The past influences runway fashions, leaving plenty of choices to dress up the latest looks with “oh, so feminine” estate and current jewelry.
By Ruth Peltason
“Pink is the navy of India!” Diana Vreeland famously declared in 1962, on her first-ever voyage to that honeyed land of sun-soaked colors. How amazed she would be to look around and see that pink is the must-have of the fashionable set, as seen in the Spring 2014 runway collections. And it’s not just the color pink, but the idea of pink: of flowers as in Dolce and Gabbana’s smock dress massed with spring blossoms; of pale blush chiffons, such as a sassy shirtwaist dress by Zac Posen with strategically placed silver flowers; of lace, the color of goldenrod, designed by Valentino as an ecclesiastical robe, though with unabashed show-through; and the cunning transition from feline to feminine in Temperley London’s floor-length dress, the bodice morphing from a scrim of leopard spots to appliqued flowers that crescendo as large, painterly flowers trailing toward the hem. Power dressing? Not at all! Confident? Yes. Beautiful? Utterly so, and without apology.
The same could be said of the many choices for jewelry to wear this spring with these gowns. The emphasis might be on color, such as a bracelet of emerald-cut aquamarines and diamonds by Tiffany & Co., or a rose quartz, ruby, and diamond retro bracelet by George Verger. Pearls are more right than ever — and hardly conservative — in a deeply elegant multi-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace by Bulgari, circa 1950, and a bracelet comprised of rows of pink pearls adorned with a decorative gold buckle. The heavenly hue of the pink pearls and their chromatic harmony with the buckle are pitch perfect. The surprise here is the date of 1880 for the bracelet — so long ago, and yet so right for today’s fashions. (Unless you’re, say, in Antarctica, you could hardly miss the influence on fashion and fine jewelry of the post-Edwardian costume drama Downton Abbey.) Flowers are a perennial theme in jewelry, and for this season there is everything from the over-the-top (a spring bouquet done up as a ring by the exuberant Victoire de Castellane for Dior) and the starkly modernist (Taffin’s amethyst and rhodochrosite brooch).
1. VAN CLEEF & ARPELS lace bow brooch in diamonds and 18K gold, designed 1949. Available from Van Cleef & Arpels. | 2. EDWARDIAN seed pearl and diamond lariat-style sautoir, terminating in pearl tassels, 1910. Available from Kentshire. | 3. BOUCHERON art deco openwork diamond and platinum pendant of concentric circles with a pearl starburst, 1920. Available from Kentshire.
And for the finale to this season’s twenty-first century’s feminine female, look to David Webb, who always combines strength with beauty. His beautifully tailored rock crystal and diamond ear pendants or crystal and diamond cuff are fitting accompaniments — both to Karl Lagerfeld’s almost girlish chiffon and crystal beaded silhouettes, and J. Mendel’s geometric, confidently controlled creations in lace and planes of black and white.
Not since the Victorian age has lace been seen in such abundance and worked with such invention. Today, lace is as varied as modern women — romantic, seductive, gorgeous, complex. Above all, lace is lovely. In jewelry, lacework can be achieved through pearls or in a mesh of platinum or yellow gold and diamonds.
Van Cleef & Arpels has long adorned women in an entire line of especially feminine jewelry, notably their diamond and yellow gold “lace” bow knot brooches and their famed zipper necklaces— some having a fringe of heart-shaped gold wire, each set with a diamond. The choices are many, each of them sublime works of art.
The bow knot brooch dates to 1945, and is one of several the French firm made around this time. Here, the sleight of hand is the workmanship of the gold and openwork diamond treatment, perfectly imitating lace.
Pearls are always in style, whether small and fine, or large and luscious. No matter how old you are, where you live, or what you wear, pearls look fabulous on everyone. Pearls are timeless, which is another way of saying, enviably, that pearls never age.
The majesty of this sautoir is present in the design, the materials, and the muscular lion picked out in diamonds. This is power dressing with pearls.
