Every jewelry aficionado has at least one piece in their collection that stands out, be it for eye-catching glitz, overly ornate details, or understated simplicity. But where do these pieces come from? Heirlooms? Antique shops? Your local department store? All jewelry, be they from yesterday or yesteryear, can be credited in design to certain eras.
Each groundbreaking design period had jewelry styles that are easy to identify, so let us begin with one of the earliest trends to break away from the mold of conservative cameos and basic gemstones…
ART NOUVEAU (all the rage: 1895-1915)
The graceful Art Nouveau period started with designers in France and those in America following suit. The most important characteristic of this kind of jewelry was its free-flowing nature. The whimsical lines found in Art Nouveau jewelry suggest the movement, passion, and youthful vigor in the new ideas of the turn of the century. At the heart of the Art Nouveau movement were nature motifs and fantastical elements such as fairies and wood creatures.
EDWARDIAN (all the rage: 1890-1920)
After the death of the UK’s Queen Victoria, the Edwardian era was ushered in when her son Edward took the throne. This was a lavish period with pearls and diamonds paired with emeralds, rubies and other gemstone accents. This era was proven to be a highly decorative and elaborate period, full of regal and bold components.
ART DECO (all the rage: 1920-1935)
The period between the World Wars witnessed new interest in modernizing jewelry. Designers of the Art Deco period welcomed the clean lines of the machine age — forms inspired by nature or abstract sources followed
geometric lines, a noticeable difference from both Edwardian and Art Nouveau jewelry. In addition to the strong shapes, this was a period of contrasting bright colors.
Motifs of the Art Deco period included screw-back / clip-on earrings and Egyptian-esque jewelry (King Tut’s tomb was discovered in 1922). Themes of this era are still prevalent today — new diamond cuts were introduced to accentuate the geometric taste, including the emerald cut, triangle cut, trapeze cut, and marquis cut.
RETRO (all the rage: 1935-1950s)
Even before World War II, jewelry was changing. The Retro look was an infusion of old and new – utilizing the curves of Art Nouveau with the clean simple look of Art Deco, but in a scale not seen before. Big was beautiful when it comes to describing jewelry of the Retro period, elaborate and colorful with an array of gold and gemstones. It had Hollywood for its inspiration, so the retro jewelry was somewhat larger than life in style. This was also the period when charm bracelets became a favorite jewelry item.
CONTEMPORARY (all the rage: 1960s to present)
Jewelry in recent decades has come a long way. Plastics were introduced, which provided a huge outlet for new colors and styles. Price points decreased and everyone was now able to find an affordable style to suit them. Bold, primary colors emerged, as did oversized cartoony shapes. This carried on well into the 1980s, but after the “massive consumption” years of the decade, less became more in the 1990s. The silhouette became neater as shoulder pads finally died and jewelry became non-existent or chic in its simplicity and barely-there quality. Floating necklaces were popular, as were simple studs for earrings. Moving forward, the ’00s weren’t so much about any one trend — it actually relied heavily on past decades for inspiration. Add in leather cuffs, arm bands and cocktail rings, and you’ve got yourself a complete ensemble from the early 21st century.
Take a little Art Nouveau and toss in a little Deco, grab that Edwardian-esque set of earrings and contrast it with a dark chain necklace. Have fun with your jewelry and blur the lines of yesterday and today.
*Photo Credits: I Find You Seek Vintage