A Brief History Of Fashion Jewellery

Costume jewellery first became popular in the late eighteenth century with the increasingly affluent middle class. Paste (coloured glass) was used to imitate precious stones which were set in high quality and finely made mounts. During the eighteenth century jewellery based on natural forms such as insects or flowers became popular. Men also wore jewellery in the form of cravat pins and ornamental shoe buckles. The fashion for the Grand Tour in the later part of the eighteenth century led to jewellery which was inspired by Etruscan, Greek and Roman designs. Many rich people had their valuable pieces of jewellery copied in paste and pinchbeck as highway robbery was a major problem.

During the nineteenth century, new mass production methods and the variety of materials used in fashion κοσμηματα γυναικεια increased and included pinchbeck, rolled gold, iron and steel to make cheap jewellery for the growing demand. High quality paste stones were produced in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and the start of machine cutting meant that large numbers of glass stones could be cut to the same size and quality and cheaply. Rock crystal was also used as this was harder wearing than glass.

The death of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria ’s long period of mourning started an enormous demand for mememto mori mourning jewellery. Symbols like a skull and crossbones were common and black materials such as jet, onyx and enamel were used. Jewellery was also made from hair (either human or horse) intricately woven into delicate earrings, bracelets of necklaces. This was also the age of sentimental jewellery which incorporated a locket of hair or a portrait with inscriptions. Semi-precious stones became more widely available, particularly garnets, amethysts, turquoise and opals.

The enormous increase in mass production and ornamentation led to the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement started by William Morris and John Ruskin. Their floral and Celtic inspired designs were simple and hand made using traditional methods.

The Art Deco movement from the 1920’s to the 1930’s was known for its bold, geometric shapes and new materials for making jewellery such as bakelite and chrome became popular. Couturiers such as Chanel and Dior produced exclusive costume jewellery to go with their clothes designs.

Fashion jewellery became a huge industry during the twentieth century, especially in America , catering for all price ranges from expensive items sold in exclusive department stores such as Saks and Bloomingdales in New York and Harrods in London to the other extreme – cheap pieces sold in Woolworths. In Austria , Swarovski became internationally renowned for their high quality crystal and many other companies started such as Trifari in New York . Hollywood was also a major influence on jewellery with reproductions of items worn by the stars in great demand.

Restrictions during the second world war made jewellery manufacturers turn to new materials and Bakerlite and Lucite were popular and sterling silver was substituted for base metals. After the war, jewellery was once more readily available and became even more mass produced with the invention of machine stamping.

During the 1940’s and 1950’s, experimentation with manmade materials continued and inexpensive jewellery could be made in any shape or form, often imitating other objects for example dice or fruits. Plastic was popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s as it is easy to mould into unusual shapes and colours and pieces by designers such as Mary Quant and the shop Biba were very popular. Op and Pop Art jewellery was large and bold and often made of acrylic which was light weight and could be coloured or moulded to any design. Much of the jewellery of this time was cheap and throwaway. The 1970’s saw the popularity of handmade and ethnic jewellery which was followed by the return of glamorous costume jewellery and fashionable designer labels. The last years of the twentieth century saw a return to vintage styles with reproduction Victorian designs coming back into fashion.

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