Fashion and jewelry have evolved significantly with the changing times in the past century. It may be surprising for some to know that the evolution of trends is influenced not just by fashion experts, but by the social and economic climate of the time. If you look closely, you’ll find that history is deeply embedded in jewelry trends across the decades.
Jewelry Throughout the Decades: How it’s Changed
Also known as the period of Edwardian and Belle Epoque jewelry, this was a crossroads between the monarchs of old and the industrialization of the future. Platinum was introduced to the fashion market but was highly valued for its rarity after the war. Art nouveau style dominated this period, with designs drawing inspiration from nature — lacework-type jewelry with garlands of flowers and leaves, lightly engraved pieces, insects, animals, feathers, and lotus blossoms.
Diamonds and natural pearls were popularly used as earrings, necklaces, and brooches.
In a time of wealth and consumerism after World War I (think ala “The Great Gatsby”), people lived largely and extravagantly. Also called the Art Deco era, this was characterized by sleek lines and streamlined forms, a motif that flowed from architecture to fashion.
This period was also known for costume jewelry like dog collar necklaces and drop earrings, which suited the short hairstyles that women wore at the time. Pearls and diamonds were the go-to jewelry, accented by colorful crystals like sapphire, ruby, onyx, and emerald.
The trademark of this decade is the pearl necklace, which was either worn short and stacked or a single long strand. The ‘20s also saw the rise of jewelry titans Tiffany & Co and Cartier.
During the time of the Great Depression, the US economy took a devastating nosedive and millions struggled financially. Understandably, this affected the jewelry industry and consumers’ spending power. Jewelry became simpler, typically only a short pearl necklace and simple earrings. Brands began producing affordable faux jewelry out of glass, plastic, and inexpensive gemstones.
The aspiration for the high life was still very much present with the rise of the silver screen and monochrome movies. Actresses frequently wore sparkling necklaces and earrings that shone well on camera. Celestial shapes were also popularized by fashion powerhouses like Chanel.
Defined by World War II, very few had the luxury of affording jewelry and there wasn’t much reason to wear it, either. Precious metals were in demand, so accessories were crafted with beads and sterling silver instead. The jewelry industry endured in the Retro Period, turning to semi-precious stones and gold of fewer carats.
Jewelers leveraged the rise of colored photos to popularize colorful designs and novelty pieces. Identification bracelets also became a trend, a civilian counterpart to a soldier’s dog tag. These were chain-link bracelets with the owner’s name engraved on a slim metal tag. Women began attaching trinkets to the hoops of the chain-link bracelet, leading to the creation of charm bracelets.
After World War II, society looked forward to a calm, picket-fence-perfect life. Women were expected to be the image of grace, glamour, and composure, as exemplified by the style icons of the era, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.
Ultra-feminine jewelry defined the era, with matching jewelry sets rising to fame. Pearl necklaces become trendy again, made even more affordable and widespread through the invention of imitation pearls. Diamonds continued to be preferred, with styles leaning more toward the extravagant side.
The 60s were characterized by hippie flower power and other-worldly designs. The Space Age influenced fashion to take a geometric and neon turn, alongside the popularity of pop art. Big, plastic hoop earrings were an iconic piece from this period. Jewelry was made in plastic, vinyl, and resin, as well as milk glass, crystals, and metals.
Bohemian fashion was starting to become popular. Layered necklaces and bangles were trendy, as well as colorful beads, cocktail rings, and florals. Some known personalities from the era are Twiggy and Jackie Kennedy.
This era presented two sides of the fashion coin. On one hand, there was bohemian fashion which was known to be counterculture and promoted natural, understated pieces. Jewelry of the era was crafted with ivory and shells. The San Francisco movement at the time popularized colorful handmade love beads, mood rings, and gemstones.
On the other hand, there was disco and its glitzy, flashy fashion. Accessories came in all shapes of gold – gold chains, chunky gold bracelets, and gold rings – to grab attention on the dance floor.
Big and bold were the defining characteristics of the 80s. Loud colors and large jewelry complemented the even bigger hair of the decade. Capitalism and consumerism were on the rise again, and people continued to break away from traditional fashion trends.
Neon colors were all the rage, and popular jewelry of the time included faux pearls, big hoop earrings, and bangles. Some icons of this period were Jane Fonda, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and even Princess Diana.
Grunge dominated the era with safety pin accents, chokers, and body jewelry that complemented the trendy acid-washed denim and spaghetti strapped tops of the decade.
The hip-hop scene and its unique fashion also boomed, increasing the popularity of large gold necklaces and crystals. But in the latter half of the decade, a renewed interest in the whimsical trends of the 60s and 70s brought us beaded friendship bracelets, mood rings, and puka shell accessories.
The start of the new century brought with it many trends, like bandana headbands and rimless sunglasses. With the rise of reality TV and the beginnings of social media, fashion cues were taken from celebrities and socialites, such as red Cabala bracelets, chunky layered accessories, and dainty gold bracelets.
Hip hop also impacted trends, popularizing flashy gold and silver accessories. Despite some fashion mishaps, this decade left us with many jewelry staples like hoop earrings and minimalist chain-link necklaces.
With the steady growth and diversification of social media usage, people have become more open to different styles. Fashion evolved into a form of identity and self-expression instead of fleeting trends. Almost anything is stylistically acceptable, from trusted staples like gold and silver necklaces to bold, multicultural pieces.
Contemporary jewelry typically features various types of metals embedded with bold accents like gemstones and crystals. The Bohemian styles of the 70s and the grunge fashion of the 90s have made a comeback thanks to social media’s emphasis on aesthetics.Whichever decade of jewelry resonates with you, Himalaya Jewelry has something for you. Whether it’s a black onyx gold ring reminiscent of the 20s, a playful rainbow-toned silver necklace that’s an upgrade from the love beads of the 70s, or a sterling silver Cuban chain made popular in the early 2000s, we’ve got it all. Build your style today.