The Best Books About Fashion Jewelry and “Jewelry for Haute Couture”

Fashion Jewelry Archive

In it’s most pure form fashion jewelry is literally the costume jewelry that walks the runways every season along with its haute couture counterparts. Side note: sometimes when referring to haute couture fashion jewelry, the term is used out of context.  Couture jewelry may have been made for a specific haute couture fashion show, but more often it is made by a designer/artist specifically for a client who is a couturier ( a designer/brand that has been legally defined as so because the design house has met rigid French requirements).  Constructed by hand in most cases, by the most skilled designers and artisans working together for couturiers, some of the finest vintage jewelry was made…  The roots of haute couture jewelry began in France before the 20s, with Paul Pioret and Vionnet using the idea of selling a whole couture outfit. They would create the jewelry or hire producers like Griopix to make a piece specifically for the outfit or client. Yet, the idea of replacing fine luxury status jewelry with “imitation” has and always will be somewhat a matter of taste. While it seems in the mid 20s and beyond the makers of jewelry for haute couture were overshadowed by their clients: Chanel, Schiaparelli, Lanvin etc… artists like Roger Scemama, who created couture fashion jewelry have begun to take their place in history. Per the basic French definition- the designer creating haute couture must be established as a house producing and a showing a set number of items per season. They go as far to say that house must have a working location in Paris and meet legal requirements.  Thus, one of a kind Robert Goossens jewelry for the runway or those he made for specifically for one of Chanel’s clients would be an example of haute couture fashion jewelry made for a certified couturier. We do use the term loosely here in the U.S. Since pieces of privately commissioned fine jewelry may seem to fit this definition, it is important to state, that all those fine examples in some instances could be considered fashion jewelry, but not couture- because they are produced by jewelers not established elite fashion houses who were certified couturiers. I wanted to sort of make sure we define fashion, fine and haute couture jewelry all in relationship to one another and this list of texts I have complied will help to do so.

The most practical way to address the idea of haute couture jewelry today, might be to take the term “high fashion jewelry”, as Florence Muller uses it in Costume Jewelry for Haute Couture, and apply it to couture quality examples made outside of French couturiers. Thus reserving jewelry for haute couture for the true pieces and high fashion jewelry for others.  Florence explains more about the complexities. In summary of her words on page  9,  the “couture jewelry” created for runway looks were often uncredited examples of the “paruriers” in relationship to the publicly praised fashion houses they created for, the pieces often just being signed made in France. This makes defining and understanding couture jewelry a bit complex. Also, what of the couture quality pieces not produced in Paris? I think the definition of haute couture jewelry that she gives on the jacket cover is perhaps a great building block:

“From Coco Chanel in the 1920s to Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s to Lanvin today, haute couture costume jewelry has been an eye-catching accessory to enhance a designer’s vision. The dazzling one of a kind jewelry was designed by skilled artisans to complement and adorn individual couture pieces for fashion shows and photo shoots”( Costumer Jewelry for Haute Couture, Florence Muller).

Veterans like Erickson Beamon personify the current genre of fashion jewelry.  The one of a kind examples made by hand I witness for Anna Sui S/S 2015 collection would fit right in that definition of high fashion jewelry. “High fashion jewelry” can also be used to describe these runway and one of a kind creations by the likes of Goossens and his son today. Although some would fall into the definition of couture when created under those specifications discussed..while others would just be fashion jewelry. As the demand for fashion jewelry grew they produced a couture line and a fashion line produced off of the runway models each season in larger quantities.  Houses, designers, and brands such as Dior, Chanel, Coppola e Toppo, Gripoix, Lanvin, Kenneth Jay Lane, Pierre Cardin, Robert Goosens, Schiaparelli, Mimi di N  and many others have forged the foundation for our notions about how fashion relates to jewelry. To me the basic use of the term fashion jewelry is really about costume jewelry that has taken an extra step. Perhaps it is successful costume jewelry that pays homage to fashion history and future, plays with scale, has whimsey, a certain taste level and attention to design…. When discussing fashion jewelry in relationship to costume- a great foundational quote would be:

