From The Bench

Embracing the Vintage Through Mixed Metal Jewelry

One hue isn’t always enough, which is why some designers experimented with mixed metals jewelry. It’s a trend you’ll see on the runway, in magazines, and high-end retailers. Mixed metal jewelry isn’t just about different gold tones (though that is still just as prevalent).

What is mixed metal jewelry?

There was previously an unwritten rule that a single jewelry item may only be fashioned of one type of metal: steel, silver, or gold. That rule is not only being broken today but it is also being encouraged! Mixing gold with sterling silver or gold with steel provides a beautiful tonal effect while keeping the price low. In addition, new plating trends such as rhodium, ruthenium, and PVD are pushing the boundaries of what designers can accomplish with color.

Here at Xinar, we have our own Far Fetched Imports collections, which feature authentic, unique, and classy vintage jewelry. We have vintage dangle and post earrings, the Europa hoops and posts earrings, and a vintage jewelry collection. The unique vintage jewelry collection includes pre-2000 items from the Milagro and Tex-Mex collections. Interestingly, this vintage jewelry collection is that the designs began in a cottage industry. These designs are crafted with jeweler’s brass, copper, and sterling silver.

The warmth and comfort these designs bring to the wearer always sets vintage jewelry apart from the rest. The artistry is undoubtedly there, but it adds more than the aesthetic value of art to the equation. Pieces like the Blooming Heart Link or the Hug and Kiss bracelet bring the wearer to a different time – a time where things were perhaps purer and less stressful. Is it childhood? Maybe childhood is part of the magic, but then again, not all vintage jewelry reminds people of their childhood. Instead, these pieces place the wearer in a zone where they feel again, however young or golden they may be. With bracelets like Live, Love, Laugh, who wouldn’t feel happier?

Jewelry History 101

To understand what’s vintage about vintage, we have to know a bit about how jewelry evolved over the decades. WW2 broke out in 1939, and the United States joined the fight in 1941. The war years had a significant impact on fashion and jewelry, unsurprising. Due to the war’s blockade of European fashion, American designers and Hollywood and its stars dominated the style of the 1940s. The celebrities of the time were Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Marlene Dietrich, and American women copied their style in clothes and accessories. As a result, fashion, for the first time, mirrored an American sporty, laid-back lifestyle rather than the refinement of French haute couture.

Another notable effect of the war on fashion was that government restrictions established domestic manufacture and consumption guidelines, limiting access to specific materials. For example, the amount of fabric used in a garment was determined, and non-essential elements (such as ornamentation) and some forms of clothing were restricted (such as woolen wraps). In addition, pleats, the number of buttons, the usage of metal zippers, cuffs, yokes, and pockets were all regulated.

Women filled men’s jobs in the workforce and volunteered in volunteer organizations, much as they had done during the last war. During the day, men wore masculine, well-tailored suits with straight, knee-length skirts and long, tight-fitting coats with large, padded shoulders inspired by military uniforms. Because so many women rode bicycles to work, pants and culottes became appropriate attire for women everywhere, not only in sports. Fitted bodices and square, V, or round necklines added a feminine touch to the dresses. The thin sheath evolved from the triangle silhouette of long dresses in the early 1940s, which was made by padded shoulders, a tiny waist, and a flared skirt, as fabric shortages caused skirts to grow narrow.

For safety concerns, hair was long and worn up during the day. The triumph roll and the French twist were two upswept styles (curling and then rolling voluminous curls around the face). In addition, hair was usually parted on the side without bangs and curled into a pageboy at the root when worn down. During these years of deprivation, hats were an essential accessory that allowed ladies to make a fashion statement. In the early years, berets and broad-brimmed hats were popular, but smaller forms became more popular as the war proceeded.

When Christian Dior showed his New Look collection in 1947, Paris reclaimed its place as the world’s fashion capital. It resurrected the feminine, passionate woman’s image. A new style replaced the slender, short skirts and bulky shoulders that typified wartime austerity: soft, sloping shoulders, uplifted tight bodices, tiny waists, and mid-calf-length skirts that were voluminous (over many crinolines) or pencil-thin (hugging the hips and legs). Women began to cut their hair shorter and style it with close-to-the-head waves and curls, as well as blunt bangs. Some of the headwear famous during the war remained popular after the war. In addition, new fashions were created, such as little hats worn on the side of the head and covered in a net veil.

Jewelry got increasingly feminine as clothing became more masculine. Popular themes included buckles, bows, ribbons, and fabric-like folds, drapes, or wrinkles, in addition to stylized flowers, birds, and animals.

Flags, eagles, and military logos were also worn, as were pieces with patriotic motifs and colors. Native American and Aztec folklore and themes from the Old West were incorporated into jewelry designs.

From the thirties to the forties, some designers drew influence from earlier designs, resulting in the Victorian Revival. Machine Age motifs like tank tracks and other repetitive patterns were reimagined in yellow and rose gold finishes simultaneously.

In the early 1940s, bracelets were wide and three-dimensional. Charms with sentimental value become a technique of expressing feelings.

The Art Deco movement evolved into more items that were beyond asymmetrical, three-dimensional images, although double-clip brooches remained popular. Clips were still used at the neckline. Large brooches were used on the shoulders of day and evening gowns. Traditionally, necklaces were worn high on the neck. Over gloves or on unadorned wrists, linked bracelets and bangles were worn. It was fashionable to wear large finger rings with square-edged stones and tiered, stepped edges.

The jewelry sector saw significant changes throughout the war years. The US’s many jewelry facilities had their precision machinery and expert metal workers retooled for war-related production. Those who continued to make jewelry did so in the face of material shortages, and the creations made during the war years reflected this.

Base metals, which were only used in wartime, were replaced by sterling silver. Rhodium was replaced with pink-, green-, yellow-, and rose-gold plating – often with numerous colors in the same piece.

To overcome faux pearl shortages, seed pearls from the Gulf of California and imitation jade, coral, and turquoise produced from plastics were employed.

Ceramics, plaster, natural shells, Lucite, Bakelite, leather, and wood were popular. The US costume jewelry industry grew throughout this period. The large quantity of design patents issued demonstrates the extraordinary design output. Because there was so little clothing available, accessories became extremely important. Providence, Rhode Island, had become the United States’ costume jewelry capital by 1946. Because many jewelers and craftsmen moved to costume jewelry during the Depression, and because many experienced employees fled the political situation in Europe for the United States, the quality of costume pieces had risen to new heights. Costumes were made in a variety of pricing ranges.

Unfortunately, European jewelry manufacturers did not fare as well throughout the war years. As a result, their output was suspended at best, and their plants were destroyed.

Please contact us if you have any questions or comments. Thanks for reading!

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