20th-Century Jewelry: Innovation in Design and Materials
10 artifacts in this set
This elegant sterling pendant adorned the neck of a wealthy lady around 1900, when the Art Nouveau style was at its height. Emphasizing sinuous, organic lines and shapes, the Art Nouveau sought to create a modern aesthetic based on nature. The Art Nouveau was everywhere; this pendant was made in Germany for an international market.
Catalin, a hardy plastic, had mass appeal during the 1930s. Catalin jewelry was inexpensive to make, easy to work with, and versatile -- which meant that it was widely available in a variety of fashionable colors appealing to Depression-weary Americans. These bracelets were likely produced for mass merchandisers, but retailers offered Catalin jewelry at every price point.
Attached to the edges or bands of hats, hat clips added extra style or color. In the 1930s, they would have been added to small and rather tight-fitting cloche, or bell-shaped, hats. The angular forms of this clip suggest the popular Art Deco style, which was prominent during the inter-war period. The material is Bakelite, an inexpensive plastic that could be shaped into a variety of fashionable products.
At the beginning of the Great Depression, watch manufacturers looked for ways to create inexpensive, yet fashionable, watches to appeal to the mass market. This E. Ingraham Company watch features a pierced nickel bracelet that appears to shimmer, echoing the effect of rhinestones. The lozenge-shaped face, with its Art Deco-inspired decoration, reinforces the look of elegance in an affordable watch.
Manufacturers used aluminum during the Great Depression to imitate more expensive materials like silver. Founded in the early 1930s, the Everlast Aluminum Company created a market for a range of aluminum products, including table wares and lighting. Everlast even produced a line of jewelry, which included this fashionable belt.
During the Great Depression, inexpensive and simple jewelry like this pin was favored by young ladies. Scottish Terriers as subjects became popular after President Franklin Roosevelt adopted his "Scottie," Fala, in 1940. Roosevelt referenced Fala in a speech attacking his critics, and the dog soon became a favorite with the press and the public.
This adorable keychain, intended for children, shows just how creatively plastic has been used in jewelry production. The interlocking elements are artfully arranged in the primary colors of red and yellow, plus green. Children solved the puzzle through trial and error, arranging and rearranging the elements to create a dog shape. Once through, they may have hung house keys on the interlocking chain.
This rhinestone-encrusted bangle bracelet was purchased in a second-hand boutique in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in the late 1960s, when the area was known as the center of the "hippie" counterculture. Self-described hippies sought to break with mainstream America and create their own society. This garishly decorated bracelet is a good example of hippie aesthetics.
The "peace sign" was first designed in 1958 as part of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. By the late 1960s and 1970s, the symbol -- shown on this necklace -- came to mean that the wearer was an opponent of the Vietnam War. Ultimately, the peace sign came to represent opposition to war in general.
Architect and designer Michael Graves came to prominence as part of the postmodernism movement of the 1980s. Postmodernists challenged the “less is more” philosophy of mainstream modern designers. Designers like Graves festooned their designs with ornament, such as the bright colors on this cuff bracelet. To a postmodernist like Graves, more was more.