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Red Alert!

Red Alert!
September 30, 2014 Barbara Schwartz
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In Colors, Jewelry History

Among the top 10 colors for women’s fashions this fall/winter are two shades of red, according to Pantone (the world’s authority on color):  Sangria, described as “an exotic red that evokes a sense of glamorous adventures and faraway destinations”, and Aurora Red, “a more sophisticated shade that adds verve and spark”.  A third shade of red – Marsala – “serves as the foundation to the Spring/Summer 2015 palette”.  So think red when choosing accessories to update your wardrobe for this season and the next.  Vintage costume jewelry offers the opportunity to accessorize with red, even if it isn’t a color you normally wear.  You’ll find a large selection of pieces in many shades of red on the TruFaux Jewels website.  Let’s take a look at one of the gemstones (natural minerals) that comes closest to today’s trendy red hues – ruby – and its counterparts in vintage costume jewelry.

The Gemstone

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Ruby is the name given to red, gem-quality corundum (a mineral species), which is one of the five most highly-prized gemstones.  Rubies come in many shades of red, “from pinkish to purplish or brownish red, depending on the chromium and iron content of the stone” (according to Cathy Hall in Gemstones).  Popular forms of ruby have been brilliant cut (where faceting is used to maximize a stone’s reflection of light, as in the example on the left), step cut (defined by Hall as “having a rectangular or square table facet and girdle, with parallel rectangular facets”), and cabochon (a polished stone with a domed top and flat bottom).  In medieval times, rubies were often worn to ensure health and good fortune.

Rubies in Art Deco Costume Jewelry

In the 1920s and 1930s, richly-colored glass stones and beads were used in costume jewelry to imitate their precious counterparts.  Faux rubies were well suited to the geometric shapes and dramatic contrasting colors of the Art Deco style.  The imitation rubies that formed the necklaces, brooches, bracelets, clips, pendant earrings and finger rings of this era were often alternated with clear crystals or brilliants (the name for clear pastes at that time).  Here is a French brooch made from ruby glass beads wired in a spiral and adorned with channels of brilliants.  You can see more photos and a description of this piece here on the TruFaux Jewels website.

1100bMolded glass stones in shapes of leaves, flowers and fruits – called fruit salads or tutti frutti – were used to imitate the carved rubies, sapphires and emeralds inspired by gemstones carved in India and popularized by Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier.  This three-color combination was very fashionable in the 1930s; pastel shades were featured later.  This photo shows one of a pair of dress clips, which were the most important jeweled accessory of the 1930s.  This pair features the red, green and blue color combination, with red as the dominant color.  You can see a description and more detailed photos of these clips here.

1918cThis last example features red glass in a shade known as lipstick red, a far cry from the colors associated with rubies but a lot of fun, nonetheless.  The use of glass and early plastics allowed stone makers and jewelry designers the freedom to experiment, resulting in styles that did not imitate precious jewelry and an almost limitless range of colors.  This close-up shows the centerpiece of a chromium-plated Art Deco necklace with filigree plaques and a paper-clip chain.  Additional photos and a description of this piece are here.

More About Fall/Winter Fashion Colors

Pantone surveys the designers of New York Fashion Week to report on each season’s most important color trends.  For more information, read the Pantone Fashion Color Report Fall 2014 here on their website.  The Spring 2015 report is here.

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