Did you ever think about the art forms that are uniquely American, like jazz music, baseball, tap dancing and comics? From where I sit, the costume jewelry made in the US from the 1930s to the early 1960s falls into that same category.
Is it too much for me to view vintage clip ear rings, brooches and other sparkly things as part of our American cultural patrimony? Well, probably; just bear with me here.
But first: a very exciting thing happened last week. I bought this vintage suitcase and it’s absolutely FULL of 20th century American costume jewelry. Yowza, mama!
There are probably 150 tiny wearable works of art in this treasure chest. It’s going to take me a while to work my way through all of it, but I though I’d share a little of the excitement.
Here we go:
I’ve written about the wonders of vintage costume jewelry before. You can scroll ahead in this post to see the pretty shiny things if you’re so inclined or you can geek out with me for just a moment
The golden age of costume jewelry parallels the classic American film years when Hollywood became a major influence on style here and abroad. It began in the 1930s, which was a period when the US began to celebrate it’s own unique style in fashion and in other art forms.
At the same time, immigrants arrived who had specialized skills in casting metal and cutting and setting stones. Influenced by fine arts, by Hollywood glamour, and by changing ideas of style, an art form developed which emphasized design and craftsmanship more than the intrinsic value of gemstones and gold.
American costume jewelry designers used high quality materials including Italian and Czech glass, known for it’s purity of color and crisp facets. The glass was set with prongs just like fine stones.
Along with the craftsmanship, the absolute best part of vintage costume jewelry is their wildly creative designs.
These jewelers with old world skills were able to be more artistically experimental with costume jewelry than they could with precious gems and metals.
What they created was delightful then and now.
I’ve just focused on the brooches this time…some of the necklaces will be posted here very soon.