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Jewelry History

  • Sensational Schiaparelli

    Some of my favorite costume jewelry from the 1950s was designed by Elsa Schiaparelli. I like these pieces because they are strikingly different from those of other designers of the decade – they’re colorful, bold, and innovative. I am glad this last trait is one that continues to inspire Daniel Roseberry, Artistic Director of Maison Schiaparelli, today. In the preface to his Spring/Summer 2022 Ready-to-Wear collection, he describes the House’s founder as “someone who celebrated innovation and progress of all kinds: creative, social, cultural”.

    This article highlights some of the Schiaparelli jewelry in the boutique and demonstrates innovative ways to wear it. I hope you will be inspired by seeing these fabulous pieces worn in fresh ways.

    Schiaparelli Jewelry Characteristics

    By the late 1940s, the designer had set aside her pre-war style in favor of abstract designs and motifs inspired by nature that would appeal to the American market. Nonetheless, Schiaparelli’s jewelry remained innovative. Materials included heavily-plated metals in a variety of finishes and textures along with prong-set distinctive glass stones. She mixed shapes, sizes, cuts, colors and finishes in unexpected ways. Schiaparelli’s bold designs from the late 1940s and 1950s are statement pieces. Let’s look at some of my favorites.

    Fireworks for the Bride

    This large (3” diameter) brooch is very three-dimensional, with a trio of layered flowers. Each is formed with clusters of red-glass beads resting on shimmering petals, giving this jewel the appearance of a fireworks display. Schiaparelli often used Aurora Borealis (an iridescent coating invented in 1955 by Manfred Swarovski, grandson of the firm’s founder). It makes the stones flash colors of the rainbow as the wearer moves and catches the light.

    The photo above shows this jewel on the wide sash of a simple ivory silk wedding ensemble paired with a vintage beaded clutch. This unusual placement of the brooch at the waist makes a stunning statement accessory. I think it could be a wonderfully unconventional way to add red to a bridal look and a match for a bride seeking her own personal style. It could even allow her to ditch the tradition of holding a bouquet!

    Ruby Glass Bead & Aurora Borealis Brooch

    Black & White in Color

    This version of the same brooch substitutes black glass stones and beads for the red ones. The photo on the left captures the kaleidoscope of colors of the iridescent clear stones.

    Worn on a black turtleneck sweater by day or a silk scarf by night, this jewel is a unique and sophisticated accessory that’s guaranteed to get you noticed.

    Lucky Clovers

    Schiaparelli was a master at using stones in unusual cuts to complement the shape of a jewel. These earrings are a fine example. The faceted, three-sided, shield-shaped glass stones in two shades of topaz enhance the three-leaf clover design of the earrings. The gold-tone frames are accented with faceted round citrine glass stones.

    Ear clips like these were all the rage in the 1950s. If this type of earring isn’t for you, how about wearing it to adorn a ribbon necklace, as shown here? Or to embellish your shoes?

    Glowing Lava Rocks

    This substantial brooch features Schiaparelli’s signature stone – lava rocks. They are textured, domed, oval stones with iridescence that appear to have a fire within. Surrounding them are faceted navette and round glass stones in blue and pale amethyst. The abstract shape allows you to position the piece in any way you wish. On the right, it’s worn as a pendant on a cord.

    For Sunny Days

    Sets of costume jewelry – matching brooches, earrings, necklaces and/or bracelets – were popular in the 1950s. Here’s an example with another of this designer’s distinctive glass stones – faceting that forms an eight-pointed star when viewed from above. In this case, the stones are encircled with tiny faux pearls in an elaborate, antiqued, gold-plated setting. The photo on the right shows my favorite model wearing the brooch and ear clips together. You could do that or wear them separately.

    Schiaparelli Jewelry Today

    Jewelry is an important part of Maison Schiaparelli’s collection each season. As discussed in my post “The Jewels of Maison Schiaparelli: Yesterday & Today”, Artistic Director Daniel Roseberry continues to be inspired by the Surrealist artists who influenced the House’s founder before the war. His pieces are big and bold, and bold jewelry is back in fashion.

