A Decade of Dominance: Yellow Gold in the 1970s

Posted on 22 February 2016


Getty Image


"When I think of yellow gold in jewelry, the era that immediately pops into my head is the 1970s. A decade of ‘anything goes’ in jewelry design with a complete absence of conformation to any aesthetic rule. Whether of traditional influence or exotic inspiration, jewelry in the 1970s knew no bounds when it came to style. However, the one coherent thread that ties the jewelry made during this discordant decade of design is yellow gold.

Getty Image

1970s Gold Post
From Left: A Coral, Lapis Lazuli and Diamond Sautoir by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1975; Coral and Agate Earrings by Boucheron, circa 1970s; and a Lady’s Tricolored Gold Tubogas Snake Bracelet Watch by Bulgari, circa 1970s
Jewelry typical of this decade by the leading French firms Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Mauboussin, and Boucheron, American jewelers David Webb and Tiffany & Co., and Italian jewelry house Bulgari are subtly distinct from one another in style and often incorporate many of the same elements – a mix of precious stones (rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds) and non-precious materials (or hardstones like coral, rock crystal, turquoise, and lapis lazuli) – all set in yellow gold.

Getty Image
70s jewels 2
From top left: David Webb A Rock Crystal and Gold Bracelet, 1970′s; Bulgari Gold Sautoir with Yellow and Blue Sapphires, Agate, Citrine, and Ciamonds, circa 1972; Van Cleef & Arpels Coral, Diamond, Amethyst and Gold Earrings, circa 1970
The turn toward exclusively using yellow gold in jewelry during the 1970s can be attributed to a number of factors; the first being the influence of Indian jewelry. Leading jewelry houses first interpreted the unique stylizations of traditional 18th and 19th Indian jewelry during the Art Deco era, but they re-imagined the Indian jewels in platinum and white gold, which were the white metals de rigueur of the period. The second time around, almost half a century later, the European and American firms found fresh inspiration from the yellow gold used in Indian jewelry, which had all stones – including diamonds – set in yellow gold. Since the 18th century diamonds had been almost exclusively set in white metal to enhance the whiteness of the stones, and only the 1970s did Western jewelers switch to gold’s sunnier shade.

Getty Image
VCA Amethyst Sautoir E Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor’s Kunzite, Amethyst and Diamond ‘Triphanes’ Sautoir, by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1973
Setting diamonds in yellow gold also served to make the pricey gemstones ‘par excellence’ more wearable at any time of day. Yellow gold helped diamonds appear more casual in jewelry as opposed to the opulent shine of it’s traditional white metal setting, which leads to a third explanation for yellow gold’s prevalence in 1970s jewelry – the desire to break from tradition.

Getty Image
Yellow Gold
From left: Piaget Yellow Gold & Malachite Manchette Watch, circa 1970; Van Cleef & Arpels Textured Gold Ear Clips, circa 1970s; Gubelin Gold Cuff, circa 1970s
A number of jewelry designers and artists championed yellow gold as the sole precious material in many of their works. From the 1960s and into the 1970s, gold was chiseled, reeded, hammered, corded, plaited and twisted to form various effects in jewelry in vogue during the period. Jewelers such as Andrew Grima and Kutchinsky and modern artists like Pol Bury and Man Ray used yellow gold in exciting new ways to its extend the realm of possibilities in the world of jewelry.

Perhaps the most significant reason behind yellow gold’s path to dominance can be ascribed to the growing power of Middle Eastern buyers. With flourishing fortunes being made through oil, the sheikhs in particular had become important buyers in the jewelry market, and their tastes preferred jewelry mounted in yellow gold, a seemingly minor inclination that heavily influenced the industry in the 1970s."
This post brought to you by Jewels du Jour in collaboration with LoveGold

More Posts

Search our store