Grand Jeweler's look at the history of jewelry including Marilyn Monroe helping 'A Diamond is Forever' campaign

Jewelry in Trends: A Glittering History

August 1, 2018

Much has changed in the past century when it comes to jewelry trends – but it’s fascinating to observe what’s remained the same. Some of the twentieth century’s most impressive pieces can still be spotted on the necks, ears, and arms of today’s hottest celebs – but just as certain styles endure, there are always the pieces that flop, never again to see the light of day. Here, we take you on a bejeweled walk down memory lane – the last hundred years of glamor, glow, glitz, and gleam.

The Glittering 1910s

The year 1910 saw diamonds rise to the top of the trendsetting list, with sapphires and garnets as common brilliant accents. The engagement rings, brooches, and necklaces of the day boasted asymmetrical, nature-inspired motifs, along with representations of exotic animals, birds, flora, and fauna. The ever-popular “white-on-white” combination took hold—think diamonds on pearls. In response to the Industrial Revolution, families had more disposable income, and items were starting to become produced en-masse, leading to the rise of the modern “costume jewel.”

The Roaring ‘20s

By the 1920s, funky, bohemian styles were in and the asymmetrical, pale, understated aesthetic was out—perhaps a relieved response to the end of the First World War. Women favored all manner of gleaming gemstones alongside jeweled headwear, and Art Deco-inspired pendants, stacked bracelets, and heaping strands of pearls were now en vogue.

The Glamorous 1930s and ‘40s

By the 1930s, the glamour, drama, and humor of Hollywood had sprung onto the jewelry scene. These decades mark an influx of film-inspired designs, from the dominance of rhinestones to the ever-present emerald-cut stone. Bright, flashy colors came into favor alongside boldly cut styles, and highly polished gold became the metal of choice. DeBeers’ “A Diamond is Forever” campaign invigorated America’s love for all things that glitter, and Marilyn Monroe’s sultry song, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” further sweetened the deal. Diamonds were here to stay.

The Ever-Modern 1950s

By the 1950s, clothing styles had begun to favor an ever-increasingly modern style, with sleek cuts and smart, simple tailoring. As a result, jewelry took center stage—this decade features lavish styles at its heart, with engraved finishes, dramatic designs, braided rope features, and the ever-present pairing of diamonds and pearls.

The Handcrafted 1960s and Empowered 1970s

The influx of the ‘60s and ‘70s marked a new era of jewelry design. Suddenly, Bohemian-inspired pieces were popular, as were styles influenced by Asian, Egyptian, and East Indian motifs. Lightweight materials, like plastic and wood, became favored for their practical functionality, and leather stepped into the spotlight, making an appearance on bracelets, cuffs, and headpieces. Glam-rock aesthetics paired with an impetus towards the natural made for creative, unexpected pairings of urban and organic.

The Bold, The Beautiful: The ‘80s

Bold was in, gold was still ever-present, and oversized earrings, cuffs, and necklaces were the jewelry of choice. Punk-rock styling was on the rise, and brooches were back with a vengeance, popping up everywhere from the runway to the office cubicle. This defiant era extolled Princess Diana alongside Cher and Madonna, and everything, from hair to clothes to rings to earrings, was loud, proud, and big. Plus, mass-produced jewelry crafted of plastic, wood, and inexpensive metal was cropping up everywhere.

The 1990s: Beads, Chokers, and Pop

The gritty-glam 1990s marked a departure from the loud, wild ‘80s. Rather than shout, fashionistas chose to innovate, pairing feminine details with masculine styling – grunge meets flower child. Leaves and floral patterns came into vogue once more, and plastic continued to dominate the costume-jewelry market. The popularity of lighthearted, sugary pop music lent a certain aesthetic to the jewelry of the day, and by 1999, choker necklaces had reached their peak.

Trends Today: A Blast From The Past?

Some things will never change—And diamonds, pearls, emerald-cut stones, sapphires, rubies, garnets, and gold will never, history proves, go out of style. Yet the 2000’s marked some innovations – cuffs, personalized jewelry—think Carrie’s necklace on “Sex in the City”—and plastic remained popular. Today, trendsetters favor bold accents, bright colors and gemstones, platinum detailing and settings, and multicultural influences. As jewelry evolves and time passes, we’re bound to see a sustained demand for all things international, unexpected, original, and diverse. Come on into Grand Jewelers today to chat jewelry, past and present. There’s no history we’d rather explore!

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