Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Junction Tuesdays: Jewelry pushes boundaries (push it real good!)

Whiting and Davis mesh necklace
And through the decades we go! Last week was all the about ’50s and ’60s, with multi-strand necklaces and button earring sets, pearls, rhinestones, Lucite, copper and silver. Now we head into the ’70s and ’80s.

In 1971, the U.S. gold market was deregulated, which set off waves of sizable price increases, raising the cost of fine jewelry. This, in turn, affected costume jewelry manufacturers as more consumers turned to designer high-end costume pieces like those created by Kenneth Jay Lane and Robert Lee Morris, instead of genuine pieces from fine jewelers.

The costume jewelry market was dominated by several major influences in the ’70s and ’80s including the shift in the workforce and the entertainment industry.

A massive number of women entered the work force in the ’70s and were often restricted to conservative fashions that fit into a business environment. This resulted in the “statement jewelry” trend. Pieces were large and attention-grabbing, giving women a way to express themselves and personalize their wardrobe. Chains were long and made from large and heavy links. They were often layered and of varying lengths. Pendants had large glass or stone sets. And popular earrings were long and dangling, big hoops and ball-drop style.

In the late 1970s, disco-inspired jewelry was very popular. Disco jewelry featured flashy designs and lots of sparkle using rhinestones and metal mesh like that of Whiting & Davis. Other popular designers of this era were Accessocraft, Art, Castlecliff, Trifari and Goldette.

The 1980s were all about bold fashion trends including large, bright and distinctive jewelry. As people began to explore their individuality, jewelry became more than just an accessory. It was also a means of making a statement.

British punk movement of the late 1970s spilled into the ’80s and influenced costume jewelry with looks like "creative salvage", which was made of leather and rubber. Spikes, safety pins and razor blades were also very popular.

The rich and famous showed off their wealth by wearing stylish fine jewelry while the average fashionista used costume jewelry to make an impression. Designers started to push the boundaries and explored new and different materials to create these big and bold pieces.

Necklaces ranged from beaded to large pendants. Earrings like oversized hoops were dramatic and a staple for any 80s woman. Clip on earrings were popular, as pierced styles were often too heavy to wear. Bracelets made a big, bold statement. Oversize bangle bracelets were popular, as was wearing multiple numbers of thin bangles. Friendship bracelets, charm bracelets, and cuffs were all the rage and plastic, neon-hued jelly bracelets were the must-have bracelets for the younger demographic. Cocktail rings were worn both during the day and evening and contributed to the overall sense of confidence and wealth that was part of the ’80s.

And we can’t forget about the hip-hop influence. In keeping with the big trend, heavy gold jewelry adorned the necks, fingers and wrists of hip hoppers. They wore multiple rings on each finger, heavy gold chains and huge “door-knocker” earrings. Salt N Pepa were no strangers to this trend.


Check back next week to get tips on dating your vintage jewelry and how to care for it. And have a great 4th of July!

-Shannan Fales is the owner of Junction at 1510 U Street NW. She shares her expertise in vintage and thrift each Tuesday.


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