Fashion in the 1920s transformed just as dramatically as the jewelry that accessorized it, especially in evening wear. Clothing, in general, became more functional and practical to better suit the lives of women during this time; their role in society had changed dramatically after the First World War as they filled the empty occupations left by men who were drafted to the war front, leaving them with a new sense of strength and maturity.
Not ones to abandon their own femininity, ladies in the 1920s reserved the night to dress in sexy, dramatic attire, tossing their sporty short dresses and masculine threads in the hamper at the first sign of dusk. Silky tunics daringly bared more skin than ever before, the removal of sleeves altogether revealed soft, delicate arms and severe low backs exposed the subtle, sensuous curves of a woman’s back. All this bare skin beckoned for dazzling jewelry, which could easily swing along with the dresses as the ladies danced the new dances of the era like the Charleston, tango, and foxtrot.
No piece of jewelry better suited this freedom of movement than the sautoir, which was the favorite necklace of the 1920s. Often worn to the back rather than the front, the sautoir adorned perfectly the low backs of dresses in vogue during the 1920s. Alternatively, the sautoir proved ideal as well for the low-waisted frocks that became emblematic of the Roaring Twenties.
Made of a wide variety of materials including diamonds, pearls, coral, sapphires, emeralds and rubies, this popular necklace assumed the form of long chains of rectangular diamond linking anchored with an elongated pendant of geometrical design. Other popular designs included tassel pendants made of seed pearls or gemstone beads, long strings of precious stone beads or strings of pearls supporting large cabochon pendants, and multistrand necklaces of Indian inspiration decorated with diamond plaques and important clasps. All these styles served to enhance the back décolletage of the racy back-baring dresses.