Jewelry on Screen: A Taste of the 1950s – Barbara Schwartz (FGI Toronto)

Are you a fan of the TV series Father Brown or A Place to Call Home? Did you enjoy the movie Brooklyn, Carol, or The Dressmaker? The 1950s have been a popular setting for these and other period dramas recently, perhaps because the post-war years were rife with social issues to explore from a modern perspective.

When I watch these shows, I look for the jewelry and expect to see pieces by makers such as Schreiner of New York. Unlike those who created the fabulous fakes – bold rhinestone necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and brooches that were worn in the evening – he and some of his contemporaries designed high-quality costume jewelry that never tried to imitate precious jewels. Instead they used imaginative combinations of colors and stone shapes, cuts and sizes to create pieces that are still amazing today. These ear clips with a cluster of colored glass stones (the dominant ‘50s style) are just one example.


If I were styling Marta Dusseldorp for her role in the Australian TV series A Place to Call Home, she’d be in these Schreiner earrings. They would complement the outfits created by the show’s costume designers, who do such a wonderful job of dressing the female characters in the hour-glass silhouette of that era: trim, closely-fitted, tailored clothes that emphasize sloping shoulders, the curve of the bust and hips, and the nipped-in waist. Their typical daytime attire includes two-piece suits, A-line and pencil skirts, sheaths, and cardigans and sweater sets. For evening, gowns with tight waists, full skirts, and low necklines (including strapless, off-the-shoulder, and halter bodices). For accessories: carefully coordinated hat, shoes, handbag, and gloves.

Thanks to very prolific and talented costume jewelry makers from the first half of the 20th century, many high-quality, colorful necklaces, bracelets, brooches, and earrings have survived. Pieces such as this pair of ear clips are as flattering to today’s fashions as they were to the distinctive style of the 1950s. So if I were styling Marta Dusseldorp for her everyday wear, I’d put her in these same earrings.

Author: Barbara Schwartz (Executive Member – FGI Toronto)
Barbara Schwartz is a costume jewelry historian, jewelry coach, and vintage costume jewelry collector. She sells her collection of unusual and beautiful American and European vintage jewels from the 1920s-1950s via her online boutique, TruFaux Jewels, in-person by appointment, and at special events. Barbara shares her passion for jewelry and fashion history through presentations and publications. Her articles have been published on the CJCI website and in ADORNMENT: The Magazine of Jewelry & Related Arts. Her own interesting story has also been featured in The Story Exchange.  Barbara is a member of the Toronto Fashion Group.

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