1980s and 1990s


Jewelry of the 1980s and 1990s covers a wide range of materials and styles.  Since items that are 20 years old qualify as vintage, this does include the 1990s.  While the sheer volume of items produced during these eras means there is still a lot of it around, collectible value and popularity is largely based more on the emotional nostalgia enjoyed from rediscovering many of the items produced during these eras.  It’s fun to hear from a customer that they had a particular Avon jewelry set in the 80s or 90s and they are buying the set again because of the fond memories it brings back.


The 1980s are often referred to as a time of excess in American society.  The term “upwardly mobile” was coined and in the business world the power suit was king...and queen.  Career women of the 1980s were encouraged to emulate masculine characteristics of strength and power and shoulder pads were back in a big way.  Body image became an obsession with both men and women as aerobics exercise rapidly became a lifestyle rather than a sensible exercise routine.  If you weren’t at work or working out, then the next best thing was being seen in your Member’s Only brand jacket. Girls like Cyndi Lauper “just wanted to have fun” while Michael Jackson was making wearing one glove the coolest thing since sliced bread.

Jewelry was opulent and dramatic or at the very least, big and bold.  Large gold plated pendants, necklaces and earrings with big chunky pearls, brightly colored geometric earrings and cocktail rings as well as brooches were back with updated looks. You might remember the popular strands of Twist-A-Beads that were all the rage and more casual looks included neon colored plastics, kitschy plastic charm jewelry and jelly bracelets if you were a teen.


The 1990s was a decade that largely borrowed its style identity from other eras. An economic recession occurred early in the decade, creating a lack of employment and funds for the luxurious looks of the ‘80s. Grunge music influenced the younger generations looks, which was basically a non-look.  Boho evolved from a 1960-70s revival and the iconic smiley face reappeared along with mood rings, choker necklaces and hemp jewelry. In the latter part of the decade the jewelry industry as a whole was transforming as it struggled to recover from an earlier failing economy. Fine jewelers were introducing more affordable jewelry lines to a broader audience and the fashion jewelry industry saw an opportunity to sell high-end “looks” at fashion jewelry prices.  As the lines between fine and fashion designers began to blur, many consumers became more focused on simply buying their favorite designer brands and less concerned with wearing their fine diamond wedding ring set while wearing a designer brand (albeit, only plated) gold bracelet.