The 1920s were an exciting time. Hemlines were shorter, personalities were bigger and it was time for risk-taking! Jewelry was one area where women were able to express themselves as never before. Today we will show you some of the top trends of the era, as well as a little bit of the history around just why these looks took off.
What was jewelry like in the 1920s?
In 1920, the world was changing. The first World War had just ended, sending young soldiers back home to America after getting a taste of European sensibilities. Meanwhile, women had taken on new responsibilities at home and at work. Both genders were feeling the pull of liberation, leaving them open to new trends as never before.
This new generation rejected the idea that jewelry had to be an over-the-top show of wealth, using only expensive stones and materials. To the 1920’s woman, jewelry was about creating a look, following trends, and having fun!
Trends from Around the World
Art Deco swept the Paris art shows in 1925, and soon after the style jumped across the pond to the US, where young people were gobbling up any trend from outside the States. The style was distinctly modern, favoring clean, simple lines and geometry. Bright colors accented the lines and patterns for a striking effect.
Women incorporated Art Deco not just into their homes, but into their outfits as well. Jewelry took on more metals, brightly colored gemstones, and geometric shapes.
The American consumer's obsession with all things from outside the US extended to styles from the Middle East, Japan and China. Jade and lapis lazul became popular, and intricate oriental patterns and exotic motifs started to pop up in jewelry for the everyday woman.
Accessorising the Bob
As women went to work in factories and shops, short hair became more practical - or even trendy! The bob hairstyle took off in the 1920’s and became not only a trend but a symbol of a new freer attitude.
Jewelry took on a role to add some glamour to short haircuts. Headbands and hair clips added some sparkle to simple hairstyles. While diamonds were too pricey for most, rhinestones were used to make sure the trendy bob stand out.
Costume Jewelry Takes off
Using cheaper materials such as newly created plastics and resins meant that designs didn’t have to be timeless - they could be trendy. And, even better, everyday girls could afford to buy these new types of fabricated jewelry - called “costume” or “novelty” jewelry.
Cheaper materials also meant that chains could be longer, bracelets could be multiplied, and faux-gems could be added everywhere. Excess was in. Girls could also have a different necklace for every outfit - something previous generations never experienced.
The combination of trendy patterns, cheap materials and cultural appetite for all things new meant that the 1920s were an exciting time for jewelry designers - and for fashionistas!
Bracelets: Stacked and Loaded
Long sleeves were out and showing skin was in. This meant arms were there to be decorated. Bangles and armbands all were designed to show off the arms, and many used typical Art Deco or Oriental designs to do so. Egyptian scarabs, for example, were a popular motif.
Materials included lucite, onyx, and jade for durability and to keep costs from stacking up. These elaborate bracelets were layered up the arm in keeping with the excessive aesthetic of the era.
Earrings: Dangling Droplets
Earrings became popular as the short bob hairstyle allowed more visibility to the ears and neck. Women preferred long drop style earrings, to draw the eye down to the neck, with a gemstone at the end.
Diamonds were seen as too excessive for everyday wear, so jewelers used semi-precious stones like jade, coral, turquoise, and, agate set in white, clear or silver casings. Silver was preferred, or a cheaper metal - like zinc - to achieve the same look. Brighter yellow gold was not as on-trend, except in Egyptian inspired looks.
Rings: Giving Tradition the Finger
Rings were heavily inspired by the Art Deco trend of the day. While precious stones might have been passed down in ring form, newer designs favored non-traditional cuts such as square, rectangle, or ovals.
Many were set in elaborate settings and designed to pop high off the finger, drawing attention to the hand. Birthstones were a popular trend, and let a ring act as a conversation starter as well as an eyecatcher!
Necklaces: Long, Layered.. .and Lusty!
Necklines were moving down into more risque territory as well, leaving open necks and open backs to be decorated. The most iconic of these is the pearl necklace. A 1920’s gal might layer up to 60 at once of different lengths. Coco Chanel started this trend, making it acceptable to even wear fake pearls just for the look.
Long beads were also popular, mixing resin, glass, and semi-precious stones in multiple colors for bold designs. There was freedom to mix and match - clashing colors were even on-trend!
One unique style was the Sautoir - a long thin necklace with a single tassel or gem at the end. Sometimes it was worn down the back of a dress, especially when the dress was backless. This way, the wearer drew attention down her back, adding to the sex appeal of the outfit.
Headwear: Coy and Covered
One classic tradition that the 1920’s generation did embrace was headwear - but in their own way. A woman rarely left the house without a hat, but new styles to show off shorter hair were developed.
The cloche hat is the most popular of these. Made of felt or wool and fitting close to the head, these hats were low over the eyes and shaped like a bell. In fact, cloche means bell in French. The wearer would need to tilt her head up coyly to be seen - another accessory used to flirt!
All in All, a Roaring Decade!
In the 1920’s it wasn’t about what you wore - but how you wore it. The style was the key factor, not wealth or class. For fashionable ladies of this decade, every accessory was a way not just to show some personal style, but to embrace more relaxed social norms.
So next time you are taking a look at some 1920’s jewelry, remember it was a symbol of freedom - and most importantly fun!
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