“Whether they were produced in minute made-to-order quantities for French fashion houses or in considerable numbers for mass market in America, these jewels fabricated in non precious stones, continue to amaze by their constant originality, their joyful exuberance, and their ingenious compositions. Without the financial constraints and technical obligations of priceless gems, costume jewelry provided the perfect creative freedom for designers to express an astonishing spectrum of signature styles, continually evolving with the latest fashion trends. Instead of concentrating on the size cut, and clarity of a stone, a myriad of costume jewelers developed true expressions and unique creation. In a reversal of roles that pays wonderful tribute to their inventiveness, contemporary fine jewelry is now inspired directly by the whimsical imagination and structural liberties of costume pieces” Pamela Golbin, Forward for Fashion Jewelry The Collection of Barbara Berger.

Snapshot from inside of the Fashion Jewelry book, by Harice Simons Miller, from my collection. Image by Pablo Esteva.

Snapshot from inside of the Fashion Jewelry book, by Harice Simons Miller, from my collection. Image by Pablo Esteva.

Thus beyond what is created for the runway or even couturiers lets look at- “costume jewelry” examples by brands from Trifari to Kenneth Jay Lane. They have also created great examples of fashion jewelry. With that said I would not call everything Trifari has created fashion jewelry. Now what about “fine” fashion jewelry, isn’t that contradictory? One could argue that for the sake of what’s happening in terms of contemporary jewelry design we must entertain it…. Well, beyond the stones and scale- what is most important to a successful piece of fine jewelry influenced by fashion?  I think it is about design, as it references fashion trends/styles in its fine form.  I think if there is an era where fine jewelry has a turning point towards fashion, it is the late 50s-60s, ushered in part by creative fashion inspired patrons who started bringing in commissions to fine jewelers such as Van Cleef & Arpels.

This idea of a “fine” fashion influenced jewelry evolution is interesting… also with jewelers who began using fine metals and less precious stones, woods, shells and such like Verdura, David Webb, Grima, Seaman Shepps…etc. Overall though the scale to obtain the whimsey of fashion jewelry is limited by the monetary worth of the medium.  Currently, we are now seeing a flip in terms of fine and fashion jewelry with “lesser” metals so to speak (like silvers, rhodium, brass) mixed with diamonds- fine and precious stones.

So as the term fashion jewelry evolves: here are some great texts for avid admirers and beginners alike. 

Fashion and Couture Jewelry Texts:

Costume Jewelry for Haute Couture. Florence Muller. Edited by Patrick Sigal. Vendome Press. New York.  -This latest 2007 edition, with the green jewelry cover can be hard to find -current examples are found here. Explore the links and be sure to ask for the edition you want.  The first in 2006 by Grand Hornu press, I believe had a cream colored necklace on the cover. It is found now on ebay.
* I have embedded links to amazon and other sources for purchase when possible. Also some are not in English so take note when ordering:
The Art of Fashion Accessories: A Twentieth Century Retrospective. 1993 Joanne Dubbs Ball/ Dorothy Hehl Torem.
Jewelry by Chanel. 2012. Patrick Mauriès
Dior Joaillerie. 2012. Michele Heuze. Victoire de Castellane.
American Fashion Accessories. 2008. by Candy Pratts PriceJessica GlasscockArt Tavee.
Drawing Jewels for Fashion. 2011. Carol Woolton  
Maison Goosens. Haute Couture Jewelry. Patrick Mauries. Thames & Hudson.
Dior. The three set series. published by Assouline. Specifically the Jewelry edition inside. Unfortunately cannot be purchased separately, but if you like Dior this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Vintage Jewelry Design: Classics to Collect & Wear (Vintage Fashion Series), 2011
by Caroline Cox and Gerda Flockinger.
Fashion for Jewels: 100 Years of Styles and Icons. 2010. Carol Woolton.
Fashion Jewelry, The Collection of Barbara Berger. 2013
Fashion Jewellery: Made in Italy Hardcover.  2013.
Jewels of Fantasy: Costume Jewelry of the 20th Century. 1992.
Coppola e Toppo. 2010.
Fashion Jewelry: Catwalk and Couture.  2010.
by Maia Adams  
Books that Bridge the World of Costume and Fashion Jewelry:
Bijoux Paperback by Deanna Farneti Cera  
Miller’s Costume Jewellery, Hardcover, 2012. Judith Miller.
Fabulous Fakes: A Passion for Vintage Costume Jewelry 2006. Carole Tanenbaum.
Kenneth Jay Lane. Faking it. By Kenneth Jay Lane. 1996. Harry N Abrams.
21st Century Jewellery Designers: An Inspired Style, 2013. Juliet Weir-de la Rouchefoucauld
Vintage Jewelry Design. Classics to Collect and Wear. Caroline Cox. 2010. Lark Crafts.
Jewelry of the Stars. Creations from Joseff of Hollywood. Joanne Dubbs Ball. 1991.
Miriam Haskell Jewelry. Cathy Gordon & Sheila Pamfiloff- Schiffer. 2nd Edition. (Haskell, really bridges that space in her designs and watercolor ads which featured fashions of the time with her jewelry).

