Nestled between the two World Wars, the Art Deco period shared space with the age of the flappers, rising and falling hemlines, and the dramatic shift from long to medium and short hair lengths for women.
The arts were a major influence on fashions, and the Russian ballet inspired bright colors. The art movements, Cubism and Favasium, reflected in fabric designs making geometric prints popular.
1920-1935 Art Deco
- Jewelry was used to soften the masculine perception of the short hairstyles. Ladies were fond of dangling earrings, long strand necklaces, and wearing multiple bracelets at one-time to add sparkle to every outfit.
- Even swimwear could not escape the need for jewelry accessories. Designers created special jewelry for swimming consisting of painted and waterproof wooden balls for necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
- Synthetic stones and novelty necklaces were in fashion, especially imitating birthstones, using crystals, rhinestones, synthetic spinel, synthetic sapphires, and garnet-glass doublets that could imitate almost any natural gem.
- Pearl necklaces, another favorite, came in extremely long strands. Standard lengths were 15 inches, 18 inches, 24 inches, and 30 inches, but could also be found in 60 inches.
- White gold was patented at the beginning of the decade and stones that created a dramatic contrast against the setting were the standard, especially in rings, making black onyx the standard art deco gemstone for the period, often accented with a small diamond in the center to add sparkle.
- The end of the 1920’s began with the Great Depression and movies became a popular and affordable pastime. The jewelry industry shifted their marketing efforts to Hollywood and began modeling their designs after styles worn by starlets like Marlene Dietrich, Dorothy Mackaill, and Jean Harlow.
- Jewelry in the early 1930’s provided a way for women to dress up an outfit that would look otherwise tired and plain. A new dress may cost a few dollars while an opera length strand of imitation pearls may have cost about 29 cents.
- Jewelry costs lowered to more affordable prices by using creative design elements of Lalique-style filigree and milgrain, while combining rock crystal and tiny diamond accents as a center stone.
The Art Deco period is known for its glitz and Hollywood glamour while bending feminine norms. Invisible set gemstones, made famous by Van Cleef & Arpels, also made its debut during this time.
Next week we’ll explore the Retro Period, which is marked by World War II and the official debut of rose gold.