In the 1980s everything was large and bold, from hairstyles to shoulder pads. To match those bold fashion trends, jewelry was also large, bright, and distinctive. Unlike the tiny and discrete necklaces and pendants of previous decades, 80s jewelry saw the advent of large beaded necklaces, huge earrings, jelly bracelets, and big brooches.
80s Jewelry and Personal Expression
One of the key features of the 80s was that people were exploring their individuality. Jewelry became more than just a fashion accessory; it was also a means of making a statement.
While the rich and famous were able to demonstrate their wealth by wearing large and stylish fine jewelry, for most other people costume jewelry was the jewelry of choice. This was largely due to cost. A large, heavy necklace made in gold would have been prohibitively expensive for many people. It was also, however, due to jewelry designers who were looking to push the boundaries of design and explore new and different materials.
Types of 80s Jewelry
From oversize hoop earrings to neon bracelets, there are many types and styles of jewelry that defined the fashions of the 80s.
Eighties earrings were large and dramatic. Oversize hoops were a staple for any 80s woman. Clip-on earrings were popular as pierced styles were often too heavy to wear. Gold disc earrings were particularly fashionable and these complemented large gold buttons that graced jackets and suits. Imitation pearls and faux gemstones were all the rage.
Styles of necklaces ranged from beaded necklaces to large pendants. Again, gold featured in many 80s necklaces, in the form of real gold or gold-plated pieces. Crystal and cut glass were also popular, and these complemented other styles of jewelry that used real gemstones. Long ropes of imitation pearls in every color were worn plain, in bunches, or with the ends tied in knots.
Brooches had a resurgence of interest in the 1980s. Whereas previously they had been regarded as being slightly old-fashioned, the 80s fashion jewelry styles called for brooches that were as large and bold as other items of jewelry.
Cocktail rings and other costume pieces were part of the 1980s style. These were worn both during the day and as evening wear and contributed to the overall sense of confidence and wealth that were part of the decade.
Like the other 80s jewelry styles, bracelets made a big, bold statement. Oversize bangle bracelets were popular as was wearing numerous thin bangles. Plastic, neon-hued jelly bracelets were must-haves for the younger demographic, who wore as many as they could comfortably fit on their arms. Woven friendship bracelets, charm bracelets, and cuffs were also popular.
Fashion Icons of the 1980s
One of the best ways to get a feel for the jewelry styles of the 80s is to look at the fashion icons of the time. These include:
- Princess Diana: Her jewelry was often large and featured colorful stones.
- Dynasty and Dallas (television series'): The flashier the better, and jewelry often featured large pearls and big earrings.
- Cyndi Lauper: Beads, bangles, and bold color everywhere made up Lauper's 80s style.
- Madonna: Madonna wore big sparkly jewelry, long beaded necklaces, huge earrings, and it would've been difficult to guess just how many bracelets (of all kinds, in all colors) adorned her wrists at any given time.
Modern 80s Jewelry
People who are interested in 1980s jewelry will find that it is regularly available for sale on online auctions sites such as eBay. There is a wide variety of secondhand vintage jewelry for sale. Modern jewelry is also being created with a 1980s feel. Here are some tips for creating a 1980s look in the 21st century:
Look for Oversize Earrings
If there's one thing that was popular in the 80s that's totally doable today, it's a pair of big earrings. To get the look, try:
- Madewell Oversized Hoop Earrings (about $24, pictured below) from Nordstrom: These are thin, large (2.5 inches in diameter), available in vintage gold, and they look like they're never ending, thanks to the hidden post closure.
- Large 14k Rose Gold Hoop Earrings ($390) from Blue Nile: These are traditional rose gold hoops with a latch backing and 1-5/8" diameter.
- 18k Gold Over Silver 1/2 Carat T.W. Diamond Inside-Out Hoop Earrings ($550) from Kohl's: These hoops 1.89 inches in diameter, and have round-cut diamonds around the outside as well as the inside.
Seek Large Pieces of Costume Jewelry
Think of rings, bracelets and necklaces to accessorize 80s style outfits.
- Princess Cut Blue CZ Vintage Style Sterling Silver Cocktail Ring, from Eve's Addiction (about $45): Sterling silver with a rhodium finish, large blue center stone, and several small white cubic zirconias.
- Swarovski Slake Deluxe Crystal Stud Wrap Bracelet (close to $50) from Swarovski: A multi-row wrap bracelet featuring Swarovski crystals, available in five colors. Get several to achieve the stacked bangle look of the 1980s.
- Kenneth Jay Lane Faux Pearl Necklace sold at Amazon (around $130): A multi-strand simulated pearl necklace that mimics the layered look of the decade.
- Chunky Pearl Necklace from CameronsJewelryBox (about $25, pictured below) on Etsy: A handmade 20-inch gold chain and white pearl necklace with clusters of pearls in various sizes.
Pick Primary or Neon Colors
Bright colors add pop and are quintessentially 80s. Try these styles:
- Ellie Skinny Bangle Set (about $35) from VOZ Collective on Amazon: A set of skinny wooden bangles inspired by Ellie Goulding, done in bright pink, black, and white.
- Bright Yellow Graduated Bead Necklace (around $10) from Kim Rogers at Belk: A 20-inch necklace made up of bright, happy, yellow beads.
- Geometric Earrings (around $8) from Spencer's: Dangly geometric earrings featuring neon colors, dots and sparkles.
Consider 1980s Themed Charms
Look for jewelry that features things like the Rubik's cube or popular movies or TV shows from the 80s. Sometimes Etsy is the best place to look for themed items, but other stores may surprise you from time to time. For example:
- The Cube Necklace from Funky Shrunky on Etsy (about $10.00): A tiny replica of the original Rubik's cube on a silver tone ball chain.
- Retro Cassette Tape Earrings from CutieJewelry at Amazon (under $10): These replica earrings dangle from your ears. Don't be surprised if some people don't even recognize them for what they are since cassette tapes are such a thing of the past.
Forget Floaty or Delicate Styles
Think bold! Skip right over the floaty or delicate styles if you're looking for 80s-inspired jewelry. The bolder, the better.
- Pave Link Bracelet (just over $20) from Shamelessly Sparkly: Chunky gold-toned links covered in small, clear rhinestones.
- Tortoiseshell Loops and Bold Silver Chain Necklace (around $35) from Zoky Doky: A mix of tortoiseshell and shiny metal in an adjustable length that allows you to loop it for different looks.
The 1980s was an interesting decade for fashion and jewelry. The distinctive styles provide inspiration for those trend setters looking for something a little different in their jewelry.