JEWELLERY

During the 1920s, Coco Chanel introduced inexpensive lines of what she called “illusion jewellery”,   better known as “costume jewellery”, and soon the costume jewellery market exploded. (2)

Traditionally, the function of artificial gems had been to provide deceptive copies of precious originals. Chanel, who opened her own jewellery workshops in 1924, flouted this convention by designing jewellery with paste stones and fake pearls in colours and sizes that defied nature. She believed that jewellery should be worn to decorate, rather than to flaunt wealth. (1)

Coco Chanel, 1920s
Coco Chanel, 1920s

Turning tradition on its head, she herself often wore, during daytime, jewellery that would normally have been considered suitable only for evening – ropes of fake pearls or her distinctive coloured-stone necklaces or her brooches, inspired by Renaissance and Byzantine jewels. For evening, she frequently avoided jewellery altogether. (1)

Long strands of imitation pearls, faux gems, and opaque glass beads adorned the necks of both wealthy women and struggling shop girls across the nation, for they were as affordable as they were attractive. Of course, those women who could afford it still bought “real” jewellery, but fashion trends favoured those necklaces made of inexpensive glass, wood, and even papier-maché beads. (2)

Lenore Ulric c.1926
Lenore Ulric c.1926

A popular long necklace made of glass beads and ending in a beaded tassel, called a “sautoir” became known as “flapper beads”. Pendant earrings, frequently made of glass, often dangled below a women’s bobbed hair.
Bangle bracelets, constructed of celluloid, bakelite, chrome, or aluminium, were frequently worn several at a time, often on the upper arm left bare by a sleeveless evening dress. (2)

Pss Maria Jose of Belgium (later Queen of Italy) wearing an upper-arm bracelet and egyptian style jewellery, 1920s
Pss Maria Jose of Belgium (later Queen of Italy) wearing an upper-arm bracelet and egyptian style jewellery, 1920s

Trends that affected clothing often affected jewellery. The 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, for example, initiated a craze for Egyptian-style jewellery, and the popularity of African-American nightclub entertainer Josephine Baker sparked a rage for heavy African ivory bracelets. (2)

Cute and silly picture of Josephine Baker in the 1920s, wearing african-style jewellery.
Cute and silly picture of Josephine Baker in the 1920s, wearing african-style jewellery.

Sources:

(1) 20th Century Fashion – Valerie Mendes, Amy de La Haye, 1999
(2) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004

Advertisements