Friday, September 9, 2011

A Little Jewelry History ~ Part Three: The Roaring 20’s/The Great Depression

“The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.”
~ Salvador Dali

This period in our jewelry history opens with the great prosperity of the 1920’s and ends with the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Two such contrasting times in our history. How does it affect the history of jewelry?

Costume Jewelry came into its own during this period and two distinct styles emerged, as there was a desire to keep things as they were and a longing for something new. Women yearned for emancipation, and role models like actress Sarah Bernhardt had a tremendous influence on jewelry designs. Her style was new and sensual. Copies of Sarah Bernhardt’s jewelry flew off the shelves.

The more conventional motifs included floral baskets and bows. Lighter colors became popular in fine jewelry and costume jewelry followed suit using silver instead of platinum, imitation pearls and rhinestones.

Czechoslovakia produced some of the most distinctive costume jewelry made from crystal stones and beads. Daniel Swarovski made the finest paste stones and they are still produced today.

This period is most strongly identified with Art Deco. Geometric forms were inspired by the Cubism movement, and figural subjects like flower baskets were highly stylized.

Bakelite was a popular synthetic material favored for it’s malleable quality and bright colors. It lent itself well to the Art Deco style.

By the mid 1930’s costume jewelry really came into its own and instead of imitating precious jewels, the styles were bigger and bolder. Art Deco was reworked into a dramatic retro style worn and popularized by actresses like Joan Crawford. These pieces could be worn day to evening, which was perfect for the new breed of working women.

Hats (and costume jewelry) off to our Grandmothers, Mothers, and Aunts for paving the way for fashionable career women today!


  1. Really love this blog and your post...being a lover of history and tradition myself...I appreciate your history lesson here.

    history and hugs

  2. Wonderful history. When I was a kid and loved reading mysteries it seemed someone was always replacing real gems with "paste." Of course I never quite understood how one could create an imitation gem with the jar of paste and brush that we used in arts and crafts... ;)