair, chased flowers and leaves. Enamels.
Art Deco - 1920s-1930s
||Think Roaring Twenties, flappers,
prohibition and the Ziegfield Follies. Glitter, long waistlines and long
necklaces. King Tut's tomb. Geometric lines. Flexible bracelets, bangle
bracelets and rings.
Art Deco's beginnings go back to the
movement in Germany.
Retro - 1930-1950
||Several of Europe's jewelry makers
immigrate due to WWII. Elegance. Chokers, floral pins, bakelite,
moonstones, horses, sweater clips, scatter pins and military motifs.
Art Modern - 1945 -1960
||Post war. Understated styles. Tailored
looks. Poodle pins, chucky bracelets and plenty of rhinestones!
||Natural themes. Native American
influences, other ethnic influences, wood, bone and feathers. Brightly
History of European Jewelry
Georgian 1714 -1836
||Handmade jewelry, paste,
pinchbeck, Rococo style, Gothic, Neoclassical
Victorian 1837 - 1900
- Romantic: light
open work gold and filigree, chasing, repoussé die rolling
and engraving. These techniques gave the illusion of heft in
a time when gold and other metals were rare. Seed pearls,
turquoise, and gemstones, natural materials, cameos, hair
jewelry and jewelry with hidden messages.
- Grand: heavy dark
stones, heavy gold settings, jewels inspired by discoveries
such as tombs in Egypt.
whimsical motifs, star and crescent motifs, jewelry
designers were more interested in quality of work.
Mourning [black] jewelry became
popular after Queen Victoria's husband Albert died.
Edwardian 1901 - 1910
||England- Time of change. New
innovations. Use of swags, tassels and ribbon ties.
Jewelry or the aristocracy.
Nouveau 1880 - 1914
|France- [New Art] Overlaps Edwardian.
Prosperous age of Lalique, Faberge,
Boucheron, Cartier. Jewelry of
the avant garde trickled down to the masses, inspired by nature.
Japanese influences. Whiplashes. Moonstones, enameling and
baroque pearls. The art of jewelry making is rediscovered.
Craftsmanship and design are key. Reformist chic movement.
||1896 - 1909 The Art Nouveau period in
Germany. [Youth style]
Crafts 1890 - 1914
||England- Another overlap. Jewelry
inspired by nature, leaves, flowers, birds, copper, brass,
silver from artists such as Charles Horner and Charles Robert
|Art Deco - 1920s -
||Jakob Bengel, Auguste Bonaz
||Ultra modern, functional,
geometric designs. Complete opposite of prior periods.
||German Art Deco and Modernism
- Bakelite, chrome, galalith, celluloid and acrylic. Bauhaus
views shaped the Modernist and other movements to come.
Transitional Periods: Short periods of time where
styles overlapped as one era moved into the next one.
Dating Jewelry by
||Jewelry that is at least 100
||1. Jewelry made from
1920 to 1950 2. Jewelry made from 1920s -1970s or 1980s
||Jewelry made in the 1940s that
was usually gold-wash or vermeil over sterling.
||Jewelry made from 1950s to
present. This is usually fine, pre-owned jewelry not to be
confused with jewelry purchased at an estate sale.
At Amazing Adornments we
include all non-costume jewelry from anytime period. This is not
the official definition.
These categories are not etched in
stone [pun intended] they overlap and different people will use them
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