Jewelry of the Twentieth century


This period of jewelry history is lacking of any definitive study. Information is rather sketchy and opinionated, which does not aid the search for details. Also, since the designs are relatively new ones, many do not see them as "historical" enough to be studied. Perhaps because of the many worldwide upsets and the polarization of nations, the influences and periods of jewelry have not been able to form. There are distinct styles belonging to this century, but they grew out of relatively quiet times.

At the turn of the century, the first Gibson girl appeared. The colored stones, enamels and heavy gold work of the previous decades lost favor to jewelry of delicacy and unreality. Thinness was the fashion of the day, from waists to jewelry.

After World War I, these romantic designs did not fit into a world where such horrors had just occurred. Designs became more sophisticated, with the basic shapes being geometric, architectural and mechanistic. Stones were seldom used, with jewelry being formed from metal into the bold designs of art deco.

The twenties rolled on and worries were few under the "stirring" leadership of Calvin Coolidge. Fashions were soft and an interest in nature returned. Botanical motifs were common in jewelry, with lianas "writhed in demented convulsions," iris, poppies, mistletoe, and faces of women of "fatal beauty" . The only stones used were precious ones, with a preference for rare colored stones. Excellent enameled settings were the most finely executed of their craft. The colors were often kept the same as those in nature, only more vivid and always glossy. Art nouveau continued through the thirties and again design was interrupted by war.

After World War I and even more after World War II, a number of severe shocks shook the jeweller’s art. Court life that had long been their main support had all but vanished. For perhaps the first time in the history of jewelry, the availability of money was the most important factor in the design of fine jewelry.


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