Friday, October 7, 2011

A Little Jewelry History ~ Part Four: WWII/America's Golden Age

“A kiss on the hand may be quite continental
But diamonds are a girl's best friend
A kiss may be grand... but it won't pay the rental on your humble flat
Or help you at the automat
Men grow cold as girls grow old
And we all lose our charms in the end
But square cut or pear shape these rocks don't lose their shape
Diamonds are a girl's best friend” ~Marilyn Monroe

We start this jewelry history in the 1940’s. Men were away fighting the war, and women were filling the jobs they left behind. Many of the factories that had produced jewelry were now producing war related items. Many metals were restricted for costume jewelry so sterling silver was the substitute.
Costume jewelry of the 1940s could be identified in two categories: fashion and novelty. Fashion jewelry was cast from the finer metals like sterling silver, and was being produced by the major manufacturers, Coro, Trifari, Haskell, and Carnigie to name a few.

The glass stones that were so abundant previously were now in short supply. Manufacturers used them sparingly, creating bolder designs with single large faux gemstones.

Novelty Jewelry was stamped from less expensive base metals or molded from plastic. Novelty jewelry was more fun and whimsical. Patriotic jewelry was a popular theme.

The fifties brought Americas Golden Age. The war was over, and there was a lot of optimism in the country. Jewelry of this era reflected this optimism with glitzy gold tones and lots of rhinestones.

When Marilyn Monroe sang “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend,” women went crazy trying to emulate the look and rhinestones were a perfect fit.

I think this era more than any other made me fall in love with costume jewelry. I remember my grandmother letting me play with her box of “old” jewelry when I was little. It was a treasure trove of “glitzy” 1950’s brooches, bracelets and of course the famous necklace/earring sets!


  1. Your posts are always so informative and fun to read! Thanks Renee.

  2. I hear the Moulin Rouge version of that song when I read the lyrics!
    That bird necklace is amazing. Thanks for the lesson!

  3. Love that fifth necklace (pink one)! Costume jewelry is so much fun!

  4. Beautiful pieces, I love costume jewelry, the design and elements are so vast and varied, thanks for posting.

  5. Thank you for all the great comments! I love costume jewelry and this era is a favorite. It reminds me of my mom and grandmothers.

  6. Great reading, I only have one piece of my grandmothers!