A couple of weeks ago, BLOUIN ARTINFO published an article on the rose gold trend that has taken the jewelry world by storm. As one of the contributors to the article, I found myself combing the web and auction catalogs for a bit of historical background on this blushing gold alloy. Despite surprisingly scant results from my search, what I learned was still worth bringing to light.
Historically, rose gold first became fashionable in Russia during the 19th century, where it was referred to as “Russian gold” since they were among the only wearers of the uncommon alloy at the time. The inevitable spread of rose gold in jewelry can most notably be seen during the Victorian era where the pink-hued precious metal, along with its yellow cousin, dominated.
Only during the 1920’s did rose gold strike it rich with the jewelry-loving public, thanks in part to Cartier’s introduction of its now iconic “Trinity” ring and luminary writer Jean Cocteau’s endorsement of it. Interestingly, Cocteau privately commissioned Cartier to create the ring, comprised of three intertwining bands made in yellow, white and rose gold, which he was known to stack on his left pinkie.
As the art deco era entered the new decade of the 1930s, the vividly colorful and highly creative jewelry of the previous decade gave way to more monochromatic, geometric designs that heavily favored the use of platinum and diamonds. This shift in aesthetic for icy white color schemes left gold’s warm yellow and rose tones out to dry. The trend, thankfully, abruptly ended when German troops invaded Poland in 1939, a move that would eventually bring nearly the entire world to war.
During World War II, platinum was considered a strategic mineral vital to the war efforts, causing many countries to restrict – even prohibit – its use during the war. With platinum sidelined, gold once again became the precious metal of choice in jewelry. Without question, the prolific use of gold, both yellow and rose, distinctly defines jewelry during the war years.
The style, also referred to as “retro”, is characterized by bold, three dimensional designs in rose, yellow as well as green gold, featuring large, often oversized, emerald-cut aquamarines, citrines and amethysts accented by smaller rubies, sapphires and diamonds. Bulky rose and yellow gold bracelets designed in the Machine Age style, rose gold brooches in the shape of flowers or in three-dimensional of Hollywood glamour-inspired designs, and cocktail rings with massive semi-precious stones set in rose gold were all popular during this time.
Fast forward to today and the rise in popularity of rose gold in jewelry has witnessed an impressive comeback since its heyday during the retro period. From Piaget to Cartier, rose gold was incorporated into many of the high jewelry collections unveiled at last year’s Biennale des Antiquaires. And, just like fashion’s trickle down effect where the haute couture runways set the trends, so too has rose gold found its way into the hearts and creative minds of jewelry designers at all levels.
The 21st century’s newfangled desire for rose gold jewelry stems from several factors. For one, the pink hue of the gold and copper alloy happens to match nicely with all skin types, bringing out the subtle blush tones of the skin. Fashion-wise, rose gold doesn’t have the ‘bling-effect’ that white or yellow gold typically reflects, so its understated elegance matches nicely with frilly feminine styles and neutral tones.
Lastly, rose gold has a unique, vintage quality that consumers have been craving lately, proffering the notion of exclusivity. The return of rose gold in the yellow and white gold dominated market offers consumers with new variations of existing designs as well as brand new creations made exclusively in rose gold.
For the near foreseeable future, I suspect a rosy outlook for the pleasantly pink precious metal.