In the inter-war years, a profusion of new influences and an emphasis on design values created a distinctive style of costume jewellery.
For women, things were never quite the same after World War 1.
Edwardian attitudes, lifestyles and fashions simply disappeared. Hemlines shot up, corsets were shed, and
the image of the wispy, delicate lady, too fragile for the big, wide world, was discarded a old hat.
Women had left their homes for the munitions factories during the war, and
once out, did their best to stay out.
Fashionable colours and designs grew bold to match the new woman. Tailored suits were in and frills were definitely out.
This new no-nonsense approach was also seen in fashion accessories. Delicate jewels were replaced by more robust ornaments, making
use of plastics, chrome and paste.
In the depression years of the 1930s, fake jewellery became chic. Even if a fashionable woman could afford the real stuff, it was important that it looked fake.
Art deco designers gleefully took all this in their stride.
They liked to mix materials in new, exciting ways.
Gems were set alongside cheap plastics and chrome. Mother-of-pearl, enamel and lacquer were brought back and combined with semi-precious stones, chrome, wood and glass to create fantastic new styles.
Early on, figurative designs were in fashion, but they gave way to abstract, geometric pieces.
Bold shapes and simple forms in cheap materials were the order of the day, influenced by the pre-war art movement, Cubism, by modernism and by the 'machine aesthetic', which celebrated the age of technology.
Costume jewellery was never so varied and so dazzlingly attractive as it was in the 1920s and 1930s when
colourful new materials and ideas drawn from 'primitive' cultures and the avant-garde
of European art and design inspired the creation of bright and bold pieces in a variety of exciting new forms.
Art Deco Jewelry Collector's Notes
The art deco period saw plenty of stunning
'real' jewellery made by the likes of Cartier in diamonds, platinum and other precious materials.
However, these pieces were never cheap, and they are now worth a king's ransom, way beyond the means of most people.
Costume jewellery of the 1920s and 1930s, on the other hand, is much more collectable.
It was made of cheaper materials, which made it affordable, and is also readily available
today, as a lot of it was made and very little was broken up for re-use.
Specialist stalls at antiques markets and fairs, auction), boot fairs and even your
great aunt's attic will all be rewarding places to search for items of deco jewellery.
It may be more fun to concentrate on a particular form, say buckles, brooches or clips.
A particular style may appeal as the basis for a collection - 'machine aesthetic' or the Egyptian revival style, for example.
Some collectors stick to special materials, such as
Bakelite, celluloid or cellulose
acetate, that were variously used to simulate wood, marble, onyx, ivory, amber and tortoiseshell.
MADE TO LAST
Most deco costume jewellery was very well made out of robust materials, so much of it will have
survived in pretty good condition.
However, pieces decorated with enamels shouId be checked for chips and cracks. Missing stoles, even if they are paste, can leave unsightly gaps and be difficult
to replace, so look closely before buying. Paste also tends to yellow with age.
Although many designers chose chrome, nickel or burnished steel as a white metal setting, silver was still extensively used.
Real silver settings naturally increase the value of a piece considerably, so check for hallmarks.
Composite suites of matching items were popular, and sets fetch better prices than the sum of the individual pieces.
It is not always possible to know if a set is complete, of course; matching earrings, necklace and bracelet sets may also have included a brooch or other piece originally.
Do check, though, that all pieces actually do match before you buy, as marriages of similar pieces are worth much less than real sets.
Remember, finally, that the real joy of a collection of costume jewellery is in wearing it; do not be carried away into buying a piece that simply won't go with your clothes.