Retro Modern (1935-1945)

Style Characteristics
Three-dimensional, sculptural designs incorporated ribbons, bows and fabric-like folds in colored gold. Large gem-set floral and foliate sprays adorned many square-shouldered jackets like a corsage. "Tank track" link and "Ludo" flexible strap gold bracelets with buckle motif clasps were often embellished with diamonds and/or colored gemstones in star cut settings or calibrated rows. Large hinged bangles may have featured a step cut center stone accented with smaller round faceted colored gemstones or a gem-set buckle motif as the central element. Gem-set charms of the 1920s were "recycled" as applied ornamentation on wide bangle surfaces. Rings usually centered on a large step cut stone. "Gas pip" or snake chain gold necklaces and gold clip earrings accented with gemstones completed a tailored ensemble.

George V died in 1936 and Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson; they became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor following their marriage in 1937. George VI became king of Great Britain. Period movies contributed to nostalgia for the past; "Gone With the Wind" premiered in 1939, inspiring a revival of Victorian styles and motifs. Bringing hope for the future, the New York World's Fair, The World of Tomorrow, opened in 1939. The House of Jewels, the fair's smallest pavilion with the highest value per square foot, displayed the wares of five Fifth Avenue jewelers Cartier New York, Black, Starr & Frost, Marcus & Co., Tiffany & Co. and Udall & Ballou. But the beginning of World War II in Europe in 1939 put a damper on the fair's celebratory atmosphere. France fell under German occupation in 1940. the U.S. entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941. A 10 percent luxury tax was added to jewelry sales in 1941; it was raised to 20 percent in 1943. In 1942, rationing of consumer products began and the use of platinum for jewelry prohibited. The war ended in 1945.

Metals & Stones
Colored gold - yellow, pink and green sometimes combined in bicolored or tricolored pieces - was back after several decades of white metal dominance. Platinum was restricted to strategic use during wartime. Palladium was used as a substitute, but there was little demand for it from jewelers and the public. Large colored gemstones - especially step cut citrines and aquamarines - were favored as focal points for gold jewels. Small natural or synthetic rubies and sapphires and "recycled" diamonds were combined for "patriotic" red, white and blue jewels.

Important Designers
Women jewelers came to the fore in France including Suzanne Belperron, who partnered with Bernard Herz and later, with Herz's son, Jean; and Maison Boivin, helmed by Jeanne Boivin (née Poiret), her daughter Germaine and Juliette Moutard. High-end jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier continued their rivalry. In the U.S., the Franco-American merger of Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin became famous for its "Reflection" line of jewels with interchangeable components. French-born Fulco di Verdura and Texas-born Paul Flato collaborated and then went their separate ways, both establishing themselves as original designers with a strong following. New Yorker Seaman Schepps also achieved recognition for his designs during this decade that continues to this day.

Diamonds The majority of diamonds from this era are modern round brilliants, but older cuts - old mine and old European - also turned up in this period's jewelry. These stones were usually "recycled" from antique pieces because of shortages and trade restrictions during wartime.