The War in Europe
With the war in Europe, jewelry production in the United States came to the forefront. Many of the jewelry firms in Europe were shut down and several of the European designers immigrated to the United States. While Europe was in a deep depression, the United States was enjoying an economic recovery. The jewelry market in the United States had never before been so important.
Jewelry took on an American look, incorporating the flowers, bows, and sunburst designs of previous periods, but with a Hollywood flair. Hollywood stars became the trendsetters as royalty had been previously. Jewelry during from the mid 1930's until the late 1940's became bigger and bolder than ever before. Large gemstones, many well over 100 carats, were often used. Aquamarine, citrine, topaz, and synthetics became ever more popular. Rose gold replaced the platinum used during the Deco period, since much of it was needed to fund the war.
The Postwar Period
In Britain and the rest of Europe, the consequences of the war were to last many years, as shortages of manpower and materials continued and the painstaking work of reconstruction took place, much of it financed by America. Many of the technologies and scientific advances made during the war were adapted for peacetime use. Automated manufacturing techniques, the development of new plastics and the emergence of microchip technology were all to have profound effects.
The Influence of Design
There was a new appreciation of the importance of design as a means of selling products in an increasingly commercial world. This message began to play an ever more important part in new international markets in which manufacturers had to compete. Rapid industrial growth brought with it a wave of new design practices and debates. A major design influence was the Bauhaus. The discovery of new plastics was to have a major influence on designs of the post war period. The most important to emerge were PVC (vinyl), Melamine, Polyethylene, Polystyrene and Nylon. The development of metal alloys and numerous acrylic plastics and injection-molded plastics increased the variety of plastics on the market.
The Jewelry Trade
With the introduction of mass production techniques, the jewelry trade was able to respond quickly to changing fashions. Established houses such as Boucheron, Van Cleef and Arpels, Lacloche and Cartier continued to thrive in the immediate post war years. American jewelers and New York branches of Parisian houses such as Paul Flato, Verdura, Trabert and Hoeffer flourished too. This was a period when costume jewelers felt free to experiment with base metals, silver gilt and paste and when the artist-jeweler came back into prominence.
After the war jewelry design continued to develop despite the economic difficulties. Forties jewelry is characterized by its chunkiness and use of contrast. The interest in machinery is reflected in the designs. People still had limited financial resources, so small quantities of gold were wrought into designs to create an impression of things being bigger than they really were. Designs were much more fluid than Art Deco and often included pleats and drapes simulating fabric. Invisible settings were used in which small-cut rubies were placed. Unusual motifs such as clowns, ballerinas and cats were often used. Cartier built up a taste for exotic fauna, in particular the wild cats designed by Jeanne Tousaint. These animals became the 'luxurious but poignant symbols of the Duchess of Windsor' and were perfected by Cartier during the forties and fifties.
Fine Art Jewelry
fine artists continued to see jewelry making as an important part of their work. They
continued to discover imaginative and creative forms. An important Italian artist who
contributed to jewelry design was Bruno Martinazzi. He experimented with layered gold and
texture. Other painters and sculptors who took an interest in jewelry were Braque, Tanguy,
Man Ray, Dubuffet, Picasso, Fontana,
Following World War II, the jewelry designs became more traditional and understated. Platinum came back into use and rose gold diminished. The big, bold styles of the Retro period went out of style and were replaced by the more tailored styles of the 1950's and 60's.
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