Revival Jewels

The Rarity and Beauty of Art Nouveau Jewellery

Brenda KangComment

“The beauty found in the finest pieces of Art Nouveau jewellery may be likened to that found in the paintings of Renoir, Seurat, or Gauguin. Such pieces are truly works of art, masterpieces of design. They are not merely items of adornment, but are pieces that move the beholder because of a distinctive quality that goes much deeper than merely being pretty.” 

- DrJ. Sataloff, Art Nouveau collector and Author.

The Art Nouveau (or new art) movement was developed partly in reaction against the industrial revolution during the later half of the 19th century, in Europe and America and partly against the sterile resuscitation of the Louis the 16th Style, a taste associated with an aristocratic and moneyed elite. Mass production, polluted cities and a more materialistic society, left many artists drained of creative inspirations and energy. Emerging from the conventions and restrictions of late Victorian era, the movement’s philosophy of freedom, emphasis on femininity and embracing nature was a great contrast to the stoicism and strict adherence to rules of society that defined European life during that time. Such distinctive and dominant themes of the Art Nouveau movement hence became a welcome radical change and a form of emotional release for some designers and artists.

The was name derived from an exhibition, “La Maison de l’Art Nouveau”, in December of 1895 in Paris. Organised by Siegfried Bing, a German art dealer in Paris, also known for having introduced Japanese Art to theWest, his gallery was dedicated to works by artists of what would become known as the Art Nouveau style.  The show had a deep impact in the community and created much discussion. Among those who participated were August Rodin, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Emile Galle and Rene Lalique.

Inextricably woven into the story of Art Nouveau is that of the symbolist movement, which had dominated Parisian literature and painting in the preceding decades. It’s proponents rejected materialism and naturalism and made freedom of the imagination supreme. Jean Moreas, a Greek-French Poet, declared In his manifesto of symbolism in 1886, that art should concern itself with ideas, emotion and beauty. The artistic realization of symbolist theory resulted in works full of mystery, suggestion and illusion. Often depicted are exotic creatures of the imagination, women with peacock feather tails or whose bodies metamorphose into griffins, sphinx or vast birds. The artists wished to present their ideas through the use of symbols that appealed to the emotions rather than the intellect.

While the Art Nouveau style may be found in drawings, architecture and furniture, there was a more profound influence on jewellery. More than any other medium, jewellery permitted a wide variety of styles, shapes, forms and materials, easily capturing the very essence of Art Nouveau. Featuring free curving lines, flowers and leaves seem to move and twist, birds and insects, mythical creatures flying or about to take flight. It was never a passive or static creation, always flowing and in harmony with nature.  The finest pieces of Art Nouveau Jewellery will bealive with emotional appeal and transmitting a sense of beauty not seen in any other type of jewellery. 

Prior to Art Nouveau, the female form had rarely been portrayed, but all the leading exponents of the period produced interesting interpretations of femininity. Often unclothed, with long sensual hair swirling, with a subdued or wistful looking face.  For the Art Nouveau artist, the female form represented harmony in life and art, but also reflected the hard-won emancipation and a women’s developing role in society. Women’s suffrage (the first wave of feminism) happened during this period and perhaps for these feminist, wearing such taboo styles was their way of making a statement about their need for change. The creations of top Art Nouveau jewellers such as Henri Vever, Georges Fouquet and Rene’ Lalique often combined female heads and figures with foliage, butterflies and exotic animals. 

Natural pearl, gem set and diamond brooch/ pendant, Georges Fouquet, Late 19th Century Designed as a lady with flowing hair and headdress, the face and hair composed of carved chalcedony, applied with plique-à-jour enamel and highlighted with cabochon and circular-cut rubies, circular-cut and rose diamonds, suspending a natural pearl, pendant loop, signed G. Fouquet and numbered, French assay marks, case, Fouquet. Estimate: GBP 12,000 — 15,000 LOT SOLD December 2012 . 97,250 GBP (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium). Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Natural pearl, gem set and diamond brooch/ pendant, Georges Fouquet, Late 19th Century

Designed as a lady with flowing hair and headdress, the face and hair composed of carved chalcedony, applied with plique-à-jour enamel and highlighted with cabochon and circular-cut rubies, circular-cut and rose diamonds, suspending a natural pearl, pendant loop, signed G. Fouquet and numbered, French assay marks, case, Fouquet.

