Innovation and evolution are woven into the very fabric of fashion. The relentless forward momentum of design means we often forget to look back at the inspiration and invention that has gone before. As the years roll by, a certain timeless appeal can befall the styles of bygone ages, and this has inspired us to revisit the mid-20th century and the jewellery fashions that carried us from the post-war period through to the swinging sixties.
The quarter-century following World War II was brimming with optimism and modernism, and nothing defines this more than the space race. Designers looked to the skies and pieces from this era echo starburst and atomic imagery. Cartier even named one of their designs ‘Sputnik’ after the satellite that started our ventures beyond earth.
Extravagant jewellery became more desirable after the austerity of the war, helped by a growing market for semi-precious stones in exciting colours that had previously only found a limited audience. Gems like Aquamarine and Tourmaline were more affordable in bigger carat weights, so large, flamboyant cocktail rings became prominent.
Intricately designed chains and bracelets were very stylish during this vintage-inspired era, especially long chains that could be draped casually around the neck. Pieces set with bright gems were popular, but so too were plain gold and silver designs that could be worn with any number of colourful outfits without clashing.
The 1960s saw jewellery designs getting bolder, brasher and even more colourful. Cabochon gems – those that are polished into a dome rather than cut with a series of flat facets – were all the rage, and the colour of the gem became more important than its value. This style of gem allows for really chunky metalwork too.
Gold jewellery with no gems became increasingly popular as daytime wear, and quite often the goldwork would be textured. Designs were characterised by their twisted, interlocking looks and their organically-inspired shapes. This style reduced the amount of gold needed, and thus the cost, in a time when the economy was still recovering.
The modernist movement hit its stride with contemporary abstract designs characterised by bold geometric shapes and clean, sweeping lines – often featuring unusual gemstones. The trend was reinforced by the power of glamorous Hollywood stars like Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor who adored and championed their jewellery pieces.
Big chunky beads were a significant part of the mid-century look and were often built up into elaborate, oversized pieces that screamed colour. The trend for more unusual and affordable stones continued into the 1960s, allowing for iconic multi-strand necklaces and thick bracelets made up of many gemstones.
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