Spring colors are traditionally soft. In jewelry, this might mean aquamarines, fancy sapphires, peridots, and tourmalines, each of them full of color and romance. The watery show-through makes for the dreamiest of earrings, and yet there is nothing timid in the very geometric design.
4.TIFFANY & CO. diamond, aquamarine, and platinum bracelet, circa 1950. Available from Richter’s of Palm Beach. | 5. ANTIQUE sapphire and diamond necklace, with graduated multi-colored sapphires and old mine-cut diamond intersections, English, circa 1880. Available from FD.
Fancy sapphires are scrumptious — remember jujube candy? — and though there are many iterations of multi sapphire necklaces, this one is superb.
The storied American company, Tiffany & Co., has made beautiful jewelry over the centuries, with an emphasis on clean design and a light touch. This gorgeous faceted aquamarine bracelet is a triumphant example of how one color, sky blue, can achieve long-lasting greatness.
Audrey Hepburn once wrote, “I believe in pink.” So do we.
How perfect these drops would be on Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary, underscoring, once again, the program’s influence this season. The proportions are sublime — especially the graduated bezel-set diamonds — but the real call-out here are the toothsome conch pearls.
The French have reason to be smug. The House of Verger is among the best of early twentieth-century jewelers, a diamond retro bracelet couldn’t be more of a textbook example of their strength: proportion, materials, and superb design.
How incredible — rows and rows of blush-pink pearls from more than 230 years ago, and yet, the large gold buckle gives them heft. A dazzling confection of materials that achieve stylish seduction for this spring’s feminine silhouettes.
The Impressionists were gaga over flowers — think Renoir’s vases spilling with fresh-cut flowers and Monet’s paintings of his gardens at Giverny — and every jeweler of note has been smitten with spring blossoms, summer flowers.
Bulgari is triumphant with a chrysanthemum brooch, rich with the elongated amethyst and the curlicues in gold of the mum’s massing of petals. This is nature rendered as seductive and commanding.
The House of Dior dates to 1947, when Christian Dior wowed the world with his peplum jacket and skirt with its yards of fabric. In that one ensemble with its emphasis on abundance and luxury, he effectively told the world, “The war is over.” Wartime restrictions on abundance were finally banished. Dior also underscored his reverence for beauty and abundance. This is just as true today in the designs of Victoire de Castellane, whose exuberant designs mine the great couturier.
Great design demands great editing, and the excellence of modernist jewelry, like modernist couture, requires confidence and rigor. Happily, the rewards are long lasting. Art deco remains popular, influential, and in jewelry, hugely collectible. It is also wonderfully wearable. For the independent minded, J. Mendel’s astonishing 2014 spring collection, with its precision design, is a must. So, too, are these modernist gems, especially from Taffin and David Webb.
Webb is the undisputed master of rock crystal. The jeweler began working amazing constructions from crystal in the early 1970s, and the designs poured out of him in a rush, each brilliant and unlike anything seen at the time. Their nonpareil presence remains in force today.
Whether scalloped, faceted, scored, or smoothed, all of Webb’s rock crystal jewelry adds incredible light and polish to any woman.
6. VERDURA platinum, cabochon pink coral, and diamond choker, circa 1955. Available from FD. | 7. ANTIQUE multi-strand pink pearl bracelet with gold buckle, 1880. Available from Kentshire. | 8. VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE large Diorette ring with faceted pink morganite, multi-colored sapphires, a diamond, and enamel, circa 2010. Available from Robin Katz Vintage Jewels. | 9. BULGARI diamond, amethyst, emerald, and gold chrysanthemum brooch, circa 1965-70. Available from Richter’s of Palm Beach. | 10. TAFFIN amethyst, rhodochrosite, and platinum brooch, 2009. Available from Simon Teakle. | 11. DAVID WEBB fluted rock crystal and diamond cuff. Available from David Webb.