Irresistible Ways to Wear Retro Jewelry

Left: Lot 180, Brondsted pottery bead necklace, mid-20th century, Mebane Antique Auction (April 29)
Right: Lot 467, Tiffany andamp; Co. gold brooch, mid-20th century, Jeffrey S. Evans (April 30)

By: Lori Ettlinger Gross

Retro jewelry — such as rose-gold and 1940s pieces — are among the most exuberant pieces in the vintage bauble box today. Prices haven’t yet skyrocketed in the way their Art Deco and Edwardian cousins have, and the selection of truly fine examples is plentiful and diverse. In the 1940s, jewelry designers worked hard to create pieces that caught the imagination in fashion magazines and Hollywood movies. Their ingenuity lasted decades.

Jewelry from the 1940s is also known for its broad expanses of gold. Gold was rationed for the war effort and what was left was pounded into expansive, thin sheets so that a bold look could be achieved while only using a small amount.

Lot 454, Vintage gold bracelet, mid-20th century, Jeffrey S. Evans (April 30)

Retro jewelry is also enduring because of its versatility; it works with just about anything. While rose-gold is predominant, yellow gold was also used and the high carat pieces are not only covetable, they transition a contemporary wardrobe from office to evening with just a change of lip gloss. There is a piece for all budgets, however purchase only what you truly love and buy the very best you can afford.

Slip Dresses

Slip dresses showed up on all the runways and in every magazine for Spring 2016. The more skin you show, the better to showcase an amazing pair of bangles or dress clips (a matching pair of small brooches). Fasten the clips to the straps of the dress or near the décolletage to add just a little bit of sparkle to your neckline or shoulders.

Lot 759, Necklace with rhinestones, France, c. 1940s, Henry’s Auktionhaus (April 28)

Lot 796, Vintage yellow gold link bracelet, first half of 20th century, Ahlers & Ogletree (May 1)

Another way to style a slip dress is with big, bold bracelets. Retro bracelets are often large cuffs or bold chains. Layer the chain links bracelets in threes or wear one bold example on its own. Gas pipe link or feminine floral necklaces will highlight collarbones and create the face-framing magic you see on the red carpet.

Satin Bombers

Satin bomber jackets are Spring 2016’s feminine version of the aviator. Ply them with vermeil or gold brooches and don’t skimp on the numbers. If you have a petite frame, scatter smaller pins instead.

Lot 194, Platinum, aquamarine, ruby, and diamond flower brooch, c. 1950, Doyle New York (May 16)

While Retro jewelry is all about flowers and geometrics, choose a unique combination that works with the jacket and your personal taste. The scatter pin look isn’t as much an art as it is a statement, so make it your own.

Lot 248, Retro sapphire and diamond Cartier clip, Morphy Auctions (May 3)

Billow Sleeves

The billow sleeve blouse is coming back strong this spring season. Retro jewelry is the best contrast to this ultra feminine look. Earrings work best here – 1940s designers created many that were worn close to the ear, a kind of neat yet lush balance that frames the face and allows the sleeves of the blouse to offer movement and underscore the female silhouette.

Lot 468, Vintage gold and diamond pair of earrings, mid-20th century, Jeffrey S. Evans (April 30)

On the hunt for antique, vintage, or “retro” jewelry? Find excellent examples in upcoming sales including Jeffrey S. Evans’ Spring Antiques, Fine & Decorative Arts (April 30), Sloans & Kenyon’s Spring Estate Catalogue Auction Day 2 (May 1), Freeman’s Jewelry & Watches (May 2), Morphy Auctions’ Premier Jewelry Sale (May 3), Auctionata AG’s 517 Super Sale: Jewelry, Watches & Wine (May 4), and more.