Estimate: GBP 12,000 — 15,000 LOT SOLD December 2012 . 97,250 GBP (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium). Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

 

Insects became fantasy creatures, sometimes grotesque but more often exceptionally beautiful. The butterfly and the dragonfly were the most common insect motifs and were used in endless variations. The entwined, writhing serpent, the symbol of life, eternity and sexuality, were best captured by the artist-jewellers Rene Lalique, and Georges Fouquet. 

The flamboyant peacock was a recurrent motif depicting the voluptuous, rich plumage in densely coloured enamels.  Along with the majestic peacock, emerged the stately white swan and other bird motifs, including swooping swallows, cockerels, as well as eerie night creatures such as the owl and the bat. The imagery of fantasy was best illustrated by the mermaid, dragons, chimeras and griffins.

An 18 Karat Gold, Molded Glass and Enamel Ring, René Lalique, France Designed as a greenish blue glass face of Medusa, with blue and green enamel scales applied to the snake, gross weight approximately 10 dwts, size 8, signed Lalique, with French maker's mark; circa 1900. Estimate: USD 15,000 — 20,000  LOT SOLD SEPTEMBER 2016. USD 322,000 (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium) - Photo Courtesy of Sotheby's

An 18 Karat Gold, Molded Glass and Enamel Ring, René Lalique, France

Designed as a greenish blue glass face of Medusa, with blue and green enamel scales applied to the snake, gross weight approximately 10 dwts, size 8, signed Lalique, with French maker's mark; circa 1900.

Estimate: USD 15,000 — 20,000  LOT SOLD SEPTEMBER 2016. USD 322,000 (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium) - Photo Courtesy of Sotheby's

Miniature landscape scenes often form the backdrop to these motifs, and would contribute to the overall composition and emotion of the piece, whether it be a blue-grey melancholy sky or bright, beaming sun or gold rays.  Often scenes would portray a ripping lake, a floral garden or a dense, dark forest. The changing of the seasons or the cycles of the year was also a prominent theme, capturing the icy white of a stark winter or the russets and golds of the fall. Moreover, the play-of-light and colour combination would contribute to the overall scene of a stunning Art Nouveau jewel.

Along with the unique asthetics of Art Nouveau, new and never before used materials were experimented with in the making of Art Nouveau jewellery. Animal horn, ivory were baroque pearls, chosen for their artistic merit and not their intrinsic value. Semi-precious gemstones, which were rarely used in jewellery at that time, were valued for their colours which could compliment the design, corals, lapis lazuli, jade and also opals -- a popular gemstone because of its delicate shifting colours that appears to come alive. Whereas diamonds were considered ‘cold’ and used only as sides stones to enhance, the texture these new materials and techniques. 

Enamel was the most important material used in an Art Nouveau jewellery piece. The plique-a-jour technique was undoubtedly the most advanced and important form of the enamelling processes as well as the most difficult and delicate. In traditional enameling, a thin coat of powdered glass is applied to the surface of the metal, constructed in cells, like cloisonné, and then fired. While in plique-a-jour enameling, open spaces are filled with translucent colours; the enamel adhering to the cell walls. After firing, the backing that supports the enamel is removed and, when held up to light, the effect is similar to miniature stained glass windows. The resulting effect of different colours within the same cell is achieved either by varying the enamel amount applied or by layering one colour over another, much like a three dimensional painting.

While Art Nouveau was loved and enthralled by some, it was also scorned and ridiculed by others. Cartier, who were already well renowned Parisian jewellers by that time, never embraced the Art Nouveau movement. They instead produced pieces for the aristocrats and entrepreneurs, who preferred the pomp and splendors of diamond-set, 18th century revival styles, what is now known as “Belle Epoque” (or beautiful period) jewellery. Delicate, romantic, bows of all shapes, laces and flower and vines called “garland style” jewellery pieces, made with diamonds and precious stones. The “Belle Epoque” style began and ended at almost the same time as Art Nouveau. By around 1915, Art Nouveau was no longer fashionable and was succeeded by the Art Deco style, which in comparison was geometric and streamlined.

