To many people “retro” is synonymous with “old.” At Samuelson’s Buyers, when we talk about jewelry styles, “retro” has a very particular meaning. Specifically, it refers to jewelry of a certain style made roughly between the years 1935 and 1955.
The retro era started right after the Art Deco period, which was characterized by big, decorative, Prohibition-era jewelry between 1920 and 1935.
What Is Retro Era Jewelry?
As the American economy began to recover from the Great Depression in the 1930s, jewelry began to get more popular again.
Retro era jewelry was heavily inspired by Hollywood glamor. It was a marriage of past and present styles, influenced by the bold, geometric designs of Art Deco, the floral motifs of the Victorian era, and even more industrial, patriotic imagery that came with the onset of World War II.
Retro era jewelry was often designed to be glamorous, feminine, and sophisticated to offset the understated, minimal clothing many women had to wear during wartime. It was an extremely innovative period in the history United States jewelry that produced a wide variety of eclectic styles, including:
- Sunburst designs
- Horse motifs
- Military influence
Large gemstones accented by diamonds were common. Yellow colors, rose gold, and green gold were especially popular. Platinum became less used due to its scarcity during the war.
We Love to See Retro Jewelry
We love to evaluate retro style rings, necklaces, brooches, pendants, bracelets, earrings and more. Many of the pieces we see are made from gold and feature diamonds, but we love valuable and collectible pieces containing other gemstones as well.
We especially like to look at pieces from designers like:
- William Russer
- Oscar Heyman
Here are a few of our favorite pieces and styles from the retro era.
1. Retro Era Diamond Jewelry
This brooch, aptly named “Bird on a Rock,” is one of the most famous pieces of retro era jewelry, and a great example of the yellow tones and glamorous styles that were so sought after at the time.
The diamond the bird perches on, the Tiffany Yellow Diamond, is one of the biggest yellow diamonds ever discovered. When it was discovered in 1878 in South Africa, it had a carat weight of 287.42 carats (or 57.484 grams).
Jean Schlumberger, a well-known French jewelry designer of the time, created the mounting for this famous piece.
Fun Fact: Audrey Hepburn wore the Tiffany Yellow Diamond in publicity photos for Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the early 60s.
This piece is one of a kind, but we love seeing gorgeous diamond jewelry like this from the retro era.
2. Retro Era Rings
Engagement rings have changed little throughout the decades, but retro era engagement rings often embody the same styles as other jewelry of the time. Gold bands are not uncommon. You’ll often see square diamond settings, as well as one central diamond surrounded by two or more smaller ones.
You might be surprised to know that many 1940s era engagement rings featured gemstones other than diamonds, including emeralds, sapphires, and even rubies.
3. Retro Era Gold Necklaces
Gold necklaces have been worn in almost every era of in the history of jewelry.
Because yellow and gold were such popular colors between 1935 and 1955, some of the most beautiful gold necklaces we’ve seen came out of the retro era.
We love to see everything from simple and elegant gold chains to gold necklaces featuring diamonds and other precious stones.
In fact, we will buy gold in any karat purity or quality, so even if your gold jewelry is damaged, we’d be happy to meet with you and take a look.
4. Wide Cuff Bracelets
Wide cuff bracelets are a great example of the transition from Art Deco jewelry to the retro era. They often feature bold, geometric shapes with a variety of diamonds, other gemstones, and gold decorations.
These particular Maltese Cross Cuffs were created by Verdura, a famous New York jewelry company founded in 1939 during the retro era by Duke Fulco di Verdura.
Verdura designed them for Coco Chanel in the 1930s after she asked Fulco to remount jewelry she had received from ex-lovers.
Maltese Cross cuff bracelet became a signature look after that. In fact, Verdura created new pieces based on the style as recently as 2009.
5. Chain Bracelets
Gold chain bracelets are another design reminiscent of the retro era. This particular piece features 14k rose and green gold with brilliant blue sapphires. A beautiful piece!
The delicacy of the gold material and precious stones mixed with the large chain link design is a great illustration of the retro era’s love for combining of two key elements: delicate, sophisticated Hollywood glamor and industrial imagery.
We love looking at unique pieces like this.
How Much is Retro Era Jewelry Worth?
If you have retro era jewelry you’re interested in selling, you might be wondering how much it’s worth. As with all jewelry, a piece’s value depends on its materials, condition, maker, and authenticity. However, a lot of retro era jewelry is in high demand among collectors, which can increase the jewelry’s value.
The only way to know the true value of a piece is to have a certified jewelry buyer examine it in person. At Samuelson’s Buyers, we only offer private appointments at our secure office where your jewelry will be completely safe.
Give us a call at (301) 263-7971 or request an appointment with one of our expert buyers to get started.
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