What has come to be known as the Retro style could perhaps be better described as a Cocktairstyle or later the tailored look it is almost unique to the 1940s, because tailored straight-lined clothing required strong, simple lines in jewelry. A preoccupation with the imitation of folded pleats of fabric led to one of this look's stylistic themes and provided a stark contrast to the more static, geometric lines of Art Deco. Pieces were still being made in silver owing to wartime restrictions an excellent metal for producing fine detailing and for having gold plate applied. Large bows, flower brooches swags folded bands, and buckles were rendered in gold plated metal and boasted oversized stones such as faux aquamarines, amethysts and citrines. Rose gold was a popular plating colour and sometimes jewels incorporated several different colours of gold plate.
With the return of the workforce from the rigours of war in Europe, the American manufacturing sector took off, and this included the large costume jewelers of Rhode Island. Ladies wanted to treat themselves after the deprivations of war and jewelry and clothing were the perfect indulgence. Strong lines and strong looks were the order of the day. The Retro style also incorporated a certain amount of the "Machine Age look, with functional elements such as clasps and hinges incorporated into the designs, making them collectable not only for their looks but also for their ingenious engineering. Chains exhibited brick-like patterning but were slinky and had an almost silky feel so much so that they could be threaded through ornate clamping buckles. A popular motif for necklace chains was a honeycomb pattern with little Turkish star set crystals copied from the high Victorian era.
McClelland Barclay Brooch, 1930s—early 1940s
McClelland Barclay was an accomplished artist and jewelry designer working from the 1930s until his death in the Second World War in the early 1940s. Many of his designs depict animals or flowers in simple stamped silver, but he is best known for striking geometric
Structures as shown here Transitional between Art Deco and true 40s Retro his work has few parallels in the costume jewelry world and is very desirable. It is almost always signed with his full name, sometimes accompanied by STERLING SILVER.
Sterling Silver Bracelet, early 1940s
This sterling silver bracelet is typical of the high-quality, strong design that makes the Retro style so popular today. When you pick up a bracelet such as this, the first thing you notice is the weight and the solid construction. Although the bracelet is chunky and solid, it does not give that impression the parts flow from link to link and light reflects from it via the citrines, which act almost like windows This type of bracelet is occasionally signed as Trifari and Mazer made very similar jewels at this time but this particular example is unsigned except for the word srErtuNG stamped into the reverse of the catch.
The greatest exponents of the Retro style were firms such as Pennino Napier Trifitri, Ciller, and Coro, but many others produced wonderful Retro jewelry, and much of it is unsigned. The rosy colour of the distinctive rose gold popular in Cocktair jewelry was achieved by adding copper to the gold.
Very three dimensional swirls and swags are characteristic of the Retro style.
The reverse of the links holding the bracelet together is both folded over and hard soldered for added security.
One particular name that comes to mind when one thinks of Sterling Retro jewelry is the Ralph De Rosa Company (1935-55). Signed pieces are stamped"R. De Rosa on the reverse, and although it is not very popular as a collecting name in Europe, in the United States the pieces fetch very high prices (the firm was based on Fourth Avenue in New York The name is somewhat confusing as the company was founded by Theresa, Elvira, and Virginia De Rosa. Elvira was the designer, creating elaborate,
Complex and often technically challenging pieces Common motifs were bows and flowers, both abstract and naturalistic. Pieces often contained one large stone, such as a large citrine glass stone as popularized by the Duchess of Windsor. Although enamelled pieces were made De Rosa is known for its large sumptuously gilded Retro forms. Fasteners were typically long pinned fur-clips that could be pushed through the thick material of the strong, lined jackets of the day.
Writer- Steven Miners