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The 1920s were an exciting time for women in America. From shorter skirts to bobbed hairstyles, women were experimenting with new styles of clothing, hats, yes, even jewelry like earrings.
While earrings have been a fashion staple for thousands of years, their meaning has changed drastically.
Ancient Egyptian women wore them as a sign of wealth, while in ancient Rome, they were a sign of slavery.
For the women of the Jazz Age, it was time to be bold with their jewelry, and earrings are no exception.
Let’s discover the world of earrings during this fabulous decade when debauchery ruled and dangling earrings were all the rage.
What Kind of Jewelry Was Popular in the 1920s?
One of the things I love about 1920s-inspired jewelry is that costume jewelry was the in-thing. No one was trying to fake diamonds or other jewels. Everyone assumed that your jewelry was fake, and that was OK because so was theirs.
Jewelry styles in the Roaring 20s were all about fashion and creating a certain look, not a means of showing off your jewels.
Art Deco swept the shows in Paris, France, in the early 1920s, and Americans, anxious for anything that came from Europe, gobbled up the trend in a flash. Jewelry took on metals, brightly colored gemstones, and geometric shapes.
Pearls were also big during the Jazz Age. Again, they didn’t need to be real pearls, but pearl earrings were extremely popular, as were drop earrings.
Women began wearing shorter hairstyles, which allowed earrings to take center stage.
What Jewelry Was Famous in the 1920s?
Manufacturers realized that they could use cheaper materials, such as resin and colored rocks, to create fashion jewelry.
The lower price meant that everyday women who could not afford jewelry could now buy and wear multiples of it. This means not a single strand of pearls, but several strands or even a knotted pearl necklace,
and, of course, long earrings.
Long sleeves were out and showing skin was the new fashion, which means that bracelets and armbands were all in fashion.
Diamonds were seen as too expensive for all but the wealthiest of women, so manufacturers used stones like jade, turquoise, or agate in silver or clear casings.
Gold was not commonly worn unless it was for an Egyptian motif, such as the armbands above.
The Best 1920s Pearl Earrings
The 1920s were awash in pearls and peacock feathers! Both items were at the height of fashion during this decade.
The quality and low price of manufactured pearls meant that every woman could afford them, not one but even three or more long strands!
With so many women enamored with those fun-to-wear and fling-about pearl strands, it only made sense that pearl earrings would follow.
It was also easy for jewelry designers to create many different types of earrings from manufactured pearls.
You simply could not go wrong with pearls of any kind, whether you favored a single pearl or art deco crystal earrings like this pair,
or a stacked set of pearl earrings.
Yes, freshwater pearls were also a popular choice. Freshwater pearls are a bit more egg-shaped, and often, they are not perfectly smooth and round, but that’s part of the appeal.
Matched with a freshwater pearl necklace,
a flapper could rock their outfit for very little cash.
Pearls are also popular because they go with just about any outfit and any color, and if you wanted, you could mix your pearls with another type of stone to match your dress.
You can’t go wrong with pearls for a vintage look that is essentially timeless.
What Jewelry Did Flappers Wear?
Jewelry that was worn in the late 1800s and early 1900s was a fussy type of Art Nouveau style. Think heavy, clunky, and bold.
While women were more interested in jewelry than ever before, grandma’s earrings and heavy necklaces had to go!
Flapper fashion dictates Art Deco crystal earrings.
This was the perfect answer for flappers since they could wear tons of jewelry and not worry so much about keeping it safe or storing it for special occasions.
Art Deco is inexpensive and could be as intricate as pearls encased in fake diamonds to something as simple as two-toned crystal earrings.
Since hairstyles were much shorter, women seemed to prefer to show off their earrings, and the fashion was all about length and being bold.
Pearls were a huge fashion hit
but so were other types of art deco drop earrings such as rose gold earrings ( see rose gold flapper dresses ),
and of course, peacock-styled earrings.
Costume jewelry allowed flappers and other women to experiment with different looks, different styles, and try on a new “persona” simply by adding extra layers of jewelry.
Real diamonds, pearls, and other gems were considered to be too fussy, and a flapper would be devastated if a true diamond earring was lost while dancing.
Wearing fake jewelry gave women the freedom to express themselves wherever their imagination took them for a price that they could afford.
The Best 1920s Inspired Earrings
While necklaces were, by far, the most popular jewelry items of the Jazz Age, earrings ran a close second.
Earrings, as well as other jewelry, were heavily influenced by avant-garde art movements, the Ballets Russes, African art, and the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb.
The Art Deco style of the 1920s was characterized by strong color contrasts, geometric shapes, clean lines, and stylized motifs such as hieroglyphics, pharaohs, and scarabs. In fact, everything Egyptian was popular as well as images denoting speed such as antelope or airplanes.
Scarabs were popular as were earrings that depicted flowers such as these
If a woman still had longer hair, generally longer than shoulder length, it was quite common to move the hair to one side and wear a single earring on the side without the hair.
Likewise, if you wore a cloche hat, a brooch would often be pinned to the hat that matched the earrings, or you can use it to pin together the ends of your shawl.
For anyone interested in genuine vintage-look earrings from the Roaring 20s, think pearls, long drop earrings,
or art deco platinum earrings.
Did Flappers Also Wear Long Earrings?
You bet they did!
One thing that a flapper loved was to be noticed. By wearing longer earrings, a person’s glance was drawn right to the neck, which was oftentimes exposed by the deep V-neckline (no more dresses that covered one from the chin to the wrists to the floor).
The neck was now exposed because of clothing styles and shorter hair, so it made sense that women would want something glittery to cover or draw attention to that area.
Another style that was popular was wearing a rhinestone hair pin to pull the hair back from the face,
then adding a pair of longer earrings that matched either the hairpin or the dress.
All types of colored gemstones were acceptable, including emerald colored,
and Swarovski crystals that looked like real rubies.
While black and gold were not as common, that didn’t mean you couldn’t wear them! In fact, for a truly dramatic look, a black and pearl necklace
worn with black and gold earrings
and a black-and-pearl bracelet would have a stunning effect.
Don’t worry about “keeping it simple” or that you might be going overboard by wearing too much jewelry. For a true flapper, those words did not exist in her vocabulary.
I love the 1920s earring styles! I find that I can wear these types of earrings in nearly every setting other than perhaps an office environment.
I’ve even worn some art deco earrings to the grocery store and gotten compliments!
Imagine the compliments you will receive by wearing some 1920s-inspired drop earrings to your next wedding, anniversary party, costume party, or heck, even grocery shopping!
Be Bold! Think Art Deco and Drop Earrings! Let your inner Daisy Buchanan or Jordan Baker shine!
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.