Simple Guide To Retro Jewelry

by Sasha t on Oct 21, 2020

Simple Guide To Retro Jewelry - Jack Weir & Sons

Simple Guide To Retro Jewelry 

Are you interested in vintage jewelry or would like to expand your collection? Consider learning more about Retro jewelry. Retro jewelry period is generally dated late 1930 -1950, a period during which jewelry designers were largely influenced by World War 2. The historical event was reflected in the choice of metal, gemstones, and designs. 

In this blog post you will learn:

  • Retro Main Characteristics 
  • Popular Types of Jewelry

Main Characteristics

Retro jewelry is very large and futuristic. Chunky, extravagant designs mainly featured one or two large stones or were made of solid yellow gold. As for engagement rings, the illusion setting was popular, where the metal around the diamond was polished to make the diamond look larger than it really was. 


For the first time in the 20th century, yellow and rose gold overtook the production of platinum and white gold in the fine jewelry industry. Mainly because of the wartime shortages. Platinum and the alloys used to create white gold (nickel, copper, and zinc) were necessary to create weapons. Consequently, jewelry manufacturers were prohibited from buying these metals during World War 2. Jewelers were left with no choice, but to use yellow gold and sterling silver for their creations. Similarly, foreign suppliers of large color gemstones were cut-off during the war, so jewelers used Synthetic rubies and other cheaper color stones. 


The world-famous and one of the most desired jewelry brands Van Cleef & Arpels became what it is today, and popularized the Retro Era jewelry. The renowned jeweler’s exhibit at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 first introduced this ultra-modern style. After the absolute success of VCA’s exhibit, other designers quickly embraced the bold Retro style.  

Popular Types of Retro Jewelry 

Brooches - were a hot trend during the Retro period. Women would soften the war-time masculine fashions with beautiful, strong, yet feminine brooches, which often portrayed various feminine motifs like flowers, bows and butterflies. Traditionally, brooches are pinned onto a lapel or collar, but lately, people have been wearing them in their hair, or pin them to hats, belts, necklaces, or handbags. 


Retro Rings -  typically, the rings from this period are bold, dramatic, geometric. During the Retro period, the rings emphasized a large, bright colored gemstone. The flamboyant, cocktail rings often featured an amethyst, aquamarine or citrine.  Diamonds were used primarily to enhance the beauty of the main colored stone. 


Retro Earrings - came in various shapes and forms, but often featured floral motifs, exaggerated shapes and geometric forms. Moreover, clip-on earrings were patented in 1934 and became extremely popular. Retro jewelry often portrays old Hollywood glamour, but now could be easily paid with an evening dress or even with a sweater and jeans for a statement. 


Signed Jewelry - snake chain called Tubogas “gas pipe” was extremely popular. It is a type of metalwork where a pair of interlocking gold strips wrapped tightly together and formed hollow tubular necklaces, rings and bracelets. VCA also invented a piece of jewelry called the “Ludo Hexagone” strap bracelet made up of brick-like hexagonal shapes. Tiffany & Co came up with the buckle bracelet, which became the epitome of retro design.

The Bottom Line

Jewelers of the Retro era were majorly influenced by World War 2. That was reflected in their patriotic, bold and military designs as well as in their choice of metal and gemstones. While women wore suits and dresses with masculine stylistic elements, they expressed their femininity with fewer but bolder pieces of jewelry. In our day and age, where women are free, independent and are encouraged to express themselves without the pressure to conform to hegemonic standards, Retro jewelry had a major comeback.

Email us at if you have any questions or comments! 

Send us a DM @jackweirandsons



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.