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Jewellery trends from the 20th Century

Jewellery design, inline with the rest of the decorative arts, has always followed and embodied the aspirations and drives of a generation - the key influencers, the resounding events and the collective dreams of a time. Mirroring the muses and movements that shaped the trends, becoming the symbols that the people desired and wore with pride.

Following are a few interesting insights into the most significant jewellery trends from the 20th century, a history that Walker & Hall has shared since its founding over 115 years ago. Pieces shown are just a small selection of those that make up our unique and dynamic Vintage collection.

The Victorian Period - a story of great love and loss

Design overall was relatively decorative, more delicate and intricate early on in this period, and becoming heavier over time. Motifs were inspired from earlier periods of expansion and change, such as the Renaissance, Middle Ages and even Ancient Greece. The discovery of South African diamond mines brought about the large scale production of diamond jewellery. Key jewellery styles included brooches, fobs and muff chains.

After the death of Albert, the English Queen Victoria, was heart-broken and the grieving gave rise to a fashion called Mourning jewellery. It was often associated with jet and onyx gemstones and pieces often incorporated human hair and engraved initials.

A new freedom unleashed - Art Nouveau

This era was characterised by its innovative reliance on flowing line aesthetics and elements derived from nature - the use of insects, floral and fantastical mythological imagery. Design also included extensive engraving techniques and the use of enamels, semi-precious gems and seed pearl combinations.

Art Deco - a simple symmetry & movement forward

An era that laid the strong platform for change and a more industrialised world. Art Deco aesthetic was architectural in its essence, characterised by its strong use of clean geometric (square and rectangular shapes) and simple symmetrical patterns. It incorporated styling from the Far East, India and Persia with the use of dramatic precious stones such as coral, lapis lazuli and agate. Platinum was also used for the first time.

Modern - the future is ours

Post-war 1950's enjoyed unparalleled luxury and jewellery design and its role reflected this economic prosperity. The Modern period continued with Deco aesthetic, but refreshed through the incorporating of new elements inspired from the atomic age, or space race, a development that had captured the world's collective imagination. Design motifs were also carried through from earlier periods with breadth of styling more comprehensive and allowing for separate collections that could be worn day or night.

Diamonds became every girl's 'best friend' through a design innovation and the use of a multitude of smaller diamonds instead of a large focal stone. This made diamond jewellery more accessible to every income level, especially the rapidly growing middle class. There was also a trend for the jewellery set - the matching necklace and earrings, bracelet or brooch.

Fast forward to today as Walker & Hall reflects on an extraordinary heritage through their connection with New Zealanders over generations and many eras. Periods that created the pieces that have transcended time and make up a very unique and precious Vintage collection.

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