Of all decades and of all styles, paste from the 1950s is probably the most abundant of costume jewelry and also probably the most collected and worn. This relative abundance is partly thanks to this being a time of increased affluence, with the growth of a large middle class with disposable income. Its popularity was also due to the enormous range of styles and colours of jewelry available - arguably due to freer post-war attitudes, especially in the United States.
The 1950s was the age of the aurora borealis crystal. This was a crystal stone produced by Swarovski, which had an iridescent coating that shone a rainbow of colours. This really was glitz, but used in a controlled and almost subtle way within the settings, and the resulting effect could be mesmerizing. Every manufacturer used this type of stone, from Trifari, who by this time was mass producing jewelry at an unprecedented rate, to Dior, who made limited amounts of classic jewelry on an haute-couture basis.
It was during this time that the number of costume jewelry manufacturers in the United States reached its zenith. There was such a large number of firms that many were founded, produced and later disappeared almost without trace, their histories lost forever. Some of the most collectable pieces of this type of jewelry come from one such firm, and the only surviving information about it is its name stamped onto the reverse of its pieces. This firm was called Har and we look more closely at one of their most famous pieces below.
This was an important time for costume jewelry. While for decades before, costume jewelry designers used all their knowhow to produce faux jewels that looked real, the 1950s almost reveled in the fake: fake was chic. The '50s saw stones so large that they could not possibly have a real analogy. Equally, no precious stone could reflect ten different colours at once, but aurora borealis stones could. This was a time when jewelry was fun, and in fun shapes, and nobody minded that it was obviously fake.
Har Dragon Brooch, 1955
The Har Company may have been from California but others suggest that the company's full name was the Hargo Jewelry Company of New York. The company is thought to have made under the Har name for only one year, 1955, before changing its name to Art. Pieces that bear the Har name include this brooch of a dragon holding a gemstone. The firm also produced other classic pieces such as the "Arabian Nights "series," Chinamen", and "Cobra" jewelry. Har jewelry is very collectable, and more desirable pieces in good condition command large sums.
Apple Pin & Earrings, late 1950s
After around 1955, the Har Company changed its name to Art. No one really knows why this may have been but the accepted reason is that the owners sold the business and the new owners changed its name to Art. This leaves us with a legacy of many designs by Har that are signed "Art", so check the back of the piece and do not assume that the piece will be signed "Har". This design was never signed "Har" and was always an Art piece.
Robert Flower, 1950s
Not all of 1950s jewelry was about paste. Although rhinestones were the perfect expression of the new love for kitsch design and colour, enamels were also very popular. This example of a late 1950s flower brooch was made by Robert, until then better known as a designer in the Haskell School of jewelry design. The enamel was cold painted, applied in several coats, and is of good quality. The colours are quite psychedelic and very eye-catching. The two circles of petals, the central stamen and the stalk were all painted separately and later riveted together. When buying a piece such as this (valued at £35-50560- 85), prime considerations include the integrity of the enameling, any chips or cracks, as well as any creases or breaks to the underlying metalwork.
Writer – Steven Miners