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Costume jewelry

Because of the Depression in the 1930s, the art direction changed. Costume jewelry was considered to be disposable jewelry and was only popular for a limited time. Most people could no longer afford the Art Deco styles birthed in the 1920s, although some of the gem/diamond cuts have endured through present day. Costume jewelry and antique jewelry are sometimes thought of as synonymous, but most jewelers say antique jewelry begins before the 1930s. Much of the jewelry would feature a great deal of metal and maybe one rhinestone or small rhinestone clusters. Dress clips were developed in this era and stayed in style until the 1950s. One of the most significant designers beginning in the 1930s was Margaret de Patta, specializing in the Modern Art movement and Constructivism.


Because of the war, there were restrictions on the use of precious metals, therefore, gold-plated silver and sterling silver began to be used in the construction of jewelry. The “artificial” was promoted such as faux pearls, faux emeralds, and rhinestones, plus the use of glass and plastics. Clip-on earrings, brooches, and pins became very popular.

The Modernist “German School” artists who sought protection from the Nazi regime, came to America before and during World War II. These artists influenced American arts with crafts in the development of schools, such as, Black Mountain College in North Carolina and Cranbrook Academy in Michigan. During the war, metalsmithing became an occupational therapy program for soldiers who had served their country. Two women who were prominent in this movement were Mrs. Vanderbilt Webb and jeweler/metalsmith Margret Craver.

Recognized jewelry artists of the 1940s were the following:

  1. Margaret DePatta

    2. Sam Craver

    3. Paul Lobel

    4. Ed Wiener

    5. Art Smith


Daytime: Gold Jewelry without rhinestones

Evening: Diamonds

In the early 1950s, retro 40s jewelry was still popular as were Victorian bows. Later, the glamour of Hollywood permeated the style of jewelry in the 1950s with movie stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Elvis Pressley, and Marilyn Monroe. Their classic beauty and timeless presence contributed to the style that developed, creating a sassy sophistication.

Types of Jewelry:

Lucite Jewelry

Multi-stranded necklaces made of large beads

Diamante (crystal or clear) rhinestones

Modernist jewelry for “beatniks”

White jewelry for summer

Wearing large jewelry accented with smaller pieces was a trend in the 1950s as seen in “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” One larger piece was usually worn, e.g., a choker with a small watch and earrings to complement it. Nature was the primary inspiration for the jewelry designers of this period. Floral symbols, snowflakes, birds, and geometrical patterns were commonly used. Usually natural colored stones, such as, blues, greens, reds and golds were seen embedded with diamonds. Plastics became popular as the 1960s approached.


Art is a reflection of society and the jewelry designs of the 1960s exemplify that. It was a fashion revolution just as it was a time of unrest around the world. Plastics were king and necklaces & earrings were the preferred jewelry type. Chokers were replaced by longer chains and the popularity of brooches began to decline. Golds and ambers were the primary colors supplemented by the bold colors of Mod jewelry, such as, bright pink, orange, lime, and very yellow. The shapes of 1960s jewelry were mainly circular and oval.


Ethnic jewelry: Egyptian, Asian, and East Indian

Love beads of hippie jewelry

Plastic bangles

Giant pendants of wildlife, especially owls

Medieval motifs

Art Nouveau styles

perfect engagement ring box
Tips to Care for Your Jeweler

Source by Gregory Louis Smith

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