Jewelry trends of the 1930s
The stock market crashed and with it prices of clothing and accessories dropped dramatically. A dress that cost $24 in 1928 cost only $4 in 1931. Budgets were being stretched very thin and clothing designers had to make cutbacks in design and material quality. For 1930s jewelry, the same economical reductions were being made yet because of the glamorous Hollywood effect more women were wearing more jewelry and jewelry trends shifted from simple to extravagant.
Sparkling 1930s jewelry styles in the form of necklaces, pins, earrings, dress clips, buttons, buckles and bracelets were made cheaply with faux materials such as painted glass instead of real pearls or Bakelite, a form of plastic, instead of gemstones. Rich looking 1930s women’s jewelry was necessary to making a poor dress look like a million dollars.
The genuine gems that costume jewels were imitating would be incredibly expensive to purchase. However, with imitations using clever new technologies and processes, suddenly everyone could adorn themselves in glittering gems and strands of beads and wear them all day long. Dressmakers often sold coordinated jewelry with each dress. Many dressmakers were also jewelry designers (like Coco Chanel.)
Jewelry Trends
Jewelry designers who sold to Hollywood, where they were mimicked and mass-produced, looked to the latest modernistic (now called Art Deco) movement for design inspiration. Unlike the 1920s, where jewelry was long, thin, light and delicate 1930s styles returned to heavier origins in the Victorian style. Shapes were angular- squares, rectangles or ovals set in black and silver settings. The main difference between Victorian and 1930s jewelry was in the variety of colored gemstones offered: ruby red, amethyst purple, topaz orange, emerald green, aquamarine blue, as well as black onyx.
Throughout the decade, designs shifted from dark and heavy to silver, white, ivory and clear diamond sets. Even gold set gemstones came back in fashion by the end of the 1930s, something that hadn’t been seen since before 1900.
1930s Sparkle Jewelry Styles
One of the most prevalent styles of costume jewelry during the 1930s was sparkle – the more sparkle, the better! This trend was interpreted and used in a few different ways – the ‘white on white’ style, and ‘paste’ being two of the most popular. One of the reasons sparkle became so popular during the 1930s was the rise of the silver screen. Increasingly, more people were going to the movie theatres to see the latest releases – which would be in black and white.
This meant clear gems and jewels stood out on the movie screen more prolifically than colored stones and gems. Costume and set designers realized this, and so began bejeweling their stars in densely concentrated sparkling stones. This trend filtered through to the movie-going audiences. Clear gems were set into pale silver, white gold and platinum fittings to mimic the trend.
1930s Paste Jewelry
To achieve maximum sparkle, stones were set closely together, or were produced using ‘paste.’ In the 17th and 18th centuries, paste was used in a similar way to the early 20th century costume jewelry – to imitate real gems. Back then, even if genuine gems could be afforded, replicas were often made to safe guard against theft.
Paste was made from ground glass heated with other elements and mixed to form a paste – hence the name. It became an incredibly popular method of producing imitation gems, and would remain so for the next few centuries.
Coco Chanel wearing pearls in 1937
1930s Star & Moon Shapes
During the art deco period, stars and moons were frequently seen in jewelry and accessory designs. Chanel was so inspired by star motifs, that she designed jewelry in the early years of the decade with beautiful clusters of shooting stars.
Pearl Jewelry
Pearls have been popular for centuries, and even today are still a favored choice of jewelry. Given a new lease of life by Chanel in the 1920s, long strands of pearls suddenly became popular once again. Pearls were not only present in necklaces, but also in brooches – sometimes incorporated with the ‘white on white’ paste style, earrings and bracelets. Pearls really are a timeless jewelry item, and can be worn in so many different ways – perhaps proving way they are still so popular.
1930s Bracelets
The bracelets of this decade were varied, sometimes sparkling with paste set as imitation diamonds, or sometimes as a simple bangle style. The actual fit of bracelets tightened during this era, mostly due to Hollywood.
Movie studios did not want their actresses creating the unwanted sounds of bangles and bracelets clanking together. Therefore, bracelets were worn tighter on the wrist to minimize movement.