Image from The Couture Accessory, snapshot of the book, inside pages of The Couture Accessory images.

Books of Specific Interest Related to Fashion Accessories:
The Couture Accessory. Caroline Rennolds Milbank. Harry N. Abrams.
Daphne Guinness, 2011 by Valerie SteeleAccompanied the Fit exhibit, I included it her for fashion fans, such as myself, and to highlight her use of accessories in the book’s images.
Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People. 2014 by Hamish Bowles.  
Lou Lou de La Falaise. Ariel de Ravenel. Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni. 2014.
Vogue: The Editor’s Eye, 2012, by Conde Nast (Author), Anna Wintour (Foreword)
Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry by Elizabeth Taylor.
20th Century Jewelry & the Icons of Style, 2013 Stefano Papi, Alexandra Rhodes.
Vintage Fashion and Couture. Kerry Taylor. 2013.
Bejeweled: Great Designers, Celebrity Style, by: Penny Proddow, Marion Fasel
Fine Jewelry Books With a Fashion Approach:
Diamonds. A Century of Spectacular Jewels. Penny Proddow and Marion Fasel. 1996.
Extraordinary Jewels by John Traina. 1994.
The Windsor Style. Suzy Menkes. Salem House.
by: Hans Nadelhoffer
Boucheron: The Secret Archives. 2012
The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita and Beyond, 2013
Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, 2011
Bulgari Serpenti, 2013, by Marion Fasel
Van Cleef & Arpels: Treasures and Legends, 2014
by Vincent Meylan  (Author)
Cartier and America. 2010. Martin Chapman.
 Tiffany & Co. Hardcover – 10 Nov 1997
*Originally published January 2015.
Feel free to comment about or add texts we might have missed below. We’d love to hear from you concerning your favorites too!

The Jewels of Sunset Boulevard

“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small”….Sunset Boulevard (1950), remains an iconic film Noir classic and winner of three Academy Awards.  If you haven’t seen Gloria Swanson’s epic portrayal of Norma Desmond, an aging silent film star you must, you really must!  There are parallels of course for Swanson age 50 in the film, as she was indeed a major star with Paramount in the 20s having worked with DeMille before.  She, in her denial of her faded popularity, sucks the viewer into her delusional world with the power of great acting, and yes… a chic wardrobe filled with intensely stunning accessories.  The costume design and accessorizing done by Edith Head of course! Having completed my doctorate degree in visual anthropology and taught a course on it, the importance of what media reveals about cultures through images and material culture is vast.

Joe, the struggling writer, played by William Holden is certainly sucked into her gilded cage from the time he pulls into her mansion’s driveway.  While the once lux home is showing signs of its age outside, underneath it all Norma still has lots of cash-so to speak. However; its the camera and love that she still craves.   While there have been various articles about the famous film… I mean her devoted butler is a whole other story analysis….

However; I would argue that the inside house decor and her wardrobe are important characters as well!  The home provides a decadent Noir visual feast as does Norma herself, in one dramaticly and well accessorized old hollywood outfit after another. She seemingly comes out accessorized one way, but then slowly reveals more as the camera pans to other layers of jewels that the viewer just didn’t see at first glance. While it is all a bit over the top, there are some inspiring pieces to behold.

