The Power of Accessories: Luxury Vintage Jewellery Trends

WGSN, January 23, 2003

The luxury jewellery industry is currently seeing something of a revival with established houses, such as Garrard and Boucheron, undergoing dramatic revivals. London is also playing host to various exhibitions and fashion auctions covering the work of exclusive jewellers such as Joel Arthur Rosenthal and Verdura.

WGSN spoke to Sotheby’s jewellery expert, Helen Molesworth and YOOX.com’s curator Holly Brubach about vintage-inspired luxury jewellery trends.

Sotheby’s Passion for Fashion auction
Taking place in November every year, the Sotheby’s Passion for Fashion auction is turning into a regular fashion event, with stylists and designers looking at the key pieces coming up for auction. This year, the auction’s catalogue dedicates its entire first section, not to clothes, but to jewellery. WGSN spoke to Sotheby’s jewellery expert, Helen Molesworth.

What are the most popular styles of jewellery up for auction this year?
Diamonds are as strong as ever, both simple-yet-chic single stone rings and showy, pavè-set JAR-inspired pieces. The clean lines of platinum art deco pieces are very strongly sought after. Signed pieces are always a favourite, especially those by Cartier, VCA and Boucheron. Antique jewels are still popular when wearable and well-made and, in general, any well-made jewel which is stylistic of the period.

Do you see the influence of various pieces and/or styles filtering down into popular fashion?
Art nouveau is extremely popular, especially since the millennium, and possibly strengthened by the popularity of Chloé. Art deco has been strong for some time and will doubtless continue, complementing a relatively modern, minimalistic appreciation that has been seen for some time now.

There is a much more recent appreciation of mid-to-late 20th-century jewellery, balancing the glamour of big 1950s diamond-set pieces with the more fun and funky creations of the 60s and 70s – the latter being a period that today’s new collectors relate to. This is what Passion for Fashion is all about.

What is your personal favourite piece of vintage jewellery on sale?
I have so many! Favourite is lot 7, the art nouveau pendant by Georges Fouquet, which is going to be extremely interesting to see sell as it is estimated at only £600-800. Georges Fouquet was an incredible artist – a real craftsman jeweller – who often worked with the likes of Alphonse Mucha. His jewels are expressive, full of life movement and realism and always beautifully made. This one is well chased and engraved and I love the organic feel to the turquoise within the realistic gold leaf border.

I also love lot 2, the antique topaz necklace, as I think the beautiful pink is still as wearable today as over 100 years ago The same can be said for lot 88, the paste cross, which shows that the Victorians enjoyed jewellery for its look – just as much as we do today. And to be able to own a Victorian pendant for as little as £300!

YOOX.com’s vintage collection
“Good fashion never dies,” was YOOX.com’s motto when it started selling vintage clothing and accessories on its website in autumn 2001, and which provides a good insight into key vintage jewellery trends relevant to contemporary fashion. WGSN speaks to curator Holly Brubach, former style editor of the New York Times, about its latest sale, The Power of Accessories, which debuted in November 2002.

YOOX Vintage runs the gamut from museum-quality items by the greatest designers of the last century to anonymous “finds,” which are all chosen for their timeless appeal and relevance to what’s happening in fashion at the moment. In YOOX’s Vintage Museum, visitors can tour an online archive which houses some one hundred of the most memorable vintage pieces that have appeared for sale on the site.

What are the most popular styles of vintage jewellery sold on YOOX.com?
We sell everything from whimsical period pieces, like 50s brooches in the shape of a dog or a riding crop, to glamorous designs with real historical significance, like a pair of faux emerald and pearl drop earrings from 1960 by Robert Goossens for Chanel – identical to ones that Chanel herself was photographed wearing.

There is avid interest in “name-brand” costume jewellery, like Miriam Haskell, Trifari, Boucher and Monet. In our current sale, jewellery by fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix and Valentino is also proving popular.

For the most part, YOOX’s customers buy vintage to wear it, so I like to think this broad response reflects the contemporary viability and ongoing relevance of all these different styles.

Do you see the influence of various pieces and/or styles filtering down into other levels of popular fashion?
Well, the more vintage you see, the more you recognise a conversation between the past and present in what designers are producing today. What’s fascinating to me about the current interest in jewellery is that it comes after a dearth of jewellery, and of accessories in general, on the runways. As recently as seven years ago, at the height of minimalism, anything but a pair of small, simple silver earrings looked vulgar. Now we’ve regained our appetite for glitter.

What are your predictions for upcoming jewellery and accessory trends?
I think the high-voltage pieces will continue to make a strong comeback – more stones, more gold, more diamonds – as fashion persists in reviving the 80s. The Chanel pieces in particular look good again.

What is your favourite piece of vintage jewellery sold on YOOX.com?
Do I get only one? I’m crazy about the stuff Robert Goossens did for Balenciaga and Chanel – particularly one brooch with big flat oval “pearls” (60s Chanel) and another in the shape of a Maltese cross, with red and green stones (80s Chanel).

Most women feel like their mother the minute they put on a brooch, but I love the fact that Chanel wore brooches with necklaces, defying the laws of good taste and piling on everything at once. There’s also a spectacular Yves St Laurent lariat that consists of five ropes of real amethyst beads, to loop and tie front or back, that is to me the absolute height of a certain kind of offhand chic for evening.

Key Influences:

1. “Name-brand” costume jewellery; Miriam Haskell, Trifari, Boucher and Monet
2. Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix and Valentino are also proving popular
3. High-voltage pieces will continue to make a strong comeback; more stones, more gold, more diamonds, as fashion persists in reviving the 80’s
4. Chanel pieces look good again; particularly Robert Goossens work for both Balenciaga and Chanel
5. Diamonds are as strong as ever; both simple-but-chic single-stone rings and showy, pavè-set JAR-inspired pieces
6. The clean lines of platinum art deco pieces are very strongly sought after
7. Signed pieces are always a favourite, especially those by Cartier, VCA and Boucheron
8. Art nouveau is extremely popular, especially since the millennium, and possibly strengthened by Chloe
9. Mid-to-late 20th-century jewellery, balancing the glamour of big 50s diamond-set pieces with the more fun-and-funky 60s and 70s creations

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