At first glance, the 1950s may be perceived as a time of fakery, costume jewellery, and anything cheap and cheerful to help raise spirits after the war. While this may be partially true, the 1950s was a time for designers of luxury jewellery to be more creative and push jewellery design boundaries to the limits, incorporating diamonds, gemstones to embellish designs that had never been seen before.
Let’s look further to investigate the wonderful designs, trends and styles that set the 1950s apart from other decades.
1950s Jewellery – How it began:
The 1950s was a period of growth; the war is over, the economy is back on its feet and the upper middle class was growing in size. This new found wealth and prosperity was mirrored in the 1950s jewellery styles – bigger, brighter, more glamorous, and of course, more diamonds. The jewellers Debeers almost predicted the future with their slogan “diamonds are forever”, marking an era that saw diamonds continuously grow in popularity; a trend that show no signs of slowing down. Yellow gold was no longer the precious metal of choice; platinum became more readily available and became the preferred setting to showcase gemstones and diamonds of all shapes and sizes.
1950s Jewellery Styles
The 1950s was a time of design innovation, in both fine and costume jewellery. The decade saw the use of larger, colourful precious gemstones, surrounded by an abundance of diamonds. Even with economic growth and associated increase in wealth however, not everyone could afford such finery; and thus saw the rise in popularity of ‘costume jewellery’. Bold designs adorned with synthetic gemstones, rhinestones, colourful plastics, and base metals mimicked the styles and patterns of far more valuable, fine jewellery. The 1950s saw the popularity of pearls soar; a string of pearls around the neck became the sure way to show class and wealth without over-gilding the lily as it were. The understated glamour of pearls was soon reflected the costume jewellery industry, and telling the difference between real and fake pearls became increasingly difficult.
The depression of the war had dissipated, and this became increasingly apparent: Bright colours, bold patterns and designs influenced all aspects of life. Clothes, furniture, wallpapers, toys, everything suddenly received a colourful makeover. Costume jewellery displayed bold, over the top designs, whilst fine jewellery remained more tasteful and classic in style with genuine diamonds surrounding exquisite precious gemstones. Pearls were popularised by the likes of Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn, who of course wore genuine pearls; why wear imitation when you can afford the real thing?
Fine Jewellery Vs. Costume Jewellery
Both fine jewellery and costume jewellery underwent a huge transformation in the 1950s, but what sets one aside from the other? The main point would be the quality. The quality of the gemstones, the metals, and the craftsmanship. Fine jewellery is something that will stand the test of time. It may become a treasured family heirloom, and be passed from generation to generation. Costume jewellery is exactly as the name suggests something you wear to dress up, or pretend. Made from cheaper materials, these pieces of jewellery are pretty at first glimpse, and some hold up to closer inspection, but such items never last any great length of time.
Fine jewellery is an investment, whilst costume jewellery is definitely the short term, budget option.
When looking back at the glamorous, classy designs of 1950s fine jewellery, and the bold and vivid designs of costume, it’s easy to decide which I would personally be drawn to. Whether I could afford it, that’s another question. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they certainly aren’t the banks.
Martin has a passion for fine jewellery and has been sharing his thoughts on the AC Silver blog. Martin is also responsible for all of AC Silver's jewellery web content; from image editing and description writing to video editing.