There really is a whole complex article to be written about what this film says about our culture, but let’s stick to the jewelry facts!

I give you my favorite accessorizes from Norma’s Noir closet-



Norma as she pulls Joe into her private New Year’s party. Notice the stack of amazing deco arm candy and that brooch which appears as the camera pans wider. Sarara Couture, screen shot.

NormaNewYears Eve

One of my favorite shots from the film: the New Year’s Eve party as it ends. The jewels could be a mix of fine and paste, but either way they are stunning. Sarara Couture, screen shot.



Earlier scene between Joe and Norma as she lounges in this interesting scarf necklace. Screen shot, Sarara Couture.

And then she finally completely looses it in the final scene, but not before she adds an amazing serpent arm cuff–


The final bow for Norma, as she descends the stairs amongst the police. She is ready for the final closeup. Notice the glam long Egyptian Assuit shawl, popular int he 1920s. As she comes down the stairs we see how long it is and what is attached. Screen Shot, Sarara Couture.



Again another, fab glam brooch and the most fantastic Egyptian revival Snake armband. Again, drawing on her image as a silent film star during the golden age. The importance of these accessories in setting the mood is fundamental. Screen shot, Sarara Couture.

*Some of her iconic jewels and accessories used in this film were auctioned off in 1983 by William Doyle Auction House.




Watches Are Dead? Not So Fast

In this increasingly technology and time obsessed world, it seems that one need only look to their iphone for the time….. But what’s the fun in that?  Lately, after spying some wonderful costume and fine art deco era watches with hidden faces, I had been rethinking the watch. Many of these were created with appearance of a well designed chunky link bracelet or cuff.

1970s Piaget malachite watch.

1970s Piaget malachite watch, available via

This week’s finds focuses on a watch to make you want to wear them all over again.  I spotted it on when I ventured into their large array of vintage watches.  Stand out examples on the site included stunning 20s platinum pieces and an amazing 1930s women’s rolex, seen above.  However, the Piaget that caught my eye was not to be outdone. It’s 18k gold “esclave” style thick woven cuff band, malachite face and overall 1970s swagger, make it a tough one to beat.  Created in the early 1970’s and designed by Jean-Paul Gueit. Icons like Elizabeth Taylor favored the brand. Jean-Paul is still at Piaget today. Similar designs are in museums and private collections.

Turquoise and Lapis example from the gallery. Image by Piaget.

Turquoise and Lapis example from the gallery. Image by Piaget.

The Piaget headquarters house similar important era examples at their “galleries” in Geneva, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The brand was started in 1874 by Georges-Edouard Piaget at the age of 19. If you like the look of their watches, then you should see some of the other jewelry pieces found in the online gallery of exhibit quality and collection examples seen here.

The coveted malachite watch goes on the auction block available to online bidders via the platform and auction house A.B. Levy’s, Jan 22nd with a $4,000 starting bid. Now that’s a watch to bring the sexy back to telling time!

Similar vintage Piaget example from the gallery. Image by Piaget.

Similar vintage Piaget example from the gallery. Image by Piaget.


Gold coral watch necklace example from the gallery. Image by Piaget.

Gold coral watch necklace example from the gallery. Image by Piaget.

Lynn Ban Opens Her Online Boutique

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 5.06.06 PM

Lynn Ban Website –

I must admit I’m crushing on her scarab ring, but I’m in good company. The accessories maven has a line of music and rock princesses wearing her bangles, necklaces, and stacked rings. Lynn’s personal style is as inspiring as her collection. Her instagram account provides visual stimulation with a constant array of Lynn’s vintage accessories, fashion and couture clothing styled in amazing ways. Not to mention the images of Rihanna, Lorde, Fergie and more wearing her jewelry while rocking and rolling. Her gold armbands were featured on Christy Turlington in Porter Magazine, but so was her (well sort of her son’s) own personal John Galliano Top hat, as seen below via Porter magazine. It’s those kind of unexpected details that make her style and jewelry so alluring.

Her goods are already sold worldwide in some impressive stores; but I’m excited to have them readily available on her own site

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 5.07.02 PM

Lynn Ban scarab and assorted rings, via, rights reserved.