As social-contact restrictions ease and cities begin to re-open, fashion experts say that women are ready to throw aside their sweatpants and dress up, but in a new way. No more high-heels and formal workplace apparel for daytime. Instead, expect to see brightly-colored, comfortable, and fun clothing and accessories. Whether your idea of dressing up is a new summer frock, denim, or something more personal in style, these summer jewelry pieces will energize your wardrobe as you re-enter the world.
What makes these jewels special is that they are works of art – not imitations of fine jewelry –created by talented makers in Europe and the U.S. Sadly, we don’t know their names in most cases because costume jewelry typically was unsigned before the 1940s. Nonetheless, the exceptional designs and materials and construction methods used have ensured the lasting beauty of these jewels, unlike the cheap pieces we see on the market today. And although costume jewelry was mass-produced in the 20th century, these survivors are unique and unlikely to be seen elsewhere.
Art Deco Summer Necklaces
Chokers were as popular in the 1920s as waist-long necklaces. The photo above shows a European creation with hand-wired clusters of pink blown-glass beads that are connected with clear-glass rings. Their transparency modernizes this piece, which is like a wreath of blossoms around your neck. Here are two more Art Deco chokers made in the 1920s that work really well with summer colors and fabrics.
Did you know that blue is the world’s favorite color? It is especially popular with white and summer linens. The style of the necklace on the left is called a chicklet, a modern term for a type of jewel with open-back, glass stones set on linked metal mountings. In this example, the design is more elaborate – the faceted square stones alternate with ones molded in a step-pattern. Each end is finished with two blue enamel links.
On the right is a fringe necklace with tiny coral-glass beads in delicate oval white-metal settings. A paperclip chain finishes this elegant piece. The color coral says summer. See how lovely this jewel looks with a colorful dress. You can also wear it to add a pop of this lovely hue to a neutral outfit.
Summer Pendant Earrings
Long, dangling earrings like these two pairs bring to mind the decade that roared a century ago. Think summer parties, music and dancing when you look at these adornments from that era.
On the left, a trio of chains suspend mint-green-glass beads that form a circle with a dangling bead in the center. The construction and lavish 3-inch length provide lots of movement as well as chic. Earrings like these that were made in the 1920s are increasingly hard to find.
The pair on the right features molded-glass panels in the color of lapis lazuli. The attention to detail is evident – the floral motif is repeated in the silver-tone components that connect the pendants to the earring tops. Bold in color, texture and length (two inches), this pair definitely makes a statement.
Funky Summer Bracelets
Bracelets, one of the earliest forms of adornment, became very popular in the 1920s, when style dictated bare arms. With short sleeves or sleeveless attire in summer, why not add a bracelet to your ensemble? These two examples are from the first half of the last century.
Though tortoise-shell in appearance, the bracelet on the left is made from a translucent early plastic (possibly Bakelite). It is formed by alternating rows of semi-circles that are linked with metal pins. The design is a variation of the tank-track motif, which was fashionable in the 1930s. This Machine Age piece with excellent articulation is still modern today. Its bold, yet casual look works well with jeans or summer linens.
On the right is a 1940s creation by Frank Hess for Miriam Haskell. The turquoise-glass beads and diamantés wrapped around a gold-tone hinged frame show the designer’s ingenuity when high-quality glass stones from Europe were not available during World War II. Haskell produced several variations of this piece, with tiny glass beads from the U.S. This bangle in a popular summer hue has just the right amount of bling for a casual ensemble.
Playful Summer Brooches
From their utilitarian function as fasteners, brooches have been worn as adornments since the Middle Ages. More recently identified as old-fashioned, they are making a comeback as fashion statements, sometimes with a political connotation. These examples, both designed by Frank Hess and hand-made at Miriam Haskell, are whimsical and fun to wear.
The 1940s jewel on the left, though shown as a pendant, is a brooch/clip. The rows of deep-red glass beads embellished with diamantés set in gold-tone metal actually move, giving this piece a Machine Age-look and feel. The black cord in the photo is included with the purchase of this versatile piece. You could also wear it with a chain.
On the right is a whimsical brooch created during World War II. Here, again, Hess used non-traditional materials. In this example, the coffee-bean-shaped wooden beads form a flower at the top. From it cascade additional beads attached to braided silk cords. The result is lots of movement and sound! At four-inches in length and with its other attributes, this wonderful jewel truly makes a statement. Wear it at the base of a round- or v-neck top, or on the pocket of a denim jacket.
For More Vintage Summer Jewelry Fun
As you muse about what you’ll wear when you venture out into the sunshine, consider colorful, fun, and expressive vintage costume jewelry.