“More is more and less is a bore!” Iris Apfel
Costume Jewelry in Vogue is the history of costume and fashion jewelry illustrated through the images of the most remarkable creations that enriched Vogue’ pages since its early years.
Junk, imitation, costume, fashion, fantasy jewelry, bijoux de couture, or dress ornaments. Different names to different functions, production centers and public. The common denominator being the non-precious elements employed in their production. Whatever the case, it is undeniable that all these different towers that constitute the fabulous fakes castle have captivated generations of women all through the 20th century and beyond. Most recently, men’s fashion has been blinking an intrigued eye at the assimilation of jewelry in its wardrobe.
But I think it is better for me to report what I believe are the most accurate and actual definitions of the commonly used terms. I will quote Mrs. Deanna Farneti Cera from her book: “Bijou” (Federico Motta Editore, 2010).
“Bijoux de couture refers to adornments whose purpose is to accessorize the dresses conceived and commissioned by couturiers or designers to accompany and characterize their own particular styles. They are produced in limited number by specialized artisans who work in ateliers generally separate from the couture houses…The terms, costume or fashion jewellery are the English equivalent for what the French call bijoux de fantaisie. These are mass-produced ornaments that conform to current trends in fashion, and whose decorative value is transitory: such objects maybe discarded when those trends, including colours and styles in clothing are over. Bijoux de couture lead fashion, costume or fashion jewellery follows it.”
Imitation jewelry defines itself. It is non precious ornaments that imitate the shapes and colors of fine jewelry. An example of this are Trifari’s Tutti Frutti brooches and bracelets that clearly evoque Pierre Cartier’s 1901 design for Queen Alexandra.
FROM PARIS TO PROVIDENCE
In a separate post I will get into further details of the evolution of certain materials, their places of origin, the crucial inventions that changed the evolution of the “unvaluable” jewelry. This post is dedicated to unveil the lives of the personalities that shaped the fascinating world of fashion jewelry: craftsmen and manufacturers, designers, fashion designers, artists, and the people that helped them make the news such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Diana Vreeland, Marella Agnelli and others. Their stories are one of a kind.
Still it is essential here to make an overview of the different production centers and their particular identity.
The American production center for costume jewelry was Providence (Rhode Island) in the USA where several cheap jewelry companies developed to respond to the high demand of components by an increasing number of small wholesalers and costume jewelry designers centered in New York City.
The origin and center of European bijoux de couture was France, Paris more than other cities, where a craftsman approach still prevailed due to the traditional European ateliers of expert artisans.In the south of France, the town of Oyonnax specialized in resin ( bakelite, celluloid ) ornaments supplied by a rapidly emerging plastic industry. The beautiful and rare celluloid brooches and necklaces by Auguste Bonaz are very much sought after.
From the ex- Czechoslovakia origin the high-quality crystals that are essential elements of costume or high fashion jewelry.
In her latest book, Adorning Fashion, ( ACC Art Books, 2019) Mrs. Farneti Cera attributes the birth of the term to Coco Chanel when in 1927 she presented her collection for the first time complemented with fake jewelry.
Chanel’s revolutionary idea involves a new concept of women’s appearance. Fashion jewelry, made of poor materials but of exceptional craftmanship, were not supposed to make her appear glamorous, just more endearing. She believed a woman had to possess a sufficient number of jewels to accompany each dress change during the day typical of the times.. At those times, the élite usually dressed into a morning ensemble, changed for lunch, then again for the evening and so on. These days I see people going to Teatro La Scala wearing jeans and Tuxedo jacket.
As said, a bijou de Couture was created in very limited editions by an external parurier. Again, Chanel set the trend to create exclusive partnerships with one single supplier. In her case it was Maison Gripoix. In the late 19th century Augustine Gripoix developed the enameled glass paste. The cabochon glass paste beads are iconic elements of the house that is still operating today.
Other examples are Yves Saint-Laurent and Balenciaga linked to Maison Goossens, Versace to Ugo Correani. Schiaparelli went even further and her choice shouldn’t surprise if one is familiar with her collections. She created a very successful and original collaboration with artists like Dalì, Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Giacometti and other exponents of the surrealist, cubist and futurist movements. Lanvin and Christian Dior designed, the Pforzheim based Henkel and Grossé created.
These pieces began to be signed only during the 1950s so it is difficult to appraise ad attribute a jewel to a certain Maison unless one is extremely knowledged on the styles of the couturier.
There are some elements that can help in identifying a designer. The style and tastes of each couturier or couturière is reflected in the jewelry he or she commissions.
In Chanel’s case, experts are aware of her interest in Russian jewelry: long guilted chains hung with baroque pearls and glass paste crosses that captivated many a woman. Robert Goossens, who initially worked with Chanel before Yves Saint Laurent and Lanvin said:
“I made a whole lot of things for Chanel—necklaces, brooches, earrings. They were very similar of course, but never identical. She used them to accessorize her suits. Her models would just be wearing white shirts without the suits and she’d try out the jewelry on them, choosing pieces to go with the colour of their eyes or the colour of their hair. She was a colourist and that was how she saw things.” (from the book “Maison Goossens Haute Couture Jeweelry by Patrick Mauriés, Thames & Hudson, 2014).
