The ways jewelry changed over the 20th century are quite astounding. Like many aspects of our culture, changes swept in rapidly with the modern world. Today, we benefit from those changes in many ways. In fact, without the ways jewelry changed during the 20th century, many of us wouldn’t have access to it at all!
Towards the end of the 20th century, the Art Nouveau jewelry movement became a little symbolic! One of the sharpest ways jewelry changed in the early 20th century was it began to reflect the literature of the time. A French designer named Louis Comfort Tiffany led the way with these changes. By the time he died in the 1940s, he had sparked one of the world’s most iconic jewelry chains.
We have all heard of Tiffany’s today, but it wasn’t until a little later in the early 20th century that Tiffany took America by storm. Suddenly, jewelry became less of a fixation of the rich, and more of an iconic aspiration everyone wanted to get their hands on. As we now know, the 20th century became the period when diamonds were known as “A girl’s best friend.” This was all thanks to Tiffany, and the other designers who followed in his footsteps.
With Jazz and flapper girls came the Art Deco movement. The aim of jewelry during this time was to scream that you were sophisticated. The more gemstone types you could pack into your pieces, the better. Why? Because it showed you were rich and cultured enough to access a variety of jewel sources.
Of course there was this little turning point when jewelry became quite ridiculous. Suddenly, it was no longer the case that jewelry had to feature jewels. Thanks to the emergence of mass production, plastic pieces were formed. This meant that even the poorest of ladies could don themselves in some form of finery, no matter how garish it was.
As America began to experiment with new technologies and styles in the middle of the 20th century, costume jewelry exploded onto the scene. This is one of the few assets of the 1950s and 1960s that make me feel as though I would have enjoyed living back then. Suddenly, styles were so garish that they broke all the jewelry rules. Today, you can still get your hands on olden day costume jewelry pieces.
This is one of the most astounding turns of the 20th century. For some reason, we began sticking jewelry all over our bodies. Nose rings exploded through the 1970s, and by the 1990s bellybutton rings were as essential as engagement rings. Today, people even place jewelry in some seriously questionable places. I once had my tongue pierced; I don’t recommend it.
Go into any high street store now, and the chances are you can get your hands on some pretty attractive jewelry for less than a few dollars. Thanks to mass manufacturing and globalisation, we can make anything. Fake diamonds look realer than ever, with only real experts being able to tell the difference between them and the real thing. Of course luxury goods still exist, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fakery too!
I am pleased that jewelry went through so many changes during the 20th century. Suddenly it became an accessible part of fashion, allowing everyone to enjoy it! Today, it is less about luxury and more about style. If there is a historic form of jewelry you love, what is it?
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