This jewellery era is a bit longer than the last and is a rather broad term. Generally, “modern” can be better defined as a breaking away from the conventional.
The late 1900s was a time of rebellion and experimentation. Beginning in the civil rights movement and ending in the grudging 90s, modern jewellery was all about abstraction and perception. Jewellery styles shifted away from depicting specific things/motifs (i.e. animals, flowers, bows, stars, etc.) and moved towards conceptual design, organic shapes, and rich textures. Geometric styles with either or both rigid lines and smooth curves took over and pieces were often made with just metals and only sometimes with gemstones or their synthetic cousins.
Jewellers often looked to other cultures for inspiration, trying to give their pieces a bohemian and multicultural feel. This era of jewellery is where we see the most cultural appropriation within the medium. With more people in the world meant that there was a need to express ones individuality as clearly and boldly as possible. The public experimented with their look and jewellers fulfilled demand. Unfortunately they all turned to the aesthetics of other cultures and thus perpetuated stereotypes and undermined important symbols.
However, there is an upside to other jewellery trends during this time. Due to the second wave of feminism, women became more and more involved in the workplace and their general style began to change accordingly. Jewellery became both a means to celebrate women’s success as well as a tool to battle workplace sexism. In the 80s women wore suits that were boxy and dramatic to convey an unyielding sense of professionalism. Thus, their jewellery grew in scale – large necklaces and huge earrings became the norm. People in the 80s believed that more was more.
The maximalism style was all the rage and continued to be so for quite some time. Jewellery was big and bold and layered. So many layers! Costume jewellery became a huge trend so that you can have a big glamorous look for a lot less the price. This meant that stores could also sell to a younger cliental that could not afford the real material. The luxury goods trade was growing and jewellery was becoming one of the worlds wealthiest means of trade.