In the early 1940s, the art of jewellery making was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. Precious metals, especially platinum, were scarce and in many cases were forbidden to be used for any but military purposes. So the available gold had to be utilized therefore jewelers created an alloy with a higher percentage of copper for their designs, resulting in jewelry having a slightly reddish tint.
The hallmark of jewellery from this era is large surfaces of gold but with minimal weight. Gold, as a very malleable metal, helped in these very light but impressive creations. Techniques were devised to create ever thinner sheets of gold that were sometimes applied over base metal. Goldsmiths also often played with finishes on jewellery to create interesting textures and contrasts with matte and polished combinations.
The designs of retro jewellery were influenced by the conditions of the time. Tubogas chains made a dynamic appearance and were used in necklaces, bracelets and belts, often embellished with clip and pin inserts. A typical piece of jewellery of the period was the ludo bracelet. This consisted of stacked rectangular or hexagonal brickwork-style plates, often with small gemstones such as rubies and sapphires, and with a large, impressive decorative clasp.
Due to the war, the flow of gemstones from their mining areas was minimal or absent, and people often resorted to remodeling their existing jewelry and recycling the metal and stones they had in their pre-war reserves. It is at this time that synthetic stones appear widely in jewellery, usually in small sizes, as large natural stones were extremely rare. In contrast, quartz such as citrine and amethysts as well as topazes and aquamarines are found as center stones in very large sizes. Pave’ setting was very much in vogue as it allowed jewellers to fill large surfaces with small stones and thus add brilliance to their jewellery. Enamel made a strong comeback to replace the colours of gemstones that were impossible to use.
As on every occasion in the history of jewellery, jewellery has been used to carry symbolism and messages. Patriotism became a central theme of jewelry design. Jewelry with small stones in national colors, pins for good luck and other messages of support were everywhere. Motifs such as soldiers, guns, armored vehicles and airplanes were often seen. A typical motif of the era is birds symbolizing freedom and liberation. Excessive plumage and bright colours were beautifully rendered with enamel and gemstones. Tigers, lions and panthers spring up everywhere, as do horses, dogs and cats, as well as flowers, fruits and vegetables, and there is a return to naturalism.
The movement in jewellery
In the retro era, a new dimension in jewellery is also observed, movement. Branches become flexible, wings from insects acquire a slight vibration and petals from three-dimensional flowers move harmoniously. Charm bracelets, the chain bracelets from which various motifs dangled and enriched over time, adorned women’s wrists.
The larger-than-life aesthetic is at the heart of the fashion in jewelry which became increasingly large and bold as we move into the 1950s. Pompous rings, striking earrings, fancy gold chokers and other types of necklaces, large brooches and chunky bracelets that often hid a watch mechanism within their design, shone boldly on women’s bodies and clothing.
Apart from jewellery, retro is the era of precious accessories. Powder and lipstick cases, lighters and precious minaudières were part of the 1940s fashion, during which we find some of the most inventive and beautiful accessories made from precious materials ever made.