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Jewelry during the war

Updated: May 1

The human brain is amazing - it quickly adapts to new circumstances and the most terrible events in order to protect itself from destruction. Paradoxically, even in times of war - from the World War I to the current war of russia against Ukraine - people bought and still buy jewelry: as gifts, as amulets, and as symbols of fidelity and gratitude.

Jewelry during the war is one of the topics I was very interested in researching. So, I started looking for how the jewelry niche was affected by World War II, and here are the facts I found.

In the 1940s, despite the horrors of the war, ordinary Europeans wanted to celebrate their lives every day - just like Ukrainians do today. Therefore, the minimalist design of the 30s was organically replaced by bold modernist forms. The surfaces of the jewelry acquired textures and patterns, clear geometric shapes were replaced by soft outlines of ribbons and lace. Instead of restrained and flat, jewelry brands began to make voluminous three-dimensional jewelry. Look at one of the icons of the 40s - actress Ingrid Bergman. Her massive, eloquent jewelry best reflects the main message of that time - to be on top despite the sad news.

A significant place in the design of the period of the World War II is occupied by military themes. Its symbols are braided ribbons and bows of military orders, which jewelers reproduce in metal. Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Hexagone bracelet and Tiffany & Co belt buckle bracelet are iconic. Pay attention to the texture of the metal imitating woven fabric. One of the symbols of the fight against fascism is the letter V from the word Victory - Cartier used it in his jewelry. He also created numerous brooches, pendants and bracelets with flags of allied countries, military planes and eagles.

The cost of gold became too high for most Europeans during the World War II, so brands significantly expanded the range of budget jewelry. For example, Tiffany & Co. began to produce vermeil jewelry - silver covered with gilding in 2.4 microns. Jewelry made of "rolled" gold (aka gold-filled) also spread - a thin layer of gold 585 or higher grade was "pressed" under high pressure to the main, low-cost metal (brass or copper). In order for jewelry to formally remain "golden" but cost less, brands added more alloys to pure gold, which is why "rose", "green", and 8K gold are often found among the products of those times. Less precious stones, such as citrine, were often used instead of diamonds. Silver became the king among the precious metals of wartime. Below I have collected photos of vintage Cartier jewelry of that time, which were made using all the listed trends.