|A cranberry Lucite necklace
So we covered costume jewelry from the ’30s and ’40s and are now on to the ’50s and ’60s. But just to recap, jewelry went through a major shift during the ’30s and ’40s as a result of the Great Depression and WWII. Instead of gold and silver, designers were using cheaper materials like Bakelite. Diamonds were replaced with rhinestones. And not only were the materials used influenced by the times, but the styles were as well.
After WWII the American economy emerged flush with victory and started producing large quantities of costume jewelry. All those war-working women were ready to treat themselves well and designers responded eagerly.
Copper jewelry became popular giving rise to a number of companies based in California, as well as some individual designers such as Gret Barkin on the East Coast.
Lucite, a crystal clear plastic, was introduced in 1937 but became fashionable in the 1950s, replacing Bakelites’ popularity. Designers such as Coro and Napier used confetti Lucite, which has chips of glitter encased in the plastic, during this period. But the most collectible Lucite jewelry from this time are the “Jelly Belly” figurals that have a central “stone” of clear Lucite as the belly of the piece.
Diaconate (clear or crystal) rhinestone jewels, including “prom queen” necklace and earrings sets were chosen for their diamond-like sparkle without the price. And white jewelry was well-loved, especially for summer, carrying the trend into the 1960s.
The 1960s ushered in a period of a more conservative flavor. While rhinestone jewelry was still popular for evening wear, pearl and gold tone jewelry became staples of every woman’s jewelry box. Many beautiful sets of matching necklaces, bracelets and earrings were made by large jewelry manufacturers such as Monet and Trifari, providing daytime wear for millions of American women.
Another style that emerged from the ‘60s was “Mod” jewelry including flower power, black & white “op art,” and multi strand necklaces in day-glo colors like orange, brilliant pink, extreme yellow, and lime. And colored faceted balls of Lucite jewelry, big hoop earrings, ball drop earrings, and bright plastic bangles were prevalent.
The later part of the 1960s was a time of the Hippie Revolution, when ethnic looks, silver and hand crafted looks were popular. Boho chic included leather cuffs, love beads and braided hemp.
Next week I’ll touch on costume jewelry from the ’70s and ’80s and give you tips on how to appraise and date your finds.
-Shannan Fales is the owner of Junction at 1510 U Street NW. She shares her expertise in vintage and thrift each Tuesday.