Many of the larger, more important Art Nouveau pieces made for the stage, or for exhibition purposes to showcase the jewellers skill, are now considered great masterpieces and can rarely be found in the jewellery market. Many are acquired by museums (most notably the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon) or have stayed in private collections. When they do appear at auction, they continue to exceed the auction estimates and have generally increased in value by around 30-40% in the last 10-15 years.

The number of collectors of Art Nouveau jewellery are slowly growing, and with an ever diminishing supply in the market, many are willing to pay a high premium for a piece of Art Nouveau jewellery, especially those with their fragile enamels in good condition. Although some have tried, these pieces absolutely cannot be replicated to the high standards of craftsmanship and design set by the French jewellers of the period. Some of the most beautiful pieces may not be wearable jewellery but collectors are happy to have them framed or displayed, like a piece of art or sculpture, and to feel emotionally fulfilled just to behold it’s allure and technical artistry, unlike any other jewellery style. 

An Art Nouveau Enamel and Pearl Corsage Ornament by George Fouquet Photo Courtesy of Christie's

An Art Nouveau Enamel and Pearl Corsage Ornament by George Fouquet

Photo Courtesy of Christie's

Enamel and diamond brooch, 'Hydrangea Petiolaris', René Lalique, circa 1900 Of floral and foliate design, the flowers set with circular-cut, cushion-shaped and rose diamonds, the leaves applied with light green plique-à-jour enamel, signed Lalique, brooch fitting detachable.  Enamel and diamond brooch, 'Hydrangea Petiolaris', René Lalique, circa 1900 Estimate: CHF 79,000 — 118,000 LOT SOLD November 2016. 212,500 CHF (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium) Photo Courtesy of Sotheby's

Enamel and diamond brooch, 'Hydrangea Petiolaris', René Lalique, circa 1900

Of floral and foliate design, the flowers set with circular-cut, cushion-shaped and rose diamonds, the leaves applied with light green plique-à-jour enamel, signed Lalique, brooch fitting detachable. 

Enamel and diamond brooch, 'Hydrangea Petiolaris', René Lalique, circa 1900

Estimate: CHF 79,000 — 118,000 LOT SOLD November 2016. 212,500 CHF (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)

Photo Courtesy of Sotheby's

On Vintage Jewellery - An Intern's First Impressions

RVJOComment

By Christina Khoudian

 

I was invited to intern at Revival Jewels after meeting Brenda at the Singapore Jewellery and Gem Fair. For a newly qualified gemologist, the experience has been an excellent learning journey, being able to touch, feel and examine such wonderful pieces of craftmanship. Being entirely new to the world of vintage jewellery, these are some of the pieces I fell instantly in love with, for their beauty, design, gemstones, history or intrigue; or as Brenda would often describe, "goosebump inducing jewellery". Enjoy!

An Edwardian Diamond Ring

I only had the pleasure of seeing this ring very briefly before it was sold. It is unsurprising really, as it was truly stunning. Usually a lover of coloured gemstones, I was taken aback by the intricate design and detail of this ring. The engraving down the sides of the ring perfectly complemented the ring’s fine detail and I adored the old European-cut diamonds, which have a circular outline and the same number of facets as a modern round brilliant (being the precursor to this modern industry standard), but were hand cut, with a high crown, small table and open culet. Old European-cuts were used as the main diamond style from the 1890's to the 1930's. There are many who prefer old-cut diamonds for their character and charm rather than modern diamonds that are cut to strict angles to maximise the return of light. The ethereal and delicate style of Belle Epoque and Edwardian jewellery was made possible by the invention of platinum in early 1900's, which allowed jewellers to create intricate embroidery and lace-like pieces which were strong, yet lightweight. 

An Edwardian Emerald, Diamond and Platinum Ring

Another Edwardian ring that I liked a lot is the emerald and diamond platinum ring centering on a 2.8ct vivid green emerald of very good clarity. Again it is mounted in a wonderfully detailed elongated mount with milgrain detailed edges and set all over with old European cut diamonds. There is a small amount of engraving around the emerald mounting, engraving around the sides of the ring and extending down the sides of the ring shank.

