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True Blue Hues

True Blue Hues
February 28, 2014 Barbara Schwartz
In Colors, Jewelry History

Even though the weather outside may not feel much like spring (at least where I live!), we can still look at colors for the coming season. The palette in the Pantone Fashion Color Report: Spring 2014 shows two shades of blue among the top 10 colors for women’s fashion for spring and summer. The pastel shade is Placid Blue, which “like a picture-perfect, tranquil and reassuring sky, induces a sense of peaceful calmness”. The strong, rich shade is Dazzling Blue, “a scintillating, polar opposite to Placid Blue”. So let’s take a look at one of the gemstones (natural minerals) that comes closest to these hues – sapphire – and its counterparts in vintage costume jewelry. You’ll find a selection of pieces in many shades of blue on the TruFaux Jewels website.

The Gemstone

© Bigstock

Sapphire is the name of all gem-quality corundum that is not red (ruby is the name given to red corundum). Although sapphires come in a variety of colors including violet, pink, green, orange and purple – which are known as fancy sapphires – this gemstone is most often associated with the color blue. Popular forms of this gemstone have been brilliant cut (where faceting is used to maximize a stone’s brilliance, as in the example on the left), cabochon (a polished stone with a domed top and flat bottom), and cameo (a carved or engraved stone).

Sapphires 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 sapphires were well suited to the geometric shapes and dramatic contrasting colors of the Art Deco style. Faceted round, rectangular or square sapphire glass stones were often paired with imitation diamonds in necklaces, brooches, bracelets, clips, earrings and finger rings. Square-cut sapphire stones channel-set in bangles as well as one-, two- and three-row flexible bracelets, often with contrasting clear stones, were also very popular. A third type of bracelet worn in this era is the filigree bracelet, which featured intricate cut-out designs with colored stone embellishments. Here is one in sterling silver with faux sapphires. Click through to see more about this bracelet.

Molded blue, red and green glass in shapes of leaves, flowers and fruits – called fruit salads or tutti frutti — were used to imitate the carved sapphires, rubies, and emeralds popularized by Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier. Here is an example of an Alfred Philippe-designed fruit salad Trifari Clip-Mate (a double-clip brooch that was Trifari’s version of Coro’s Duette). Double-clip brooches were all the rage in the 1930s and into the 1940s because they were so versatile – they could (and still can) be worn as a brooch and as separate dress clips. Some designs can even be worn as a pendant. Click through to read more about this piece.

Although both of the above examples show deep-blue faux sapphires, pale shades were also popular at this time.  Here is a close-up of a chicklet necklace, a modern term for what in the Art Deco era was called channel (actually spelled chanel at the time) jewelry.  The term is applied to faceted, square-cut clear or colored crystals or glass stones set in frames and made into necklaces, bracelets and earrings.  Click through for a description and detailed photos of this necklace.

Sapphires in 1950s Costume Jewelry

By the 1950s, when rhinestone jewelry was in great demand, stone makers from Austria and Czechoslovakia developed new stone colors and what Julia Carroll (in Collecting Costume Jewelry 303) calls specialty glass stones (i.e., “glass stones with special colors, textures, or composition”).  Costume jewelry designers from this decade used these stones to great effect with imaginative color combinations.  Here are two great examples.

This 1950s brooch by Elsa Schiaparelli (on the left) features lava rocks, a type of textured stone that was this designer’s signature stone.  To me, Schiaparelli’s lava rocks always glow as if they have fire within them.  If you look at the detailed photos of this brooch here you’ll see what I mean.  Notice the great color combination of bright sapphire blue and pale lavender in this piece. Although this brooch is large (3″ x 1 1/2″), it can be worn in a variety of positions. This piece definitely makes a statement!

Another maker well known for his use of specialty glass stones and creative color combinations is Schreiner.  These 1950s earrings (on the right) showcase deep  sapphire blue and white art glass cabochons surrounded by faux pearls and  fuchsia rhinestones. This color combination is rather unexpected but fantastic,  in my view. You can see a complete description and detailed photos of these earrings here.

More About Spring & Summer Fashion Colors

For more information about Pantone’s top 10 colors for women’s spring and summer 2014 fashions, see the Pantone Fashion Color Report Spring 2014 here on their website.

Comments (2)

  1. Susan Roman 8 years ago

    Wow. What a fabulous description of one of my favourite gems (not to mention the beautifully imagined look-alikes)! The carefully researched background history attached to all the pieces featured is very interesting and much appreciated. Thank you for educating me on the outstanding merits of mid-century ‘costume jewelry’ …!

    • Author
      Barbara Schwartz 8 years ago

      I’m so glad you liked the article, Susan. Thanks very much for letting me know!

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