AC Silver is proud to present an extensive selection of vintage 1940s jewellery for sale, featuring a range of gemstones including diamonds, aquamarine, ruby, emeralds and more.
Our fine selection of 1940s jewellery has been hand selected by Andrew Campbell and includes 1940s engagement rings, bracelets, brooches and pendant necklaces.
All of our vintage 1940s jewellery featuring gemstones and/or diamonds are accompanied with an independent gemstone and diamond grading report card and/or certificate.
AC Silver offers a 14-day return policy, and include a free ring sizing service.
A date including “circa” reflects an approximation of 10 years to either side of the declared value; thus, an item bearing the date ‘circa 1940’ will be crafted between 1930 - 1950.
With much of Europe torn apart by the war, America became a frontrunner in influencing the fashion and style of the time. Hollywood pictures represented a vital escape for cinema-goers around the world, and the starlets of the silver screen dictated much of the popular aesthetics of the 1940s. The stylish and highly-tailored looks that had previously reigned supreme across Europe were replaced by more relaxed, sporty American styles. American icons like Lucille Ball, Vivien Leigh, and Rita Hayworth rose to prominence during this time, and America became a hub of popular culture for the West.
Art Deco jewellery that had had an all-consuming popularity in the 1920s was still widely enjoyed at the start of the 1940s. Reusing fine jewellery from this era was very common, particularly in film. It added the glamour associated with a Hollywood production without the need to scrounge for crafting materials or specially skilled labourers. As the 1940s continued onward, however, there was a shift in popular styles.
A preference arose for bright, bold colours, creating a direct contrast to the bleakness of wartime Europe. The materials available to produce new jewellery and accessories were limited, even in America. Most precious metal had been redirected towards the war effort, and non-essential industries like jewellery-making had been stripped to the bare bones. The result was an extensive use of plastics that could facilitate cheap production of a vast range of colourful jewellery pieces.
Celluloid, Bakelite, and Lucite were plastics commonly used to be shaped into almost any design – even at large sizes – whilst remaining light-weight. This created the rise of costume jewellery, utilising cheap materials to mass-produce jewellery. Although this jewellery was cheap in contrast to the high-end Parisian pieces that stars like Marlene Dietrich had worn, they were still largely unaffordable for the majority.
The back end of the 1940s saw precious metals returned to the jewellery-making industry. Perhaps in an effort to feel further from the war and the eras that had come before it, yellow gold became the overwhelmingly popular metal of choice, replacing white gold and platinum. This could also be a reflection of the economic state of many families after the war; yellow gold was more affordable than platinum by far.
Some features of new 1940s jewellery were overflows from the Art Deco period. Angular gemstone cuts, strong lines, and repeating geometric designs were popular. These Art Deco designs were combined with yellow gold to create distinct ‘cocktail’ jewellery.
While earrings came in many shapes and sizes, bigger was better. Costume jewellery and fine jewellery saw bigger, bolder designs coming to the fore. Clusters, studs, and hoops were becoming more commonplace, as well as the large, round button style.
Many luxury designs became weightier, commonly set with large, brightly-coloured gemstones like aquamarines, amethysts, citrines and topaz. Smaller, more expensive gemstones were introduced as accents to clusters and studs.
Pierced ears would not be re-popularised until the 1950s, and so a lot of 1940s earrings were clip-ons or screw-backs. It wasn’t uncommon for earrings to come in a matching jewellery set with a brooch or a necklace. The designs of all kinds of jewellery was oversized and novel. Rather than emulating the glamour of the 1910s and 1920s, this vintage jewellery was about being fun and colourful. The fashion had become much more masculine – in large part out of necessity for women working during the war – and so the jewellery was large and prominent to create the most contrast.
Brooches of the 1940s were heavily inspired by nature, often resembling animals. Following the enormous success of the Disney company’s first ever feature length animation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, in 1937, highly stylised animal brooches were extremely popular.
In the fine jewellery world, these brooches featured a plethora of precious gemstones. Costume animal jewellery that was more widely affordable often used metal with colourful enamel to illustrate animals like butterflies, birds, dogs, and cats.
The spray brooch also found huge popularity in the 1940s. These brooches also conformed to the 1940s style of being oversized. They take on a range of different shapes, but are mostly naturalistic. The geometric, rigid lines of the Art Deco period were much less popular by the end of the 1940s. Instead, floral shapes were far more commonplace.
The 1940s saw the resurgence of yellow gold as the most widely-used jewellery metal. This warm metal was very popular, being starkly different from the cool-toned metals that had previously been popular. Yellow and rose gold engagement rings were all the rage in this decade as well as the 1950s and ’60s that followed. Sometimes, stronger metals like platinum or palladium were used just for the settings.
Although the Art Deco jewellery that had been popular before featured a lot of angular cuts for gemstones, the back half of the 1940s saw more rounded cuts coming back. The ‘classic’ engagement ring that we imagine as a yellow gold ring with a round cut diamond first found its popularity in the 1940s. The most commonly-used setting style for these engagement rings is the traditional four prongs.
Another engagement ring style that took off in the 1940s was the trilogy ring. Earlier examples of trilogy rings were usually reserved for special occasions like anniversaries – typically later in life than the engagement. Those who were prospering after the war, however, were in a position to buy more luxurious engagement rings. The three diamonds of a trilogy ring have been said to resemble a couple’s past, present and future. Examples of the trilogy ring from the 1940s often use platinum as a setting metal, ensuring all of the gemstones are securely held.