The 1950s saw a global boom in the popularity of costume jewelry. The jewelry designs were colorful, clean, ornate, and coordinated to an outfit perfectly. The flourishing of costume jewelry was mainly due to the improved spending power this decade yielded. Costume jewelry in the 1950s enabled any woman to look well-dressed.
While the war years brought about a new sense of sobriety, the following decade represented a welcome change. In the late 40s, the trend of women’s clothing was characterized by a demarcated waistline and flowing skirts. This silhouette was to rule the following decade, becoming the ideal image of the 1950s woman.
This ideal saturated women’s lives throughout this era, even to their jewelry boxes. Patriotic colors and novelty designs were en vogue. Classic vintage jewelry colors and shapes were all over the place.
Motivating the desire of women to appear coordinated and considered, matching jewelry sets became a popular first choice. Such jewelry was known as ‘parure.’ Women were seen wearing identical necklaces, rings, earrings brooches, and even bracelets.
Pearls have always been an ideal choice when it comes to sophisticated jewelry. In the 1950s, pearls gained a sudden boost in popularity by becoming the must-have accessory for the little black dress. Black and white contrast is classically chic. While white pearl was in demand, other pearl colors such as champagne, coffee, yellow, cream, and gray were also used, as they complemented different complexions and outfits. Pearl strand lengths were usually between 16 to 18 inches, or more than 32-inches towards the waistline. They became a staple pairing with the afternoon dresses, tailored suits, cigarette pants, and twin sweater sets.
Pearl studs with a single or double strand necklace were obligatory wear for most attire. Drop pearl earrings was another popular choice for women. Most earrings of this era were clip-on or screw back.
For decades, wearing flashy jewelry during the day was considered gauche. But, by the 1950s the thinking changed and women were encouraged to wear jewelry in the daytime. Chunky or glittering bracelets, a cluster of brooches, bib necklaces and beaded necklaces were some of the most common options.
In the 50s bolder colors grew in popularity alongside soft pastels, shiny metals, and saturated tropical hues. For surviving the summer, red was almost mandatory. Summer clothing was accessorized boldly by red belts, beads, bangles, and earrings.
The lasting legacy of coral and turquoise emerged at this time. These dazzling new colors created fabulous harmony when matched with a complementing dress or contrasting against ivory, white or black. Jewelry was destined to stand out and be noticed but the placement was tasteful. With casual outfits like suits or dresses, woman paired only two to three pieces at a time.
During the 1950s, yellow gold was the favored jewelry setting choice. Rose gold was also in fashion, especially with ruby and other warm-tone gems. As the decade was progressing with new fashion trends, various styles emerged. The most notable was textured gold, especially paired with popular colored stones. In the later years of the 50s, it would eventually be worn alone. Gold flowers, gold button earrings, leaf necklaces, gold cuff bracelets, and figure brooches in gold were bold yet simple. In the late 50s, gold chain necklaces and bracelets became a popular choice. Layered, miss-matched, and dense were the emerging bohemian trends.
In the 1950s, one of the biggest jewelry trends was plastic jewelry. Usually, Lucite and Bakelite were the two types of plastics used in this jewelry. Lucite has a clear and transparent appearance while Bakelite was more opaque. These were perfectly matched with the pastels used in the 50s due to their glassy or diamond-like appearance.
The fashion for splendid, sparkling jewelry is always booming. In the 1950s, this trend touched new heights. During the decade rhinestones were highly desirable as they were readily available after WWII. They decorated clothing, handbags, hats and evening attire with dazzle.
Mostly famous as evening jewelry, rhinestone jewelry could be just a single strand or a dramatic bib necklace for gowns with V-necklines. Even big rhinestone earrings or a brooch was a great choice for a cocktail dress.
As rhinestone could be expensive, small cut crystals were an excellent alternative. They radiated brightly and were used in larger bib collar necklaces and teardrop necklaces, pairing with matching earrings and cuff bracelets.
While costume jewelry was growing in use, the popularity of cocktail jewelry simultaneously increased. Cocktail rings, affectionately known as knuckle dusters, were oversized statement pieces. These rings accompanied ladies to evening soirees and cocktail parties.
Simulated diamonds and translucent stones were used to make such rings. Clusters of rhinestones, pearls, and colored stones were also used in designing a cocktail ring. While the cocktail ring was usually crafted as round piece, some designers contrasted the trend with snake-like lines, sunbursts, atomic stars, and geometric bands. A combination of the metal with Lucite or Bakelite was especially popular among youth. Some designs also portray Art Deco shapes and colors, embracing the style of the recent past.
By the end of the decade, piercing ears again became socially acceptable . It enabled women to use longer lengths of earrings in thicker designs. Hoop earrings became widespread. Women sported hoop earrings in distinct colors and textures to complement their clothing; especially with hair scarves and headbands.
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