    This connection between fashion and art will be celebrated in the upcoming exhibition “SHOCKING! The Surrealist World of Elsa Schiaparelli” at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. It runs from July 6, 2022 to January 22, 2023.

    For More Schiaparelli Jewels

    Shop the TruFaux Jewels boutique.

  • Dating jewelry can be challenging

    Jewelry Sleuthing: A Philadelphia Story

    I knew the answer wasn’t 1943. When dating jewelry for my website, as a first step I look for a maker’s mark. The line bracelets I was examining bore the Otis trademark, but that was the challenge. Every readily-available source I checked stated that this Providence, Rhode Island, firm commenced…

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  • Maison Schiaparelli spring 2020 jewelry

    The Jewels of Maison Schiaparelli: Yesterday & Today

    As a long-time fan of Schiaparelli jewelry, I was delighted to see photos of the Maison’s haute couture show for spring 2020. And as one who first chooses the jewelry to wear when putting together an outfit, I was smitten when I read about artistic director Daniel Roseberry’s approach to…

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  • Bauhaus inspired architecture

    1930s Bauhaus Inspired Jewelry: A Celebration

    I cannot let this year end without telling you about the centenary of an important influence on one style of 1930s jewelry – the Bauhaus, a school of design founded in 1919 in Germany. You may be familiar with the modernist buildings and decorative arts that flowed from its philosophy…

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  • Cartier bracelets worn by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

    Jewelry in the Movies: Cartier Bracelets

    In June last year, I wrote about “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s”, an exhibition I saw in New York City. Among the magnificent jewels on display was a pair of Cartier bracelets bought by Gloria Swanson in 1930 and now part of the maker’s collection. Those bracelets…

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  • History of costume jewelry -- researcher's story

    The History of Costume Jewelry: A Researcher’s Story

    Years ago when I was a consultant, one of my favorite clients told me that I was like a terrier. He wasn’t trying to insult me – he was just acknowledging the fact that I am a tenacious investigator. I don’t stop until I have all of the answers to…

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  • Introducing the Double Clip Brooch

    For me, September always marks a new beginning. Maybe I’m still grounded in the “first day of school” mentality. Or maybe it’s the changing colors of the leaves. Either way, I’m always looking for new ideas for jeweled accessories. And I’m sure you are, too. So here’s an exciting new…

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  • Flexible choker worn by Ann Sheridan in The Unfaithful

    Jewelry in the Movies: A 1940s Flexible Choker

    Movies produced in the 1930s-1940s rarely credited jewelry. In fact, in many cases, the names of the costume designers weren’t even disclosed on-screen. For this reason, I always look closely at what the female characters are wearing in these films, hoping to recognize a jewel. Last night while watching The…

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  • The Jazz Age

    If you love Art Deco as much as I do, you never tire of seeing jewelry created in this decorative style. I’ve just returned from a research trip to New York City, where I was fortunate to see the exhibition The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, currently on…

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  • Movie jewelry by Harry Winston and worn by Ingrid Bergman in Notorious

    Jewelry in the Movies: Harry Winston, ‘Notorious’

    As we eagerly anticipate this year’s Academy Awards ceremony on February 26, many of us are as interested in what the stars will be wearing as who will win. And the dazzling jewels worn on the red carpet will get as much press as the gowns they adorn. So with…

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  • 1920s flapper fashion in 1925 ‘Vogue’ ad

    ‘Downton Abbey’ Style Finale

    As North Americans eagerly await tonight’s broadcast of the first episode of Season 6 of Downton Abbey, many do so with some regret – this season will be the last. Viewers are anticipating the answers to last season’s cliff-hangers. For example, will Lady Mary marry again? Will Anna and Bates…

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  • Mellow Yellows for Spring

    Yellow, the color of sunshine, is associated with positive feelings such as joy, happiness, cheerfulness, intellect and energy. Not surprisingly, a tone of yellow is usually included in Pantone’s top 10 women’s spring/summer colors. This year’s shade is called Custard, which is defined as “Sweet and sunny … a cheering…

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