History of Contemporary Jewelry: A Timeline

For many thousands of years, jewelry has maintained the symbolic social role of a way to show off one’s social and financial standing. Those who wear beautiful and intricate jewelry were either wealthy, powerful, or both – being the only ones who could afford such items, it was an extremely direct way to demonstrate a social position. However, things are significantly different now. Thanks to the rise of contemporary jewelry, ordinary men and women everywhere can now benefit from the access to classy pieces for their wardrobe.

Contemporary jewelry consists of many variations in design, and doesn’t have a set of strictly defined characteristics. Referring to design and style as inspired by the current popular trends, this movement is inherently based on change.

In this article, we will look back at the different styles of contemporary jewelry, starting with its conception in the 1940s up to the present day.

1940s and 1950s

These decades were the era of modernist design, and the jewelry pieces during this era were all about futuristic impression, creativity, uniqueness, and lots of curves. The use of silver, brass, and copper was popular, as people moved away from the classic and glamorous designs that involved combining the usual gold and silver metal with expensive and beautiful gemstones.

The time was all about experimentation, and it truly revolutionized the ways in which people perceived jewelry.Wearing jewelry was no longer about one’s financial status, and became a way to express one’s personality and individual style. In their own right, items of jewelry became works of art.Get the range of contemporary jewellery at Shoppers Stop.


Marked as a time of rapid commercialization, the 1960s saw a shift by manufacturers towards making jewelry affordable and accessible to all. As a consequence, plastic jewelry entered the mainstream market, and with it new levels of mass creativity and interpretation of this fashion form.

Thanks to the affordability offered by this material, it became easy to mix and match various styles of jewelry. People could buy more without spending a lot of money, allowing them to curate their own collections. Plastic jewelry became the trend, as the lower cost of materials and production made these pieces cheaper and more appropriate for everyday wear.

This was accompanied by a decrease in the popularity of smooth and polished metals, as harsh lines and gritty textures were far more in line with the trends of the 60s.


Hippie and Bohemian styles took over this decade, and jewelry design evolved to become more casual and complimentary to jeans and the earth tones of 70s fashion. Wood, ivory, and other stones were used to mimic the beauty of nature. Layering necklaces and bracelets also became very popular.


This decade was about expressing oneself with bold and bright colors, with popular trends in the 80s including big hairstyles in women, and striking statement jewelry. Chunky bangle bracelets, oversized hoop earrings, and cocktail rings were the norm, and plastic materials enjoyed renewed popularity because of how they were easier to use for these types of jewelry. Pop culture and pop music contributed to these changes in fashion, and were a strong influence in the decade’s aesthetic.


During the 90s, jewelry was a lot more laidback – in fact, pretty much the complete opposite of 80s jewelry trends. Designs were in darker colors because of the popularity of grunge fashion, and the scene became dominated by minimalistic styles. Loud patterns and chunky pieces of jewelry became almost non-existent, while chokers, charm bracelets, and dainty, pendant necklaces were all the rage.


The 2000s was a decade of sparkly things; sparkly outfits, bags, and accessories were on trend, and so was sparkly and colorful jewelry. Metal butterfly hair clips and rings were both in demand.

2010s onwards

We now see more modern and unique designs, which take into account and reflect all of the trends that we have seen during the past decades. Contemporary designs are now more of a mixture of these past trends, being made with new materials, colors, and styles. In summary, contemporary jewelry does not necessarily the jewelry that is the most modern. It simply refers to beautiful creations that match the current times, and reflect the dominant mentality of those living during that era.