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!
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.
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 Art Glass
This substantial brooch features a frequently-used type of art glass – 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.