Bold volumes, three-dimensional curves and geometric patterns with semi-precious stone accents. It’s Retro Glam Time at Christie’s.
Following an ideal jewellery history timeline, and moving from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco ‘Beyond Boundaries’ marvels (read here our article) offered last year, Christie’s will have a section of its upcoming Magnificent Jewels auction (Geneva, May 16th) explicitly dedicated to retro jewels.
Moving away from the flowery and fairy-like creations of the Art Nouveau, and from the geometric style of the Art Deco periods, retro jewels set themselves back to the ground, in correspondence with the troubled times they were designed in.
The Great Depression of the 1930s and the outbreak of World War II impacted on fashion, on the role of women, and on jewellery, too.
Silhouettes changed, with broader shoulders and shorter, straighter skirts. Women went working in factories during the War, adopting uniform-styled outfits.
It was a moment for masculine style to influence feminine fashion, and retro jewels perfectly matched that shift.
Retro jewels looked completely different in comparison to their Art Deco predecessors. Noble metals were exclusive to the war industry. Platinum was not an option, and it was replaced by palladium and, most notably, by gold.
Gold became the metal par excellence used in jewellery and, with a touch of copper, it took that warm and reddish tone that, thanks to the return to fashion of pink gold these days, makes retro jewels appreciated by collectors today.
By carefully dosing the copper within the alloy, master goldsmiths were then able to obtain gold in different colours and to use different shades of gold in one same jewel, to accent the design.
The flow of precious gems from Burma, India, South Africa and other renowned places were limited if not blocked. This is why retro jewels were created by semi-precious stones, such as citrine, amethyst, aquamarine and topaz, for plenty of colour and of sizes.
Being diamonds, rubies and sapphires quite scarce, these could appear as small accents, alone as calibré-cut, or in invisible-set mountings, to give the precious decoration a bolder look.
Retro jewels imposed themselves for their bold and modern design, moulded after the influence of both war machines and nature – to oppose to the gloomy shadows of war.
As they were not to display wealth, retro jewels were also appreciated for being convertible, as one could start from a necklace to have a pair of bracelets, for instance.
Today, the renewed appreciation and interest for Retro jewels is due to the revival of yellow and pink gold and of brooches, which are powerfully back on trend.
At Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction, collectors and aficionados of retro objects will find a very nice selection of retro pieces, signed by the most celebrated jewellers of the time, ranging from abstract and bold forms to nature-inspired creations.
Sources: Magnificent Jewels auction; “Antenna: The allure of retro-modern jewels” by Meredith Etherington-Smith; Lang Antiques AJU (Antique Jewellery University).
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