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Jewelry Periods – Retro

I signed up for the Christies History of Jewelry Design course. The course is delivered via Canvas, an online learning platform and is facilitated by Vanessa Cron, an independent Jewelry Historian who delivers the course over 6 bite sized modules covering the History of Jewelry design from 1880 till today.   

Over the course of 6 weeks, you go on a discovery journey uncovering some facts, stories and geopolitical context around the history of jewelry design from the Belle Epoque era all the way to the contemporary period. 

The forth blog post in this series will be all about the magnificent Retro Jewels…

Retro – 1930-1950

Also known as the glorious thirty. The American dream, post war prosperity and the birth of many iconic designs.

Key features of Retro jewels was the domed and exaggerated forms creating an illusion of size. Braided and pleated gold, cords and tubogas were common designs of the time.  Rose gold was introduced due to restrictions on the use of gold, creating the coppery look of gold of that time. 

Patriotic jewels were also very common, often hinting subtle messages towards freedom, liberty and victory.

Modular jewelry was designed to suit the frugal times as they were multi purposed and converted to different pieces of jewelry that work for different times of day and outfits. The Pass Partout by Van Cleef and Arpels was an iconic design comprising of two gemstone adorned flower clips wrapped around a tubogas style chain. The clips and chain were flexible enough to be worn as a necklace, bracelet and separately as a brooch. 

The post war period and the out flux of many European immigrants to the US provoked a new creative wave and many remarkable designs still standing till today.

The Cartier Panthere collection was introduced in the retro period by the Maison’s Jeanne Toussaint, Creative Director. The below iconic Brooch was commissioned for the Duchess of Windsor featuring a 152 Ct. Sapphire.

Similarly the patented Invisible setting by Van Cleef and Arpels was introduced by the maison in this era. This setting is an intricate technique invented by the Maison that allows for gemstones to slide through the metal settings without any spacing creating an illusion of floating gems.

Other playful designs born in this period were animal jewels and Ballerina pins as well as the Zip necklace, all by Van Cleef and Arpels. 

Retro jewelry was bold, substantial with lots of presence. It was almost like it was paving the way to modern jewelry, another style period with lots of boldness and a rebellious spirit of its own. 



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