Retro Modern Jewelry (~1935 to 1950)

During the 1930’s, Art Deco jewelry designs began to evolve into geometric styles that were larger and more heavily proportioned and curvaceous. This became known as Retro Modern. Floral motifs from the romantic, Victorian period were boldly reinterpreted, while other designs were modern and geometric. As the 1940’s rolled around, the Hollywood scene and World War II influences were making an impact on not only jewelry design, but on the materials used and the type of pieces women would wear.

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During World War II, platinum was considered a strategic material reserved primarily for military applications. Therefore, with the greater availability of gold, copper, and other alloys, highly polished yellow, rose, and tricolor gold took over in popularity. As precious stones were scarcer to come by, less costly yet beautiful colored stones, such as amethyst, citrine, aquamarine, tourmaline, topaz, and gems from South America were used. Three dimensional, lavishly embellished, ribbon and bow, scrolled, and scalloped design elements were common along with the use of baguette diamonds.

Also at this time, the Golden Age of Hollywood was in full swing and fully embraced and influenced Retro Modern jewelry. People looked to the silver screen for fashion cues and women wanted to emulate the female stars and their glamorous, colorful, over-the-top style.

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Female wartime clothing fashions were more masculine in design, utilizing heavy fabrics and featuring broad shoulders and wide lapels. The heavy fabrics needed something to provide a softer, feminine touch. Brooches became the most popular jewelry pieces worn as the wide lapels were the perfect place to display these big, bold fashion statements. Another popular item worn was elaborate rings of precious stones with shapes and curves that rose up high on the finger.

The influential Retro Modern jewelers were Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany & Co, Boucheron, Cartier, Fulco di Verdura, Raymond Yard, Paul Flato, and Guberlin.

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