Bold. That’s the most striking characteristic of Retro Era jewelry. Commonly referred to as “cocktail jewelry”, Retro Era pieces are almost the polar opposite from the times that they were created in.
The mid-1930′ to 1940’s were an interesting period in American history that were marked with both the Great Depression and World War II. Times were tough and resources were scarce, which makes the designs of Retro jewelry all the more intriguing. While the struggling American public would seem to lend itself to conservative jewelry designs, women of the 30’s and 40’s wanted the glamour that they saw on the silver screen.
The Hollywood Golden Age
In hard times, people turn to the entertainment industry to forget their troubles. In the 1930’s and 40’s, Hollywood was hitting it’s stride as the entertainment of choice for a financially depressed American public. This had a massive influence on style during this time period with their stories of glitz and glamour, and Retro Era jewelry was born.
With World War II underway, all hands were on deck when it came to women working in industrial and manufacturing jobs. These industries required plain business attire and work clothes, which obviously limited creativity with style and fashion. Women still wanted to show their femininity in a fun way, which led to larger than life necklace, earring, and ring designs.
Retro Era Jewelry Designs
Retro pieces have many dazzling and whimsical characteristics, such as large flowery designs, ruffles, and bows. It was extremely common at the time for pieces to feature several overstated ribbon-like curves as well. Because of the scarcity of precious stones, synthetic sapphires and rubies became a standard alternative to the traditional diamond. If diamonds were included in designs, they were often small and surrounded by other stones like citrine, topaz, and aquamarine. This made Retro Era designs more more bold and colorful than jewelry from previous time periods like Art Deco and Art Nouveu.
Gold and Metal Hybrids
In addition to diamond scarcity, platinum was also in short-supply due to the war. This led to a major increase in the use of gold and other hybrid alloys that were not previously used in jewelry. As you may have noticed – rose gold has become extremely popular in the recent years. However, rose gold was actually a common metal used in cocktail jewelry of the 30’s and 40’s and is found in many Retro pieces.
Jonathan’s Fine Jewelers has dealt in vintage jewelry for over 25 years. One of the early staples of our business revolved on identifying, buying, and selling vintage estate jewelry. If you are interested in Retro Era jewelry or would like us to evaluate pieces in your possession, call or send us an email to schedule an appointment. You can also view our eBay store to find some of our current inventory.