Museum Life: Fashion jewellery

Back at work for a new year and ideas and plans have well and truly been floating around the office. Exhibition concepts, public programs and hopes for the year to come have dominated meetings and discussions.

In my work world I have started preparing for a major upcoming exhibition on jewellery. Working closely with the curator I am also completing some research on fashion jewellery in the mid-20th Century. From Schiaparelli necklaces, similar to the pieces featuring in Tove’s post on Insect Fashions to ‘shooting star’ Chanel neckpieces I am currently researching the influence, significance and impact of fashion jewellery last century.

I have to admit; this isn’t an area that I know much about, so this is where you come in. I would like use this opportunity to source information from Worn Through readers. So please feel free to suggest previous exhibitions, publication and other resources. 

  1. Who are the key 20th Century fashion designers producing costume jewellery?
  2. What keys pieces, concepts, techniques and materials should be represented in this research?
I look forward to hearing from you.

First image: Necklace, House of Chanel, metal, 1947, Collection: Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA




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  • Phyllis January 19, 2013 07.32 am

    Well I don’t know if this designer is key but he certainly made stunning fashion jewelry. Howard Benedikt had store in New York City at 389 Fifth Avenue from the late 50’s to the early 70’s. His pieces are always marked and he specialized in showy brooches, bracelets and earrings. I have two Pinterest boards dedicated to this work because I collect it:

    One for his Maltese cross brooch, which was made in several colors:

    And another on his other designs:

    Benedikt NY pieces turn up on Ebay all the time and they are not expensive even though the quality is really incredible.

  • Rachel E. Pollock January 19, 2013 07.46 am

    A few years back, the Forbes Galleries had an excellent display of i think early 20th century jewelry–think 1920s-50s perhaps?

    And, not sure if you’re including tiaras in this, but there was a huge touring exhibit of tiaras maybe ten-twelve years ago that I saw at the MFA in Boston i believe, and in addition to the preponderance of 19th century pieces there were quite a few interesting examples of how 20th century designers reimagined the tiara in interesting ways. There’s a huge hardback catalogue for that exhibit that we’ve got in our departmental library at work.

    In terms of 20th century jewelry in general, i think the introduction of plastics is pretty singularly important–Bakelite, acrylic, polyurethane, etc.

  • Joy D. January 19, 2013 08.26 am

    Dior was and still is producing fashion jewelry. Rhinestones and big pieces are key themes in fashion jewelry. Fashion Jewelry rarely presents a theme of understated.

  • Rebecca January 19, 2013 06.55 pm

    Hi All,

    Many thanks for this information! I am sure this will be fascinating research.



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