Retro jewelry was designed in the 1940s and part of the 1950s. Think of the Oscars and the grandeur of the late 1940s. The style was so iconic, bold, and with clean lines. Retro jewelry is so stylistic and chique. It has never gone out of fashion and is still in style to this day.
When we think of retro jewelry, it needs to be remembered that these pieces came after Art Deco, which was the wealthiest period the world had seen up to that era. So much of the world's wealth was lost through the stock market and the great depression. For someone to acquire retro pieces, you had to be of substantial old wealth or of new wealth made from the war to afford these pieces. Because of the economics of the world, there were very few retro pieces made in comparison to Art Deco and other eras.
We also have to remember that World War Two was going on as well from 1939-1945, and jewelry was just not at the forefront of the mind of the elite, and gold and other precious metals were also needed for the war effort. In 1946-1955 slowly, the movement for finer things began to become a priority again. The retro-style had changed the way jewelry was being designed and adorned. Precious jewelry pieces were now being made with less carat weight of gemstones, like unto the art deco pieces, and bold sections of rose or yellow gold with precious smaller size gemstones as accents.
As the world was in turmoil over the great depression and the second world war, gemstone mines had been closed, and larger gemstones were just not as readily available in the market place. At this time it was also considered in poor taste to wear such valuable gems as it was felt that it could hurt the feelings of the there friends to see them in pieces similar to the ones they had to sell in hard times and remind them of fortunes lost, and opulence they could no longer afford. European craftsmanship and labor at that time were less expensive as jewelers were trying to just pick up the pieces of there lives after the war. Many of the retro pieces were made in Italy, France, and some in the United States. As gold was much less expensive than covering entire sections with gemstones, this became the new norm. Also, this made the pieces more "expensive casual," so they could be worn to dinner and less formal events as the world was going more in that direction. Bold pins had become the rage in fashion and were collected and worn daily by the socialites and wealthy of the world, and many began attending parties and events again.
In my opinion, I have always thought that retro jewelry was significantly undervalued. There were very little made in comparison to other eras, and the pieces have such a bold design, and the quality of craftsmanship is exceptional. Many of the museums in the world that have fine jewelry sections are now finally adding a piece of retro jewelry to their collections, and to me, it is understandably so.
All The Best, William David