New Styles for a New Age

Part of the Pearls exhibition.

Pearls in the Modern Era

At the dawn of the 20th century, people in Europe and the United States began wearing pearls for less formal occasions--a fashion that persists to this day. Flappers of the 1920s wore long ropes of pearls as they danced the Charleston. New designs in jewelry, reflecting Art Nouveau styles and the Arts and Crafts movement, emphasized irregularly shaped freshwater pearls. Imitation pearls were in vogue on hats and dresses, both in traditional Western and nontraditional Eastern styles. In addition, Japanese cultured pearls first reached European and American markets in the 1930s, although the gems did not become popular until the 1950s.