The Second World War and after
 1939 - 1949


1940s Georg Jensen Iron/Silver "Jern/Solv" Brooch
  photo courtesy of Marbeth Schon

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.

1940 New York Worlds Fair Plate
  photo courtesy of Marbeth Schon

1940s/50s Rose Gold Bracelet
  photo courtesy of Countryside Antiques 
Tom Cottom & Mike Mayo

1940s Gold. Ruby & Garnet Brooch
  photo courtesy of Evergreen Antiques
 Sandra Smith

The war brought with it a greater distribution of wealth and increased economic independence for women. Many women had worked during one or both wars, and wanted and needed to return to work. Fashions became more casual and a choice of ready to wear clothes increased greatly.

The influence
 of design

Bakelite Bangle Bracelet
  photo by Patrick Kapty
  "private collection"

Bakelite Brooch & Earrings
  photo courtesy of Richard Whitehouse

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 10. 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.

1940s/50s Clear Plastic 'Posey Holder' Brooch
photo courtesy of  Paper Moon 
Vicky Niolet

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.

1940s Pearl and Diamond Brooch
  photo courtesy of Countryside Antiques
Mike Mayo and Tom Cottom

Trifari Faux Diamond Brooch
  photo courtesy of Sheila Pamfiloff

1945 Trifari Silver Fur Clip
  photo courtesy of Sheila Pamfiloff

Trifari Costume Horse Pin
photo courtesy of Sheila Pamfiloff

Jewelry design

1940s Brooch
  photo courtesy of Richard Whitehouse

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.

1940s Brooch
photo courtesy of Richard Whitehouse

Fine Art Jewelry

Many 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, Giacometti, and Alexander Calder11.

1940s Gold & Emerald Bracelet
 by Buccellati
  photo courtesy of M.S. Rau Antiques

Costume jewelry

The costume jewelry market was fostered after the war by the decreasing supplies of natural materials and the introduction of new plastics. Aspreys produced a highly successful brooch in 'washable plastic' but overall attitudes toward new materials was more conservative that in France and America. Parisians loved 'faux gems' and many French couturiers encouraged the use of bold essentially classic designs. Christian Dior, who created the 'New look' in 1947, developed the theatrical qualities of costume jewelry.


click on box below to view page                

  Copyright 1999 MODERN SILVER magazine