Rapaport Magazine
Style & Design

Rocking retro

Big, bold and creative with gold — these are the jewelry looks bringing mid-20th-century vibes into our own post-crisis era.

By Rachel Taylor

Image background: Shutterstock.

The Retro period that spanned the late 1930s through the 1950s provides rich pickings for any designer with a weakness for bold gold. It was an era of innovation, excess and economizing, and it is once again hitting the mark as pandemic-rocked jewelry collectors seek a metallurgic safe haven.

The excess aspect found expression in scale. Enveloping ear clips, exaggerated gold chain links on necks and wrists, heavily embellished cuffs, ornate brooches, scene-stealing cocktail rings and nearly-but-not-quite-matching parures were in. Transformable jewels were also hugely popular, as were other kinetic curiosities such as diamonds set en tremblant.

Countering this maximalism was the austerity that came with World War II. Designers had to deliver glamour on a budget, and this led to pieces that were large but light. Popular workarounds such as tubogas chains and bombé ring silhouettes are now defining our own era of optimistic rebuilding. Jewelers like Nikos Koulis have reinvented the snake chain, and the rounded gypsy-ring profile has become ubiquitous.

Another Retro hallmark that lands well today also started as a compromise. Yellow gold was the preferred shade of the time, but single pieces would often display a rainbow of colors as jewelers tinkered with alloys to stretch the dwindling supply. Now, of course, such alchemy stems more from creativity than necessity. Like other homages to this dramatic chapter of jewelry history, it’s all about celebrating the past rather than masquerading as it.

Roberto CoinRock & Diamonds cuff in 18-karat yellow gold and diamonds.

Vendorafa Diamond, ruby and emerald parure in 18-karat gold, consisting of a brooch and earrings.

Nikos Koulis Feelings bib necklace in 18-karat gold with diamonds and enamel.

Marla AaronLove Machine transformable ring with sapphire and diamonds in 18-karat gold.

RetrouvaiPolka Dot ring in 14-karat gold with diamonds and lapis lazuli.

Melis GoralMirror bracelet in 14-karat gold with diamonds and rubies.

Sia TaylorRainfall earrings in 18-karat gold and platinum.

Walters FaithClive earrings in 18-karat gold with diamonds.

Harwell GodfreyDiamond and ombré tourmaline necklace in 18-karat gold.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - November 2021. To subscribe click here.

Comment Comment Email Email Print Print Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Share Share