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At the beginning of the 20th century the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 ended the Victorian era and technology caused the pace of life to speed up. Technology, including electricity, airplanes, and telephones, was here to stay. After World War I ended in 1919, life in Europe and America changed drastically. The world looked to Paris for leadership in fashion and design, and France's largest city delivered. Art Deco got its name from the 1925 Paris "Exposition Internationale Des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderns" which was a showcase for new and original works of all types.

Art Deco is essentially a style of decoration which was applied to buildings as well as home decor, jewelry, and clothing. Vivid color and stark, geometric shapes influenced architecture, furniture, and fashion worldwide. Everything was geometric and cubic. Art Deco also incorporates a lot of contrasts, such as color palates of chrome and cobalt blue, and crystal and black.

In buildings, concrete, smooth-faced stone, and metal were used for streamlined exteriors with accents of terra cotta, colored glass, and mirrors. Originally the curtains, murals, and fixtures had the same designs as the buildings themselves. The Rockefeller Center in New York City is a well known example of an Art Deco building.

Home furnishings included a lot of blue mirrors on cocktail table tops, jewelry boxes, and the backs of small bars. This colored glass offered a striking contrast to their chrome frames. Wall mounted lamps which aimed the light at the ceiling, called torchier lamps, were very popular. Table lamps often have figures of people and animals on their bases and plain shades. Art Deco furnishings often have some accents of chrome and glass.

The role of women changed during World War I. With their husbands away at war, women had to take care of matters outside their homes and they were reluctant to give up their freedom when men returned. When that war ended in 1918 corsets and petticoats were no more. American women received the right to vote in 1920 at a time when most women wore short hair, short dresses and makeup in public for the first time. Many women also began smoking and driving cars.

French designer Coco Chanel first made crystal and colored glass jewelry a fashion statement during the 1920s. Tastefully mixing real and synthetic gems in her jewelry, she led the way for women to wear layers of chunky bracelets adorned with colored synthetic stones. This look perfectly completed her jersey suits and dresses that became the rage for the more active modern woman. Long, dangling earrings complemented short bobbed hair. Rings were more popular because women no longer wore gloves for every occasion. The look of the jewelry became much more important than the cost of the materials. Jewelry made during this era was either very expensive gold and precious gems or inexpensive celluloid and rhinestones.

Today, some of the most collectible costume jewelry from this period today are sterling silver bangle bracelets with colored rhinestones and Art Deco pieces made of plastic and chrome. The vast majority of 1920s costume jewelry is unsigned.

The Art Deco era ended with the start of World War II in 1939.