 

A Pair of Berlin Ironwork Earrings

These interesting earrings are steeped in history. Berlin ironwork jewellery was produced in Berlin from 1804 and remained popular until the 1840s. Between 1813 and 1814, the Prussian royal family urged citizens to give up their gold and silver jewellery to fund the uprising against Napoleon during the War of Liberation. In return, citizens received iron jewellery often with the inscription ‘Gold gab ich für Eisen’ (I gave gold for iron), or ‘Für das Wohl des Vaterlands’ (for the welfare of our country/fatherland). This jewellery was cast in delicate open work forms that often resemble lace, and covered in a lacquer which makes it black and shiny and prevents the iron from rusting. Its lasting appeal makes it easy to be worn with the fashions of today.

 

A Yellow Gold and Sapphire 'Abacus' Ring, by JAR, circa 1979

Joel Arthur Rosenthal is an enima, a master jeweller that has been described as the ‘Faberge of our time’. Very little is known about JAR, who famously dislikes interviews. JAR operates his jewellery business from Place Vendôme in Paris with black windows, no sign and no advertising. You cannot decide to go there and choose to buy, but rather must know someone who knows. Only a limited number of pieces are created per year and are one-offs or designed for a particular wearer. His jewellery is famous for its unusual design and innovative approach and often feature unusually shaped stones. What I like about this ring is the movement of the sapphire cabochons around the ring and how the whole piece has a fluidity that makes it more like wearing a piece of fabric than jewellery.

 

A Cultured Pearl and 18K Rabbit Jabot Pin, by Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef and Arpels are a famous French jewellery house known for producing some of the world's most stunning jewels and worn by style icons such as the Duchess of Windsor and Elizabeth Taylor. Animals have always been a recurring theme at the house of VCA and their menagerie of creatures have remained popular over the years. What I enjoyed most about this bunny jabot pin is for its whimsical factor and sweet appeal. I think it is a clever use of pearls, making them more lighthearted and youthful. 

 

A Pair of Art Deco Diamond and Jadeite Ear Pendants, circa 1925

Art Deco was a brilliant mishmash of different styles such as the cubism and fauvism art movements, the aesthetics of China, Japan, India, Persia, Ancient Egypt and Mesoamerican art, and even the Ballet Russes; resulting in thoroughly modern designs that were mostly linear, daring and geometric. These ear pendants have a platinum and old European-cut mounting with milgrain detailing. The mount is geometric in design following the Art Deco style, but I like this especially combined with the carved jadeite pea pods which lend the earrings softness. The translucency and soft mottled green colour of the jadeite combines well with the platinum and diamond mounts and gives the earrings a sophisticated and stylish look. I’ve seen my share of jadeite as a gemologist but these carvings are particularly attractive being flecked with different shades of green and their translucency might make you forget that they are not real and have just been plucked off a plant to adorn your ears!

 

Emerald and Diamond Brooch, by Marcus and Co.

Marcus and Co was an American luxury jeweller based in New York City from 1892 to 1962. This brooch is beautiful and so detailed, it was difficult to get a photo that would do the piece justice! Three beautiful bluish-green emeralds are the focus of the attention in the centre of the brooch but are wonderfully accented with diamond, milgrain and open work detailing. What impressed me greatly to learn about vintage jewellery was that pieces can often be worn in more than one way. This brooch, for example, has a tiny screw that removes the brooch pin mounting, and a loop that flips out, enabling the piece to be worn as a pendant. The attention to detail and thoughtful design is simply astounding. A piece that can be worn in multiple ways would definitely attract me to buy vintage in the future.

 

Art Deco Sapphire and Diamond Brooch

Sapphire with diamond is a wonderfully classic combination in jewellery that creates a refined elegance. This lovely Art Deco Brooch has five French cut diamonds, a cut which I had not come across prior to my internship. Dating back to the 1400's, French cuts typically have 18 to 24 facets. They evolved from table cuts, one of the oldest diamond cuts. French cuts regained popularity in the Art Deco period where they complemented the geometric designs typical of that time. The sapphires in this piece are referred to as calibré cut, which means they have been cut precisely to fit into the jewellery design (as opposed to using pre-cut stones) - a technique often used in Art Deco jewellery. This type of technical expertise and attention to detail can rarely be found today. 

