Postwar Pop-Its

from the Jewelry Box, part 1 of a 3 part series

Postwar prosperity is a well-documented phenomenon in the United States, especially following World War II. As with every other element of postwar American society , the jewelry industry underwent radical change and expansion in the 1950s. New ideas, colors, and materials sparked the imagination of designers across the country. Gone was the austerity and rationing of the war, in came the glittering new styles of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and brooches. For the first time, there was a large enough volume of ornamentation that a line was drawn between daytime and evening jewelry.[1] Trends rose and fell at alarming rates, each gaudier than the one before. Women from every iteration of American culture used their increased spending power to imitate icons like Princess Grace, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie Kennedy.[2]

Matching sets of costume jewelry became the norm for day and night.[3] Bracelets became more popular as sleeve length shortened. Pearl necklaces grew longer to accentuate changing necklines. Brighter colors―pastels, metals, vibrant reds―jumped out from the necks and wrists of women. The sudden availability of metal caused an explosion in the popularity of rhinestones. Oversized cocktail rings adorned the fingers of every woman who had somewhere to be. In the 1950s, “jewelry was meant to pop, stand out, and be noticed.”[4] All of these trends and tendencies included the women of Andalusia.

In this period of widespread opulence, every woman was expected to have a wide range of accessories. Of course, with such an array of items needed to complete any one woman’s collection, ample storage was a must. Regina and Flannery likely shared this luxurious Mele jewelry box.

Andalusia Collection 2018.1.1037

This box indicates a dedication to caring for the delicate pieces of jewelry at Andalusia, as the Mele brand prides itself on both luxury and affordability.[5] The simplicity and elegance of the box itself belies the O’Connor tendency towards the juxtaposition of utility and style.

One jewelry phenomenon that accentuated the American inclination for appearance over substance was the Pop-It bead. Beaded jewelry became very common, especially as imports resumed from Japan and West Germany.[6] Popularized following the immense pearl trend, pop-its (also known as snaps or snap-its) were small plastic or lucite beads.[7] They began as a more affordable imitation of pearl necklaces, but soon became so popular they expanded to every color imaginable. Sold in fifty-inch strands, the necklaces went for what would today be around $10. Pop-It necklaces were constructed of small interlocking beads, giving the owner the ability to customize the length and pattern to their heart’s content. Following the other trends of the day, pop-its were sold in sets including earrings. Like any widespread fad, pop-its soon became accessible to children, appealing to young girls with pastel colors, shorter necklaces, and smaller beads.[8]

Andalusia was also home to some of these iconic necklaces.

Andalusia Collection 2018.1.1057

This vibrant red color was indicative of the 50s and early 60s. The shorter length of the choker style indicates that it was likely worn by Flannery, as younger women tended to wear the smaller styles. While Flannery was one for a distinctive personal style, she was not the type to engage in the fuss of rearranging bead colors and sizes, so the arrangement of the piece remains simple.

Andalusia Collection 2018.1.1058

This complimentary pale silver also follows the trends of the day, exploring the new, colorful avenues that lucite, bakelite, and celluloid opened. Likely for daywear, this simple and mild necklace complimented many outfits, and instantly provided a bit of class to even the most basic ensemble.

The O’Connor jewelry box still has much left to explore―stay tuned for more on earclips and the transition to pierced ears, as well as the preeminence of brooches!

[1] “Vintage Jewelry Workshop – Part V,” Vintage Fashion Guild Forums, accessed June 15, 2020,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Viola et al., “1950s Jewelry Styles and History,” Vintage Dancer, accessed June 15, 2020,

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Our Story,” accessed June 15, 2020,

[6] “Vintage Jewelry Workshop – Part V,” Vintage Fashion Guild Forums, accessed June 15, 2020,

[7] Black Dahlia, “Oh, for the Love Of…Pop-Its!,” Oh, for the Love of Vintage!, July 29, 2012,

[8] Tonya Yirka, “1950s Pop-It Beads,” Our Everyday Life, January 10, 2019,

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