1920s headband flapper

The Vintage Dancer: For Christmas I asked for and received a free standing jewelry armoire. You may think that that means I have a lot of vintage jewelry, but I actually have very little.

Jewelry is just one of the parts of collecting vintage clothing that I know little about yet it is the one thing I wish I had more of. So I asked for a jewelry armoire with the intentions of collecting key necklaces, bracelets, pins and earrings from all my favorite eras. To start with I am collecting jewelry from the Twenties.

The only Twenties jewelry  I have already are long pearl necklaces. These are the most iconic of all Twenties jewelry pieces. Associated with free spirited flappers who danced the Charleston with them swinging from their neck, the pearl necklace took center stage during the decade.

Not all pearl necklaces were long or worn in a single strand. It was popular to wear layers of them in short, medium and very long lengths. Chanel was a big promoter of pearl necklaces, including wearing fake ones, with nearly every gown she owned. The quality and affordability of cultured “fake” peals during the decade made them an item every woman could afford.

Long beaded necklaces were equally as popular as pearls. They had round faceted stones in the popular Art Deco color pallet- black, red, white, green or pastels like jade. Stones were rich and heavy with color.  It did not matter if they matched your outfit – clashing colors were in vogue!

Placing machine cut gems of circles, square, rectangles, and triangles in simple silver settings gave them an Art Deco look and feel. Inspired by Cubism, the designs did not have to look realistic. Simple shapes by themselves or represented in a loose cubist-like suggestion of a flower or dragon or automobile were all the rage. These necklaces were much shorter- almost choker like. The colors and shapes drew attention to  women’s new short hair, exposed necks and – gasp! – makeup.

Because of short hair styles, women’s earrings left the ear lobe and dangled free. They were long columns, about 2-3 inches with small diamonds or rhinestones in the filigree design. Some had pearls or other gems hanging at the end, but overall pure white, clear, or silver was preferred.  For formal occasions earrings usually matched the hair clip or headband worn. During the day, a brooch pined to your cloche hat could match your earrings too.

As for bracelets, the Twenties maxim was definitely the more the better! Thin plastic bracelets with inset gems in the center came in a variety of colors and patterns. Tortoise shell, ivory or horn, and geometric patterns inspired by ancient Egyptian pottery, covered ladies arms. Two or three were worn on either wrist. They jingled and clapped together calling attention to the wearer. Some bangles crept their way up the arm to the bicep when snake shaped bangles made you look like Cleopatra.

Pearls, beads, machine cut stones and bangles with personality are now on my shopping list. Hopefully after a stop at the antique store I can get my Twenties jewelry collection started.  What are you favorite Twenties jewelry pieces?

The Vintage Dancer is Debbie Sessions, a vintage fashion, dance and history buff with an eye for seeing vintage style in new fashions. She teaches practical fashion history on her blog and in her books, 1940s Style Guide and 1920’s Style Guide. She also helps shoppers find vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories from all over the web.

3 Responses

  1. rebekah

    Check out Julia C Carrol’s books on collecting costume jewelery (America publications) if you get interested jewellery, they are really interesting and informative books with loads of pictures, great for research or help if you branch into selling and serious collecting, you can sometimes find second hand copies on Amazon, but if you buy brand new a serious investment.

  2. mary young

    What about jeweled shoe clips? I have a lovely pair of maracite clips that I wear on plain pumps.