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  • Writer's pictureAntiques in Oxford

1920s costume jewellery

However, the concept of costume jewellery, wasn't really introduced until the latter part of the 1920s, when Coco Chanel launched a line of strong statement accessories. Made to resemble large flowers or frogs, these items were meant to be worn like art rather than as indicators of wealth. Her jewellery was very different from anything that had come before and it was a great hit. Taking inspiration from this, Elsa Schiaparelli produced a line of jewellery with large faux stones on bold bracelets whose designs were inspired by the Dada art movement.

Much of this new jewellery was made out of a new hard plastic material called Bakelite, a plastic resin created by Leo Baekeland in 1907. Bakelite could be produced in several bright colours, which were given quirky names like Apple Juice, Salmon and Butterscotch. Extremely popular in the 1930s and 1940s, Bakelite was hard enough to be polished and

carved into all sorts of intriguing shapes for bangles and beads. The fashion for big, angular, and chunky bangles started with the late 20s flappers, who would pile them along their slender, bare arms. Initially made of ivory, the bangles fashion, which endured well into the 60s, soon became dominated by new brightly coloured plastics like Bakelite and Lucite. Even more abstract jewellery emerged from the art movements of 30s and 40s. Influenced by Bauhaus, Cubism, Futurism, and Abstract Expressionism, as well as the new industrialization, designers produced heavy, armour-like cocktail jewellery using gilt metal, chrome or large stones reflecting the rhythm and movement of an assembly line. Some of these pieces were meant to resemble screw-heads, ball bearings, nuts, and bolts. At the same time, other top costume jewellers such as Eisenberg, Hobe and Trifari kept things delicate and dainty making great imitations of fine jewellery, like Cartier diamonds alongside their own stunning bracelets, necklaces, brooches and earrings.

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