When it comes to jewellery, two metals stand apart from the rest: gold and silver. Only a few intrepid fashionistas dare to mix them, and at just about every stage in the modern history of fashion, one metal has been in, while the other has been out.
In the Ancient World
Even thousands of years ago, gold was worn as a decorative element. It was prized because it was rare, and it was worn by rich people in order to demonstrate just how rich they were. During the middle ages, it was only the very wealthy who could afford it, and everyone else had to make do with cheaper materials like pewter. And thus, it has remained ever since – though just about anyone can get their hands on something that at least looks like gold or silver nowadays.
What about the 20 the century?
The Art Nouveau movement of the 1910s prompted a widespread embracing of mill graining, which is a technique that involves setting a row of metal beads into a piece, typically to act as a border and to add definition. Platinum, at the time, was a metal of choice, as it had become incredibly scarce thanks to the war, but by the time the roaring 20s rolled around, white gold had emerged to act as a cheaper substitute.
Things evolved even further in the 1930s, with the introduction of plastic-adorned costume jewellery. Different colours of gold, like yellow and rose, came to the fore, but these were quickly dropped when the Second World War rolled around, as plain gold became highly prized.
By the time the 50s rolled around, designers had gotten bolder and more experimental. Platinum, gold, and even copper were all considered, and nothing was off-limits. The counterculture of the 1960s pushed things in an entirely different direction and meant that plastics, glasses and crystals started to enjoy more attention and that Asian and Middle-Eastern traditions began to exert greater
influence. Larger bracelets and anklets, of the sort you see here, came into prominence.
The pendulum swung back in the other direction over the course of the 70s, and by the 80s it was all about gold, gold and more gold. The metal was available in pure form, and also in plated. This remained the case until the 1990s when mainstream celebrities had started to look in a different direction, and embraced subtler, punkier aesthetic. This prompted a resurgence in silver anklets,
bracelets and choker necklaces, as well as Celtic-influenced items.
In the 21 st century, this back-and-forth war between gold and silver as ever largely continues. Who knows what trends the 2020s will bring?
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