About Retro Jewelry

About Retro Jewelry

We didn’t start saying “that’s so retro!” about these gems until a few decades later, but the Retro era starts right where Art Deco leaves off—at the end of the 1930s through the 1940s. Though this era is synonymous with the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age, many of its signature styles were clever responses to the challenges of the Second World War.


Trabert & Hoeffer – Mauboussin Retro Ruby “Victory” Brooch

Platinum, the preferred precious metal since the turn of the century, was suddenly unavailable to jewelers. So makers got creative, and the results are anything but austere! Low-karat alloys produced gold in a reddish hue, and green gold was also popular. Often used together in the same piece, the combination of multiple gold colors became iconic of the period, and today looks much more lavish than it does lean.

  • Tiffany & Co Two-Tone Gold Retro Bracelet

    Tiffany & Co Two-Tone Gold Retro Bracelet

  • Retro Two-Tone Gold Bow Brooch

    Retro Two-Tone Gold Bow Brooch

  • Retro Rose and Green Gold Bracelet

    Retro Rose and Green Gold Bracelet

Cheery yellow gold was also used to make “snake” and “gas pipe” chains, which look weighty but are actually quite light. Clip brooches carried over from the Deco, but abandoned their angular lines for high glamour. Figural brooches came back into vogue, but with a distinctly Retro flair. And rings splashed out in fantastic shapes that more than make up for their lack of large center stones.

  • Vintage Gas Pipe Necklace by Forstner

    Vintage Gas Pipe Necklace by Forstner

  • Trabert & Hoeffer – Maubossin Retro Ruby and Diamond Double Clip Brooch

    Trabert & Hoeffer – Maubossin Retro Ruby and Diamond Double Clip Brooch

  • Retro No-Heat Burmese Ruby and Diamond Bracelet

    Retro No-Heat Burmese Ruby and Diamond Bracelet

  • Retro Diamond Bird Brooch

    Retro Diamond Bird Brooch

  • Large Retro Ruby and Diamond Ring

    Large Retro Ruby and Diamond Ring

  • Retro Diamond Ring

    Retro Diamond Ring

When the “big 3” gemstones of diamond, sapphire, and ruby became more difficult to get in larger carat weights, American and European jewelers turned to a few of their fun cousins—citrine and aquamarine, among others—for bright and sizeable substitutes.

  • Large Citrine and Ruby Ring

    Citrine and Ruby Ring

  • Large Retro Two-Tone Citrine and Ruby Brooch

    Two-Tone Citrine and Ruby Brooch

  • Giant Retro Citrine and Ruby Ring

    Giant Retro Citrine and Ruby Ring

  • Retro Aquamarine and Diamond Flower Brooch

    Aquamarine and Diamond Flower Brooch

  • Retro Aquamarine Clip Earrings

    Aquamarine Clip Earrings

Retro engagement rings didn’t have the luxury of platinum, which was reserved for strategic purposes. So jewelers subbed in palladium, a precious look-alike metal basically indistinguishable. to the average wearer. This pretty precious metal stands out from the rainbow of golds most often seen in Retro jewelry. Engagement rings like these are distinctive and interesting pieces of wearable history.

  • 2.25 Carat Retro Diamond and Palladium Engagement Ring

    2.25 Carat Retro Diamond and Palladium Engagement Ring

  • Vintage .58 Carat Diamond and Palladium Engagement Ring by Loretz & Benoit

    Vintage .58 Carat Diamond and Palladium Engagement Ring by Loretz & Benoit

  • 1.55 Carat Diamond and Palladium Vintage Engagement Ring

    1.55 Carat Diamond and Palladium Vintage Engagement Ring

Though it lasted only a relatively short time, the Retro era’s big, bold shapes and high glamour had a dramatic impact. These pieces always stand out when displayed in our cases! Learn more about the jewelry of this pivotal time in world history on our sister site, Antique Jewelry University.

See our collection of Retro jewelry here