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.
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.