Style School: Costume Jewelry Styles Throughout the Decades

Style School: Costume Jewelry Styles Throughout the Decades

Costume Jewelry Styles Throughout the Decades

Vintage costume jewelry has changed throughout the decades, contingent on fashion styles, availability of materials, and cultural influences. Here's a brief overview of how styles have changed throughout the decades.

1920s: Art Deco styles were all the rage throughout the 1920s. It was a decade of change, and consumerism was central to this decade. Woman wore short bobbed hair, creating the opportunity to showcase long dangling earrings. Necklaces were also long, often draped and layered. Pearls and clear rhinestones imitating the jewels of the wealthy were popular. Other notable jewelry pieces are narrow bracelets and statement brooches. Silver, white gold, and white metals were most common. The Art Deco movement popularized geometric shapes, stylized motifs, and clean lines. Notable designers of this decade are Channel and Schiaparelli.

1930s Czech Glass Vintage Necklace

 1930s: The Great Depression was an impact on both jewelry and clothing designs. As women couldn’t change their look out of financial difficulty, they relied on costume jewelry and accessories to change up their look. Popular materials were molded glass, bakelite, and other inexpensive plastics. Dress clips, brooches, necklaces, bracelets, and pendant earrings were popular. Whimsical and novelty pieces and an increased use of color are noted for this decade. Notable costume jewelry designer were Coro, Trifari, Boucher, and Ciner.

1940s Mexican Silver Bracelet, Earrings, and Brooch

1940s: As clothing became more masculine and utilitarian, jewelry became more feminine. Metal was a limited resource due to war rations, so wood, leather, lucite, shells, and ceramics became popular. Large three-dimensional pieces, particularly brooches and bracelets were popular. Interestingly, quality of costume jewelry went up during the 1940s as many jewelers had to accommodate to market changes. Notable designers were Trifari, Weiss, Eisenberg, Hobe, Juliana, and Coro. 

1960s brown rhinestone costume jewelry panure set

1950s: With a rebounding economy post war and Hollywood influences such as Breakfast at Tiffany's, women once again sought out jewelry that resembled fine jewels. Extravagant styles, especially Dior’s New Look, begged for fashion to be accessorized with bold statement pieces. The popularity of parure and matching sets soared. The most defining statement in jewelry from this decade was the simple strand of pearls, though bib necklaces, large brooches, faux pearls and rhinestones completed cocktail attire. Gold tone metals overtook silver, color choices expanded as colored rhinestones in vibrant hues hit the shelves, and designers played with metal textures and decorative beads. Notable designers: Dior, Weiss, Juliana, Hobe, and Monet.

1960s costume jewelry brooch and earring blue cabochon set


1960s: Associated with free love, empowerment, and anti-establishment, the sixties are a revolutionary decade, which inspired trends for costume jewelry. Large pendants, hoop earrings, layering and multi-stand necklaces became popular. Production costs dropped and less expensive materials were used. Plastics, vinyl, glass, beads, and textured metals are key for this decade. Bold colors, floral and organic designs, and statement jewelry adorned the wrists, ears, and necks of everyday women. Worldly influences from India, Asia, and Native Americans also inspired designs. Notable designers are Monet, Kenneth Jay Lane, and Trifari.

1970s multi gold chain Monet chunky bracelet Bloomers and Frocks

1970s: Fueled by both the hippie movement and the era of disco, 1970s costume jewelry was either bohemian or all sparkle and bling. Bohemian influences were found in the use of wood, bone, and shell; whereas disco pieces were often gold or rhinestone. The more sparkle, the better. Chunky chains, layered necklaces, stacks of bangles, and statement earrings that moved with your body when you dance were in vogue. Notable designers are Whiting and Davis, Coro, and Monet.

1980s Multi Strand Pearl Monet Necklace for sale from Bloomers and Frocks

1980s: The decade of opulence. This decade is characterized by bold, oversized, and extravagant styles. The youth took to trends such as jelly bracelets, swatch watches, and other unisex styles. Whereas women took inspiration from 'Dallas' and adorned themselves to be dripping in decadence. High polish, large brooches, layered chains, and layered pearls were found in jewels from the 80s. Throwbacks to the 1950s but re-imagined as bolder and larger pieces are characteristic of the eighties. Notable designers: Kenneth J Lane, Vivienne Westwood, Judith Leiber, and Monet.  

 1980s Judith Leiber Lions Head Brooch Pendant