Antique And Vintage Elegance

Antique and Vintage Elegance Jewellery Blog

Big, Bold & Fabulous - The Exuberance of 1940's Retro Jewellery

The 40’s was a decade of great austerity, and yet it is no coincidence that jewellery from this era displays such a boisterous joie de vivre, with its bright colours, oversize forms and its upbeat, often whimsical themes.

Maintaining a cheerful attitude and above all resilience, were crucial to both the war effort and the difficult challenges that came after. In a time when everything was rationed and the motto was “mend and make do”, jewellery played a unique and indispensible role in maintaining morale.

The changing roles of women during wartime demanded practical clothing that was fit for purpose and styles became much heavier – often quite military in cut and colour (brown, grey, navy and even khaki were common for every-day wear). Jewellery offered an opportunity to add femininity and brighten up an otherwise drably utilitarian look.

Retro 14ct Gold, Emerald & Diamond Tank RingSince many could not afford fine jewellery, costume jewellery became hugely popular, while those with a creative bent and a few craft skills knocked up brightly coloured and fun accessories that could hold their own against the masculine clothing styles.

For those who could afford the real stuff, new jewellery styles of the 1940’s changed markedly from those of the preceding decades. Platinum was being used for military purposes and in the US was banned from use in jewellery, so yellow gold took over as the predominant precious metal. As precious stones were in short supply, a greater feature was made of the setting itself. Wonderfully chunky tank rings – originating in France and quickly becoming an icon of 1940’s style – consisted of heavy, almost industrial looking settings in yellow or rose gold, sparingly set with small precious stones to create a bold and opulent look that really packed a punch!

Retro 14ct Gold, Diamond RingColourful sprays of flowers were a popular design, as were bows and ribbons, cheerfully depicted in oversize forms on brooches, rings and earrings for an eye-catching but feminine look. Single-stone cocktail rings also remained very popular for evening wear, and made great use of large synthetic gems or semi-precious stones for a look that still wowed at a more affordable price.

As a collective style, 40’s jewellery is bold and confident, reflecting the strength and resilience of the women stepping up to fulfill a myriad of roles (including traditional masculine ones) under difficult circumstances.

It’s showy and fabulous and unapologetically upbeat – and every bit as wearable today! What better way to jazz up an outfit, and your spirits, than with a marvellous retro statement piece!

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