Schiaparelli is recognizable by her fun, teasing and shocking creations: peanut-shaped buttons, telephone-shaped earrings by Dalì, egg-shapped bead necklace, a hand-mirror brooch, a hunt horn cigarette holder decorated with oriental flowers.
THE ART OF THE ARTISAN
The artisan, in European costume or haute couture jewelry, is an interpreter. He manipulates matter to give form to another person’s idea. His ability derives on this fundamental talent to understand and transfer.
In the case of unsigned (pre-1950’s) jewels, in being familiar with the styles of a manufacturer, you have a starting point to attribute a piece to a specific fashion designer.
Lets take the example of Robert Gossens.
The story of Robert Goossens is a story about a goldsmith and his atelier in the Marais, the Parisian center of orféverie until the end of WWII. He began his career making boxes for Mellerio and stoppers for Cartier’s lighters. He experienced working in a foundry with his father. He then learned to work with leather, wood, shell, glass , ivory, enamelling, watercolors, and created brass and bronze statues. Materials and techniques that would compose Goossens’ later works in jewelry and decorative objects. He is recognizable for the sculptural nature of his works. By the time he began creating costume and haute couture jewelry, the imitation jewelry was outranked by new, creative and autonomous shapes, with their own aesthetics. An important clue that can help define his style was his taste for combining real shells with silver or bronze replicas.
In Italy, Coppola and Toppo created high fashion jewels for Schiaparelli and Yves Saint Laurent.
MEANWHILE, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE OCEAN
The partnership between clothes and jewelry began in the 1920’s with fashion designer Hattie Carnegie regularly completing her collections with fashion jewelry. Miriam Haskell designed high fashion, hand made limited editions jewels with Frank Hess. Her filigree structure is recognizable as much as it is imitated. Yes, fakes were and still are copied too!
In the fifties, the spirit of the moment was “Buy the new, discard the old.” You cannot do this with fine jewelry. Eisenberg, a fashion designer turned costume jeweler, was the most collected designer of the fifties. Today his creations are still hard to find and very sought after items.
THE SWINGING JEWELS
The sixties was the decade of frivolity, and of Kenneth Jay Lane.
“In 1963 I invented costume jewelry for the beautiful people – was lionized by them and became one of the most splendidly beautiful of them – a genuine sixties character! Handsome, tall, thin..sitting in the back of my vintage Rolls ( with matching driver) wearing either my floor-length leopard – or monkey – or unicorn coat- all of which have disappeared.”
I remember the night of the annual bijoux exhibition we held at L’arabesque when I sold a Kenneth Jay Lane star brooch by telling the story of its connection with Jackie ‘O. It wasn’t obviously the one Mrs. Kennedy actually wore but the design was created for her and in Kenneth Jay Lane’s book Fabulous Fakes, a picture of her wearing the brooch is shown with a thank you letter accompanying it. That night I was confirmed in my convinction that quality and beauty are not enough to sell a great and rare object. You must do whatever you can to discover the story behind it and reveal it. The buyer will never forget the story, probably won’t forget you either. This is the main reason I created The Fashion Bookologist. It’s all about good stories and good products.
MRS. MARELLA AGNELLI AND FAKE JEWELRY
Who would have thought that an Italian noblewoman, married to the richest and handsomest Italian car-maker would wear fake jewels! I mean, Italian nobility in most cases was very traditionalist, conservative, not too open-minded. Well, Truman Capote’s Last Swan popularized the wearing of rows and rows of throat-load of spherical fake beads . Kenneth Jay Lane immediately invited his clients to do the same.
DIANA VREELAND, EMPRESS OF FASHION AND COSTUME JEWELRY
The former editor-in-chief of Vogue and curator of the Metropolitan Costume Museum in New York had a passion for K.J. Lane’s jewelry and featured in Vogue his most audacious creations: pearl earrings the size of golf-balls, fake marble plastic bangles, imitation-Indian Jewelry.
She was a collector herself. In October 1987, her collection was auctioned at Sotheby’s. I own a copy of the catalogue which feels like a little girl peeking through her mom’s jewelry box in her bedroom. Extraordinary pieces. She had great taste and great intuition in identifying quality pieces.
IN THE SEVENTIES WITH YVES SAINT LAURENT. ALMOST LITERALLY.
Would the seventies be the same without the genius of Yves Saint-Laurent. I had the luck, a few years ago while organizing another costume jewelry exhibition, to access 20 years of croquis, the designer’s sketches. My mother was a childhood friend of the Faré family who brought and developed YSL’s brand in Italy from the sixties throughout the eighties.