Couturier Visionaire - Pierre Sterlé

RVJOComment

One of the most important masters in modern jewellery design, Pierre Sterlé was an originative designer and a true visionary. He broke new ground with his unique and elegant designs, earning himself the title of 'couturier of jewellery'. Although he could not sketch, he conveyed his ideas to a team of designers such as Jacques Desnoues and Yves Poussielgues, who faithfully brought them to life. He was inspired by nature -  flowers, birds, leaves, feathers, arrows and bows featured predominantly in his work. His clientele included Parisian literati, high society and royalty.

Photo of Pierre Sterlé. Courtesy of Peter Edwards Jewels

 

Sterlé was born in 1905 into a banking family. His father died in the First World War and Sterlé was sent to live with his uncle Maynier-Pincon, a jeweller in Paris who owned a shop on rue de Castiglione. It was there that he was introduced to the jewellery profession, learning his skills in his uncle’s workshop.

Sterlé demonstrated a prodigious talent. In 1934,  at the age of 29, he opened his first salon on rue Sainte Anne in Paris. He also designed and manufactured jewellery for many distinguished jewellery houses such as Chaumet, Boucheron, Ostertag and Puiforcat. Nobel laureate, the writer Colette, became one of his first clients.

He was the inventor of a jewellery technique known as fil d’ange or ‘angel wire’, a gold plaiting technique where he crafted gold wire into fine ropes. This allowed him to create fringes of fox-tail chains that became a signature of his style and which he used to great effect, particularly on his bird brooches. He was sometimes playfully nicknamed ‘the torturer of wire’ as he formed metals into previously unseen forms. The rope or chain mail-like effect created a delicate sense of fluidity and movement and which was so unique at that time; made his designs come to life and imbued them with a sense of energy and vitality.

The chain was often used to represent the feathers on his bird brooches, fins on fish and stamens of flowers or anywhere he wanted to create a sense of movement in his pieces. Sterlé also enjoyed juxtaposing several textures and shades of gold to create a multi-dimensional piece. Grandiose and asymmetrical forms were also typical of his style. His daring combinations of colour together with precious and semi precious stones were considered unusual and some of Sterlé’s most iconic pieces are his birds with bodies of pearl, coral or other colourful stones. 

A Multi-Gem Diamond and Gold Bird Brooch, by Sterlé
Price Realised USD $40,291 (estimate 20,225 - 30,338) Christie's 15th November, 2016, Geneva

 

The designs of Sterlé soon travelled far and wide and as his reputation grew he began to accept more individual commissions and by 1939 he was exclusively creating jewellery for private clients. In 1945 he opened a third floor show room on avenue de l’Opera. Here he could better accommodate his clientele, which included prominent collectors of the time such as King Farouk of Egypt who commissioned a remodelling of the crown jewels for his wife; the Maharani of Baroda, and President Vargas of Brazil. His makers mark has the facade of the Opera on it.

Sterlé’s success carried on into the 1950s where his designs captured the luxurious spirit of the era. Jewellery in particular of this era had a sense of movement and lightness and often centred around nature inspired themes. Gold was worked into cloth-like patterns by twisting and weaving. Parures - matching sets of three or more jewellery items, came back into fashion and he created the most beautiful parures and demi-parures. 

A Citrine, Diamond and Gold Demi-Parure, Pierre Sterlé. Comprising a necklace and bracelet, the graduated necklace designed as a wreath of leaves set with pear-shaped citrines, the spines set with single-cut and round diamonds, the bracelet of similar design enhanced by a gold link tassel accented by round diamonds at the terminals; mounted in 18 karat yellow gold, with French assay marks.

