Jazz age jewels
PUBLISHED: 13:00 26 September 2013
Anna Murray talks us through the fashion revival of the Roaring Twenties, and how we can pull off the look with Art Deco jewellery
A 1920s fashion revival has been spurred on thanks to Baz Luhrmann’s sumptuous cinematic remake of The Great Gatsby and the massive success of TV series like Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire. The vibe has been captured on the catwalk by the likes of Prada and Chanel – Coco Chanel having been a leading 1920s style icon herself – and high streets are now awash with homages to the golden age of glamour and its favourite fashion icons.
Largely speaking, the 1920s were a time of opulence and liberation. In the UK, women shed the constraints of Victorian fashion, losing corsets, shortening skirts, showing ankles for the first time. Jewellery changed; out with fussy Victorian and Edwardian cameos and florals, in with a freer and more expressive style.
There are few things that epitomise the 1920s look as much as jewellery does. Michael Spiers, leading local jewellers in the South West, has witnessed the revival firsthand. James Walker, Group Manager, comments: “Art Deco jewellery is so stylish that it never really fell out of fashion. It’s hard to surpass the design and workmanship from that period – they remain amongst the most sought after jewels today. We’re witnessing a major renaissance, there’s demand from customers and designers are fuelling the trend.”
Testament to this surge in favour, renowned auction house Christie’s held an Art Deco jewel sale in June. Buyers came from around the world to bid. Overflowing with the most exquisite examples of earrings, pendants, diamonds and pearls, the auction made a total of £8.7million – with a three-row natural pearl necklace fetching an impressive £1,000,000.
The right choice of jewellery can easily convey the glamour and decadence of the era and thankfully a budget of millions is not needed. James adds: “There’s a broad choice of jewellery around that epitomises 1920s style at its finest – but with the benefits of modern design and wearability. It’s a nod to the enduring beauty of the Roaring Twenties, but with a contemporary feel.”
Designs tended to be based on simple geometric shapes including circles and rectangles. Gemstones and diamonds were used in abundance. This is when the emerald and baguette cut became popular, and this popularity hasn’t waned since. Coloured gems are a key part of the 1920s look: sapphires and emeralds especially and they were often teamed with diamonds and built into intricate brooches.
It’s a time when white metals became popular; in particular white gold, platinum and palladium. And when you think of flapper girls, you think of jewelled headpieces; diamond headbands and feathered fascinators, which are back in fashion and easy to come by.
Pearls were central to the look. They came in thick bands of two or three strands of pearls, fastened with ornate clasps. We have continued this love affair with pearls. “Natural pearls are timeless and elegant and we’re finding that younger women want to own them – from simple single pearl earrings, to decorative pieces. You can team a single pearl with diamonds to create a striking pendant; and it’s this glamorous yet understated elegance that many women aspire to,” comments James.
When it comes to watches, the 1920s saw decorative cocktail watches come to the fore. For ladies, they tended to have a small watch faces, often set with diamonds, with the symmetry and geometric shapes of the era. The Patek Philippe 24 is a stylish designer ladies watch that takes the idea of the 1920s style, but brings it bang up to date with a larger dial and a more durable metal. It’s every bit the elegance of the age, but more practical for the modern era.
The glamour wasn’t solely the domain of the era’s ladies. For men, vintage 1920s watches were a key fashion statement. In 1928 Rolex created the Prince, a highly covetable men’s wristwatch. It earned a place in horological history for its precision and performance. The Rolex Cellini collection now offers a contemporary version of the Prince – a luxurious take on the 1920s original with all the perks of modern engineering. Even the newest Gatsby – Leonardo DiCaprio – is a watch fan. Indeed, as an ambassador for TAG Heuer, he wore the elegant Carrera to The Great Gatsby premiere.
The Roaring Twenties are an era you can adopt on a budget given the prominence of the trend on the high street, but it’s also worth investing in. The gemstones, pearls, and watch styles that embody that period are unlikely to ever fall from favour and only liable to increase in value. An alluring prospect, if you could ever bear to be parted from them! Embrace the 1920s style – it is truly iconic and rightfully so.