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History of the Trend: Statement Jewelry


Statement rings
Statement Rings | Photo Credit

You’re all dressed up and on your way out when you glance in the mirror and realize… something is missing. The outfit is flawless and the shoes are perfect, and then you spot it: A gorgeous bib necklace will make you look even better in that dress! Whether you’re on a date with someone sweet or dressing to impress a potential boss, you can use statement jewelry to transform your wardrobe.

As a love note to these sparkly essentials, today, we’re delving into the history behind our favorite glamorous baubles. The human love affair with all things sparkly is a long one, so for this history lesson I hit the books, literally! Below, I’ve included a link to each book I referenced in preparing this post, should you want to do some more research yourself. It’s very interesting reading, especially for the girl who loves her jewelry as much as her clothes!

History of Statement Jewelry

Statement Earrings
Jewelry collection | Photo Credit

  • Some of the earliest statement jewelry was found in Egypt. Collar necklaces, dangling earrings, and thick, cylindrical rings were all prevalent in Egyptian jewelry boxes. Author Mila Contini notes that “many modern jewels are imitations of antique trinkets that belonged to distinguished princesses.” So every time we treat ourselves to a knockout piece of jewelry, we’re channeling royalty. I’ll take it!
  • The Romans loved their jewels too, but they preferred rings. These rings were made with heavy stones for winter and lighter, more delicate materials for the summer. Regardless of composition, the important characteristic of Roman jewelry was history, not value. As is the case today, in ancient Rome, a bauble could be priced higher if it had an illustrious history behind it.
  • Coco Chanel began creating her own elaborate jewelry in the 1920s, using crystal or colored glass in varying sizes as the Egyptians had. Coco is often credited with popularizing the concept of “costume jewelry,” creating seasonal items that mixed real and imitation stones and pearls.
  • Vivenne Becker, an antique jewelry veteran, talks about “The Cocktail Style” in her book, Fabulous Costume Jewelry: History of Fantasy and Fashion in Jewels. Popular during the ’30s and ’40s, this jewelry era was all about big, jeweled rings, multi-strand pearl necklaces, and extensive use of gilt metal and rose gold. She describes “cocktail jewelry” as “bubbly and extravagant, like the alcoholic concoctions from which it took its name. It was assertive, bossy, jewelry to show off in.”
  • While making a statement in the ’50s meant throwing on a charm bracelet, jewelry in the ’60s had a bit more punch. Designer Paco Rabanne fully embraced statement jewelry, experimenting with cheap materials like plastic and PVC and using bright colors. He said, “I made jewelry for the alternative side of women’s personality, for their madness.” This Vogue cover from 1965 should give you an idea of the madness he was talking about.
  • It’s a crime to talk about statement jewelry without discussing the woman whose accessories always have something to say: Madeleine Albright. In her book, she tells the stories behind some of her favorite pins. In one tale, she recalls the first pin she wore to send an intentional political message. The pin was a gold snake wrapped around a branch, which she wore after being referred to as an “unparalleled serpent” by the Iraqi press. Dr. Albright still enjoys collecting pins, though she mentions she receives many as gifts. In fact, when she came to speak at Butler my freshman year, we gave her a bulldog pin as a thank-you!
  • Modern day statement jewelry is big, bold, and full of many elements from previous decades. Today, we love pieces that incorporate the glitz and glam of the ’30s and ’40s, and the colors and materials of the ’60s. Most of all, we love statement jewelry’s eternal ability to make heads turn.

Why We Still Love This Trend

“Owl I Ever Wanted Cuff” – Modcloth

  • It’s affordable. If you’re worried about exceeding your fashion budget, it’s easier than ever to rock statement jewelry without going broke. Stores like Forever 21 and H&M are great spots to try trends without a big commitment.
  • It offers a variety of choices. Whatever your preference, there’s a statement piece that can mold seamlessly into your everyday style. Experiment  until you find a look that works for you.
  • It’s simple. No need to coordinate other jewelry where these accessories are concerned. Throw on one piece of statement jewelry with whatever you’re wearing and you’re good to go! Give this trend a try and see what a little glitter can do for your ensemble, and your confidence!

What do you think?

Statement earrings on table
Some of my own statement earrings

How do you wear this trend? Do you have a favorite piece of statement jewelry? Any other trend you’d like to see featured here? Let us know in comments!

Posted on on July 30, 2011 / Filed Under: Trends / Tags: , , , , , ,

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23 Responses to “History of the Trend: Statement Jewelry”

  1. 1
    July 30th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I love the owl pin!

  2. 2
    July 30th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Jane! The item pictured is actually a cuff bracelet, but I bet there are some great owl pins out there as well! Thanks for your comment :)

  3. 3
    July 30th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    great article! i love a good statement piece. i just got a statement necklace from forever 21 :)

  4. 4
    July 30th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I don’t usually wear any jewelry at all…but this is kind of making me want to try :)
    Love your articles, my dear.
    :) Go BU

  5. 5
    July 30th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    I like the jewelry in the last pic. ;)

  6. 6
    July 30th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    It makes me feel like buying big chunky rings :P

  7. 7
    July 30th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    I love these, but are there any guidelines? Should one statement piece be the only jewelry you wear? I hate looking over-done. (Yay for Madeleine Albright – class & power in one compact package!!)

  8. 8
    July 30th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Wow! I <3 this article! :D

  9. 9
    July 30th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Lovelovelove the owl cuff! I’ve just recently started wearing jewelry, I found it too high maintenance before, but now I can’t stop buying the cheap stuff from f21. :)

  10. 10
    July 30th, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Great job Rachel!

  11. 11
    July 30th, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks everyone, I’m glad you like it!

  12. 12
    July 30th, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    I love the ruby necklaces I own from New York and Company and my black ruby bracelet.

  13. 13
    July 30th, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    you’re amazing! i love learning the history of fashion from such a wonderful person. i’m excited to try out some more interesting jewelry! LET’S GO DAWGS!

  14. 14
    July 30th, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    I serrrriously want that owl cuff haha.
    Plus those gold earrings in the last picture are brilliant.

  15. 15
    July 30th, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    I love rings, but they’re hard for me to find nowadays because of this trend. Most rings now are WAY too big for my hands. I did just get some smaller ones at Icing (even though my dad still thinks they’re big) – including a cool ring watch, and I have a few others I like.

  16. 16
    July 30th, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    I hadn’t really noticed, but pretty much ALL my earrings are statement earrings, including the ones I bought today!

  17. 17
    July 31st, 2011 at 12:04 am

    I loveeee jewelry! I used to wear statement jewelry some years ago very often. I still do, but I wear white gold jewelry.

  18. 18
    August 1st, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Interesting history about jewerlry. the Epyptains were very fashionable.

  19. 19
    October 13th, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Hello Rachel, ok so I am slightly late to comment on this article – 3 years :) however I just came across this post and love it! Would love to know more about Egyptian jewellery and trinket boxes. Can you possibly recommend any useful resources. x

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