A Suite of 18K Gold and Diamond Jewellery, Sterlé (Available at www.revivaljewels.com)

His diamond pieces are supremely elegant and graceful. He favoured using the sparkle of brilliant cut diamonds together with clean baguette cuts in the same piece to create contrast. Even in pieces with no movement the designs shows a sense of fluidity. He won the DeBeers Diamond Award three years in a row from 1953-1955.

A Bangle-Bracelet, by Pierre Sterlé, circa 1950

 

Unfortunately due to a series of misfortunes, and an unsuccessful attempt to diversify into perfume, Sterlé was forced to sell many of his designs to Chaumet and Montreaux (New York). He managed to recover and exhibited a successful display at the 1966 Paris Biennale where his jewellery caused a sensation. Previously Sterlé had been against opening a retail store but inspired by the success of the Paris show, he did open a boutique in 1969 on rue Saint-Honore. The demands and cost the store proved too heavy and in 1976, he declared bankruptcy. Sterlé became a technical advisor for Chaumet and they bought his remaining unsold stock. Some of his jewellery from this period is also signed by Chaumet but still have Sterlé’s distinct style and design. Sterlé worked for Chaumet until his death in 1978.

We've moved!

Brenda KangComment

We are in the midst of moving, and our new showroom will be ready to receive you from the 8th of December onwards. 

Our new address is at: 

501 Orchard Road #04-05B
Wheelock Place
Singapore 238880
Tel: +65 6635 1735

Hope to see you soon!

In Retro - The Glamorous 40's

RVJOComment

"Retro" jewellery as we know today, was a term coined by Francois Curiel, head of the jewellery department at Christie's New York in the 1970's to distinguish jewellery produced in the late 1930's to 1950's from contemporary jewellery. As the world felt the ravages and changes brought about by World War II, jewellery designers in Europe and America responded by creating jewellery that was bolder, brighter and more exuberant. To complement the austerity of wartime fashions and to assuage the sombre mood felt during the war, jewellery designs became more curvilinear and featured motifs that were feminine and lighthearted; a striking difference from the Art Deco style.

Late 1930's fashion. Women wore long sleek suits with feminine adornments such as bows and ribbons.
Image source: http://www.missmoss.co.za/2010/08/05/1930s-fashion/

1940's utility fashion during the war. Hemlines were shortened for ease of movement; due in part to the rationing of fabric.
Image source: http://glamourdaze.com/2009/08/1940s-fashion-womens-dress-code.html

Hollywood star, Joan Crawford in the 1940's. Coordinating skirt and jacket suits, large shoulders, and cinched waists were the order of the day.
Image source: http://www.instyle.co.uk/fashion/trends/1940s-fashion-a-decade-in-style-icons

 

Platinum was scarce and gold became the metal of choice. Materials for new jewellery were hard to come by and many people sent their old jewellery to be refashioned. Jewellers came up with ingenious ways to create a "bigger look for less" and commonly used highly polished low karat gold alloys, in yellow, rose and green; setting them with large colourful gemstones such as amethysts, aquamarines, citrines and topazes. As designers looked both to the past and future for inspiration, bow and ribbon brooches made a huge resurgence, albeit in sculptural and larger forms. Sunburst and floral motifs of the Victorian era were boldly reinvented, often applied to large clip-on earrings. Modern tank treads and assembly lines were translated into chunky bracelets that were ahead of their time. Whimsical charm bracelets, as well as cocktail rings in bombe and boule style were all the rage. Gold was manipulated in a multitude of ways; tubogas, woven, braided and coiled. The convertible jewellery trend - necklaces, bracelets and double clips remained highly popular well into the 1960's.

 

From L - R: An 18K Yellow Gold and Diamond "Moineau" Clip Brooch, by Rene Boivin, 1945 (Available at www.revivaljewels.com); A Retro Yellow Gold Necklace, by Fred, circa 1940's (Available at www.revivaljewels.com); Retro Amethyst and Gold Earrings; A Retro Diamond and Pink Gold Bow Brooch, by Tiffany & Co., 1940's (www.revivaljewels.com); An 18K Retro Yellow Gold "Tank Track" Bracelet, circa 1940's (www.revivaljewels.com)

 

Cartier, with Jean Toussaint at its helm, started moving away from Art Deco and began creating figurative work in the late 1930's. Always at the forefront of fashion, she was one of the first to bring yellow gold back in fashion. Toussaint felt that jewellery needed to be based on joy, and created a series of whimsical birds that Cartier became known for. Flamingoes and parrots were her favourite. In 1940, the house introduced a caged bird, a symbol of resistance against the Nazi occupation. Days after the liberation of Paris, a version with a bird poised for flight, with the cage door open, appeared in Cartier's windows. While touring in Africa, Toussaint came across panther and was inspired to create the first "Panthere" brooch for the Duchess of Windsor.