I was enchanted by the hundreds of designs of fashion jewelry. That day was another unforgettable encounter and emotional experience that pushed me deeper in the study of this art. I watched a master’s creative process put on paper. A copy of it but still, it felt as If I was in his office peeking over his shoulder while he imagined fabulous fakes. And he loved heart-shaped jewelry.
IN PRAISE OF FAKE
Why did fake jewelry had so much appeal on millions of women during the entire 20th century? Was it just because it was accessible to everybody? Or was it the freedom, the fun, the variety that conquered women of any social status? Men were probably secretly dancing on the ceiling knowing they could surprise their ultrachic girlfriend or wife with a splendidly crafted yet low cost brooch. Or was it because, or in spite of, Chanel’s seal of approval?
“It doesn’t matter if they are real, as long as they look like junk!”. Coco Chanel
Or vice versa.
WWI and Fashion ennobled costume Jewlery. Fashion designers played an essential role in legitimizing and providing a new dignity to non-precious jewelry which was, to a certain extent, ignored during the Belle Epoque and Edwardian era. That was not the case in the United States were industrial production immediately appealed to the masses.
In Europe, WWI made its contribution too. Recovering from the devastating effects of the Great War was a difficult task but the end of hostilities also brought a much needed feeling of freedom. These fever for joy created a new kind of culture, a live-for-today society that expressed itself in the Jazz clubs, in dancing the Charleston and the Foxtrot on and off the streets. A new way of dressing the female body, after her crucial role in the ear was inevitable. The fashion diktat was: let us plunge the neckline, shorten the hemline, cut the hair. Let us show some skin!
Jewelry – both fine and non-precious – didn’t lose a Charleston beat. Those deep necklines needed a sautoir – long ropes of beads with tasseled ends to follow the dancing body-, the undefined waists were enhanced by decorative belts, and the bare wrists were adorned with clusters of clacking bracelets, à la Nancy Cunard, while long and thin pendant earrings caressed the bare neck and brightened faces framed by the outrageous new bob hairstyle, à la Garçonne.
JEWERLY AS SYMBOL OF RESILIENCE
Beyond my interest in the purely aesthetic qualities of costume jewelery is the symbol of resilience these pieces represent. The great success of this industry after WWI reminds me of the nature of the Lotus flower, a beautiful flower that blossoms and fruits from dirty mud. It is also related to the principle of resilience, in the case of jewelry, of the resilience demonstrated by women during and after the two World Wars.
Costume Jewelry in Vogue reports:
“ Chanel flaunted the fake as symbol of confidence. The war had made women shy away from precious jewelry, which had an unpleasant association with the unpatriotic, inappropriate frivolity of the wives of war profiteers. Chanel responded to the new, independent role of postwar woman who no longer wanted to be judged according to the value of the marriage she had made, as indicated by the costliness of her gems…By wearing fake jewelry a woman could cock a snook at being ‘kept’, and proclaim her independence with a sartorial gesture of defiance.”
There is so much to tell on this fascinating world of sparkling fakes. If not all that sparkles is gold, fake gold and fake diamonds in costume jewelry do a great job in creating a stunning effect nonetheless. Limited space prevents me to get into further details but soon I will get back to you about the lives of those American manufacturers who started their voyage to the promise land departing from my country Italy more than a century ago.
ALL IMAGES ARE EXTRACTED FORM THE BOOK EXCEPT DIANA VREELAND’S PORTRATI BY CECIL BEATON, THE COVER OF DIANA VREELAND’S AUCTION CATALOGUE – SOTHEBY’S
ABOUT THE BOOK
The book is a comprehensive survey of the evolution of costume jewelry and bijou de couture.
It separates the development of the industry in 4 periods: 1909- 1908 which covers pre and post war styles and the centers of production: 1919-1945 introduces Chanel’s “Nonchalance de Luxe, Schiaparelli’s collaboration with artists and the rage for bakelite; 1946-1964 covers the bijoux d’imitatiòn revival, introduces Dior, the jewelers’ ateliers, Chanel’s return; in conclusion, the period from 1965 to 1987 is all about the jeweler of the stars Kenneth Jay Lane, the hippy styles, sculpture jewelry and more.
The book includes 345 of Vogue’s illustrations, 64 of which are in color.
The author, Jane Mulvagh is a British journalist specialized in British social history. From 1997 to 2002 Jane taught an MA course in Fashion Journalism & Criticism at Central St. Martins School of Art and was resident historian at Vogue UKfor eight years
|TITLE||COSTUME JEWLERY IN VOGUE|
|CURATED AND PUBLISHED BY||THAMES AND HUDSON AND CONDE NAST PUBLICATIONS LTD.|
|YEAR OF PUBLICATION||1988|
|PAGES||192 – 345 IMAGES, 64 IN COLOR|
|PRICE||€ 58,00 + shipping|
|CONDITION||USED, GOOD CONDITION, NO MARKINS,|
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