In addition to my fascination with Midcentury Modern architecture, I also adore midcentury fashion. Scouring thrift stores and vintage boutiques for clothing, purses, and homewares is my idea of a perfect afternoon. Today, I’m excited to share some of my most treasured vintage jewelry pieces with you! Jewelry boxes are another obsession, but we’ll save that for another day.
Oodles Of Poodles
Poodles were featured heavily in the midcentury, but they hold a special place in my heart thanks to having them as pets for the last decade. They are a loving and loyal breed whose beauty is easily translated into a recognizable retro silhouette. Here are some of my favorite poodle brooches, along with a wild midcentury lamp and ring holders. These little brooches make the perfect accessory, especially when paired with a vintage sweater!
Oodles Of Poodles
I find it interesting that the same poodle mold or model was used in these different brooches. I’ve come across several examples of this! As you can see here, the one on the left is finished with a gold tint, while the right is silver with a faux pearl leash attached to a lamppost. These two darlings are my favorite poodle pins!
One of my newest interests is midcentury copper jewelry, specifically from the Renoir and Matisse companies.
Founded by Jerry Fels, Renoir of California, Inc operated out of LA from 1946 to 1964 and was known for their artisan copper pieces. Falling in love at first sight with the shell clip-ons shown here, I was surprised at how well-made and comfortable the earrings were when worn! The black and copper set of earrings are also Renoir.
One of their most recognizable pieces is a copper artist’s palette brooch and earring set, something I hope to add to my collection one day. In 1952, Renoir manufactured Matisse jewelry which had the added touch of enamel, as seen in the bangle here.
Each of the Renoir and Matisse pieces have a signature stamp on the back, though some are easier to see than others.
Dating from the 1930s or 1940s, this Italian hand-blown glass set is truly one of my favorites. Especially fun are the bananas and leaves which stand out among the little glass pieces.
Fruit was a popular motif for vintage jewelry, perhaps to add a bit of colorful cheer to otherwise utilitarian clothing worn during the war years. It’s also common to see these fruit earrings finished with a straw backing or even placed inside a little straw basket. I can’t help but feel like Carmen Miranda when wearing this bright set.
Bakelite, a type of man-made thermoset plastic, was a popular material for midcentury phones, radio cases, purse handles, and jewelry. Still a popular collectable today, the bright colors and distinct look of Bakelite caught my eye years ago! Shown here are some of my favorites, including carved bangles, hanging hoops, and a unique curved triangular pair. The jade earrings on the lower left are actually colored Lucite, probably dating from the 1960s.
There are numerous tests for authenticity, but I find the easiest—especially when you’re out and about—is rubbing the piece to warm it up, then smelling for a distinct chemical odor.
Wanting to try a more decisive test, I dampened a cotton swab with 409 cleaner, then rubbed it in an inconspicuous place on several of my vintage jewelry pieces. If the swab turns yellow, you’ve got Bakelite. Interestingly, I found that the large cobalt blue carved bangle shown is not authentic. This is something I had suspected as real blue Bakelite tends to turn very dark over time. Alternatively, a pair of earrings I had previously thought were plastic turned out to be Bakelite (you can spot them in the final slide)!
Plastic jewelry in general became popular during the early midcentury as metals were saved for the war effort. This 1960s set includes a bangle, earrings, and brooch made from Lucite, a type of resin created in the late 1930s. I’m especially fond of this unique set because of the pale orange color paired with cream. The breathtaking brooch can stand alone as a fun starburst accent for many an outfit!
Pretty in Plastic
While I do love seeking out very special Bakelite, Lucite, and celluloid pieces, I also enjoy simple plastic jewelry. They are affordable and can still have very nice quality and appearance. Jewelry with flecks of metallic “confetti” are always on my list! As mentioned earlier, I was surprised to find that the “root beer” swirl hanging circles shown here are actually Bakelite.