The Art Deco era (named for the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts was a World's fair held in Paris in 1925) was designed to highlight the new style moderne of architecture, interior decoration, furniture, glass, jewelry and other decorative arts throughout the world.
Following the First World War which turned the usual lifestyle of society upside down, Edwardian fashion (consisting of heavy layers of fabrics over a corset) did not meet the practical needs of women who were left to play both roles as men fought in the war and women had to earn their own living. Women began to cut off their hair, trade in their corsets, play sports, drive cars and participate in other prevalently masculine activities.
The Art Deco style gradually came into its own modernized jewelry and style for the machine age.The 1930s and the Great Depression had a surprising effect on jewelry-making. Instead of creating fewer pieces, brooches, earrings, and bracelets all became larger, likely in an effort to boost confidence. Designers created the kind of inspirational pieces needed in an increasingly uncertain world. One practical type of jewelry that did play a major role was the convertible piece, large brooches that could convert to necklace pendants and earrings all the same.
European and American designers became increasingly fascinated with styles and techniques from China, Japan, and India, which made their way into some of the era’s most iconic jewelry. The jewelry of past eras was dark and lacked color so jewelers began to add bright coral, turquoise, jade and lapis to the dominant harmony of black onyx and white. The opening of the tomb of King Tutankhamen and other archaeological expeditions inspired the “Egyptian Revival,” at the same time, Eastern artists and designers were experimenting with Western styles as well. Post WWI, women who became flappers refused to return to their previously-restrictive roles. Jewelry styles adapted to accommodate the new freer ensemble, and a wide array of beautifully decorated accessories were created for sports and leisure.