A perennial favorite for decades, floral prints were in full bloom on the runways for Spring 2013. Variations of the garden theme were seen on pants, dresses, skirts, shoes, and other accessories in soft pastels, vibrant hues, and appliqués. According to fashionmagazine.com, “Florals are all about having fun with fashion and embracing the joy and romance of spring”.
That must be why this motif has been popular in costume jewelry for decades. You can see a wide variety of floral pieces from the 1930s through the 1950s on the TruFaux Jewels website. My Pinterest board shows vintage costume jewelry, clothing and other accessories with a floral theme. What’s interesting to me is how differently each design style and maker interpreted the same motif. Here are some examples.
Art Deco Carved Flowers, Leaves & Fruits
Inspired by the carved gemstones from India in the early 20th century, high-end jewelers such as Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier created Art Deco masterpieces featuring emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and other gemstones carved into flowers, leaves, and fruits (called tutti frutti) and set in platinum. Some costume jewelry makers imitated these pieces by substituting molded colored glass, called fruit salads. One of the best-known makers of these costume pieces was the American firm Trifari. This double clip-brooch (or Clip-Mate, the company’s trade name) was designed by Alfred Philippe as part of Trifari’s first Fruit Salad series in 1936-1937. Click through to see detailed photos of this gorgeous piece.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the double clip-brooch was the most popular jeweled accessory because of its versatility. This piece could be worn as a brooch and as separate dress clips. Women wore clips in many ways, e.g., a single clip at the bottom of a V-neckline or a set of clips on either side of a square-cut neckline or on jacket lapels.
Some of Trifari’s fruit salad pieces were made from pale blue and pink molded glass to imitate turquoise and coral, as shown in this close-up of an earring in a gold-tone setting. This piece has a matching necklace and was designed by Alfred Philippe in the late 1940s. Another version, named Allure by the company, appears in the ad from the April 15, 1957 issue of Life Magazine, shown above. Click through to see this necklace and earrings set with citrine leaves set in gold-tone with diamanté accents.
Trifari’s fruit salads were so popular that they were used to embellish products produced by other companies. For example, a compact with acorn-shaped fruit salads in ruby, sapphire, and emerald on the clasp, made by Elgin American, was advertised in the December 1, 1948 issue of Vogue. The copy reads: “’Letter Perfect’ in jeweler’s bronze and silver finish, sealed with Trifari jewels”.
1940s Sterling Flowers, Leaves & Bows
A completely different take on the floral motif was achieved by William W. Hobé, whose company (Hobé Cie Limited) produced fine and costume jewelry from 1927 – 1995. (Although the company still exists, it is no longer run by members of the family.) Jewelry designed by William was hand-made in platinum, gold, or sterling by his team of master artisans. My favorite Hobé pieces are his sterling silver flowers, leaves, and bows, which were featured in a variety of designs for brooches, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. Many of the silver pieces were gold-plated and/or embellished with colored stones. This large aquamarine and vermeil sterling bow brooch is a lovely example of the complexity, high-quality, and gracefulness of this maker’s work. The gold-plated sterling flower in the center is my favorite Hobé form. Click through to see more photos and a detailed description of this piece.
For More on Florals in Fashion History
To see vintage fashions, jewelry, and other accessories with floral motifs, visit the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This link will show you the results of a search on the word flowers. You can also search the Costume Institute collection with words such as floral and leaves.