From L to R: The Duchess of Windsor wears her Flamingo Brooch, by Cartier; Bird in a Cage Brooch, by Cartier; A Gem Set and Diamond Brooch, by Cartier, 1940's; An 18K Gold Clip and Bangle-Bracelet Combination, Cartier, Paris, circa 1940; An Aquamarine, Diamond and Rose Gold Bracelet, by Cartier, 1940's; A Gold Panther Brooch, 1940's; A Gem Set Bird Brooch, by Cartier

 

Van Cleef & Arpels invented the mystery setting in 1933, and went on to introduce the iconic Ludo Hexagone - an articulated ribbon of small hexagones, in 1935. The design was mostly applied to bracelets and watches, and matching double clips and earrings. An incredible success, it was produced until the 1950's. Equally emblematic Van Cleef & Arpels pieces included the Pivoine Clip - a double clip in the mystery setting, the revolutionary Zip Necklace - first commissioned by the Duchess of Windsor as a tribute to the newly invented zipper; the Passe-Partout Necklace, and the Ballerina and Fairy collection of clips. The Hawaii Collections, a series of small clips and rings, with the patriotic colours of red, blue and white proved to be popular during and after the war.

From L to R: A Gold and Ruby Ludo-Hexagone Bracelet, by Van Cleef & Arpels and The Pivoine Clip; Spirit of Beauty Fairy Clip in Platinum Set with Rubies, Emeralds and Diamonds, circa 1944; The Passe-Partout Necklace in Sapphire, Ruby and Gold, which can be detached to be worn as bracelet, belt and clips; A Ruby, Sapphire and Diamond "Hawaii" Brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels, 1940's; A Cadenas Watch, by Van Cleef & Arpels, 1935Ballerina Clip, by Van Cleef & Arpels, 1943A Drawing and Gold Zip Necklace, by Van Cleef & Arpels. The necklace is detachable into a bracelet, 1951.

 

Hollywood glamour was at its peak and actors and actresses were setting the trends and fashion for the masses, instead of European royalty as before. Jewels from American jewellers such as Paul Flato, Trabert & Hoeffer - Mauboussin, Verdura and Tiffany & Co. were worn by celebrities both on and off screen. To escape the war, many European jewellers had emigrated to America, setting up their businesses amidst the booming economy. The import of European jewellery making techniques helped American jewellers take their creations to a higher level.

From L to R: Joan Benett, wearing her collection of Flato clips; Doris Day, in a striped t-shirt, blazer over shoulders, wearing chunky necklace and a brooch,  Merle Oberon, wearing a necklace resembling the Passe-Partout by Van Cleef & Arpels; Joan Crawford, making a statement with a floral dress, wearing a large pendant and chunky bracelet; A Pink Topaz Flora and Fauna Motif Clip Brooch, Verdura; A Diamond and Platinum Double Clip Brooch, by Trabert & Hoeffer - Mauboussin, circa 1940; A Citrine and Gold Necklace, by Fulco di Verdura; A Suite of Jewellery, by Tiffany & Co., 1940's

 

Once the war had ended, jewellery reverted to a more understated and traditional look. Platinum was widely available again and the marketing work by De Beers and Harry Winston saw an increased demand for diamond and platinum jewellery. Jewellers continued developing their pre-war designs, and 1950's jewellery featured more spirals, textures and flourishes. By the swinging 60's, Retro jewels went entirely out of style. Today, Retro jewellery is still very much loved and collectible as they represent a unique and exceptionally creative period in history; and their versatility and timelessness lend an interesting twist to contemporary dress.