Sunday, February 27, 2011

I don't want to own anything until

I know I've found the place where me and things belong together. I'm not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it's like.... It's like Tiffany's.... Not that I give a hoot about jewelry. Diamonds, yes. But it's tacky to wear diamonds before you're forty... ~Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1958, spoken by the character Holly Golightly

Tonight is the Oscars, and I can place a safe bet that there will be many "tacky" women coming down that red carpet. But, as I am sorting through bags and bags of jewelry from auction,
I thought a Breakfast at Tiffany's quote was a good lead in...even though no turquoise boxes in my bags of jewelry!I do have sparkles...rhinestones...and so I thought I would give you a little background on rhinestones. Many think of the 50s when they see rhinestones, but rhinestones trace their origin to Czechoslovakian or Bohemian glass dating as far back as the 13th century. In 1891,in Austria, Daniel Swarovski (of crystal fame)created a new glass cutting machine which could cut faceted glass, producing finely finished product in a very short time. Prior to this invention it would take a very long time for each stone to be hand cut and finished. Swarovski’s background in glass making, combined with his glass cutting machine soon found him producing rhinestones with a lead content of over 30% creating a brilliant stone. Then, he created a vacuum plating for the backs of the stones with silver and gold, reducing the need for hand labor. Still today Swarovski rhinestones are recognized as the highest quality in the industry. Over 80%of rhinestone jewelry manufactured in America use Swarovski rhinestones.

In America, during the Victorian period common motifs for jewelry included snakes, flowers, and hands most often adorned with rhinestones.
The Depression also created a market for rhinestone jewelry. Inexpensive jewelry was a way to update an outfit. Dogs, birds, or cats with a rhinestone eye were common place. The jewelry during the 1940s once again became big and bold with rhinestones being produced in every imaginable color and large stones set on large bold settings was the norm.

The older rhinestone jewelry was set by hand, but, as time went on, and companies mass produced, the "stones" were glued in. The jewelry made during WWII does not have the sheen that later pieces have...metals were scarce. Perhaps you can see the difference among these pieces...the duller pin is 1940s era.
By the 1950s there were two very distinct looks – elegant and sophisticated for the more mature woman, and casual and fun for the younger woman.
The 1950s saw jewelry made completely from rhinestones. For the younger woman, jewelry was more fun and flirty and pieces for the older woman were more sophisticated with elegance.
Rhinestone parures (complete set of three or more matching pieces; two matched pieces are sometimes referred to as a demi-parure) became extremely popular. In 1953 the aurora borealis rhinestone was introduced to the market with its fabulous array of color.
The 60s did buy into rhinestones--the Mother Earth crowd was into the long beaded necklaces and natural styled accents, but the Disco era brought the rhinestones back, and the rhinestone has maintained its place in the jewelry box ever since.

So, despite the fact that the red carpet will see the real more ways than can thank "The Academy" of costume jewelry makers for your glitter.


Zed said...

What an interesting piece! I shall look at the jewelery in my jewelery boxes with more insight now. I inherited many pieces from my Mom who was a great collector of anything shiny. She collected from her era which was the 40's and 50's. Thank you for such a great piece. Zed (

Kimberly said...

Thanks for the interesting info. I really enjoy looking through vintage costume jewelry in antique shops and tag sales. I really like the picture of the 1940's set you have pictured.