For those of you that had a problem paying attention to history lessons in high school, we have a whole new history subject you are sure to enjoy: the history of jewelry. It would be invidious to attempt to pick out “the best” or “the greatest” designer of the 20th Century. Those like Paul Flato and Van Cleef & Arpels (shown below) were all great within the context of their time.
In the 1930’s, Suzanne Belperron and René Boivin ignored the Art Deco aesthetic and created designs reflecting modernism almost entirely. Paul Flato, Trabert and Hoeffer were busy producing fantasy jewels in Hollywood. The style that had been prevalent prior to the first World War – the “Garland Style” – curvilinear, naturalistic and representational – gave way to more abstract designs.
In the early 1940's big and bold took over jewelry trends, but toward the end of the decade Christian Dior’s “New look” of 1947 saw a return to femininity. Jewels, to complement the new fashions became softer. Braids, ropes and tassels typified the look of the 1950’s. Platinum was re-introduced and gained instant popularity. Verdura and Schlumberger in New York produced wonderful naturalistic jewels but perhaps no jeweler embodied the spirit of the 1950’s more than Pierre Sterlé working in Paris, using textured gold to great effect.
By the 1960's the idea of a single trend seemed to fade and a variety of styles, themes and textures began to emerge. Italian jewelers began to gain recognition and became a dominating force against French designers. A little jeweler you may have heard of, Tiffany & Co, in New York, also began to make a name for itself by promoting new up and coming designers.
Check out some samples of jewelry from decades ago below. Is it not remarkable how many of their shapes and styles are still relevant today?
Top Row (left to right): Left: 1930's model wearing the machine age Art Deco look. Center: An exquisite piece made from platinum and aquamarine that leads to the more modernistic designs of Paul Flato. Right: A 1920's model is showing off an incredible diamond and platinum bangle plus a rhinestone ring.
Middle Row: starts with a clip on pair of earrings from 1940 Pulforcat - considered extremely modernistic. On the far right is a "1940's model look sporting large accessories similar to the look and feel of styles popular today, both are originals from Paul Flato.
Bottom Row: Far left model is wearing platinum and gold bracelets as well as diamond bow earrings