“Women Jewellery Designers” is a magnificent book. A collection of spectacular 20th and 21st century jewellery and an even more fascinating discussion about some talented and creative female jewellers and designers who have paved the way for the jewellery industry.
The book is made up of three chronological segments. The first is about jewellery design between the two world wars, the second part is about post war design and the third part is about what is happening today in the field of jewellery design.
In this blog post, we discuss part one of the Women Jewellery Designers book; “Between the Wars: The Awakening” and most notably two of the featured designers; Coco Chanel (pictured below, left) and Jeanne Toussaint (pictured below, right).
- Fact: Industrialisation of the 19th century produced factory jobs for women.
- Fact: The suffragette movement was changing the way women were perceived in the workplace.
There were a few artistic styles that coexisted prior to the first world war; the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau in the United Kingdom and the Belle Époque in Europe. During this time there were many creative women in Europe (and more specifically in Paris) making a name for themselves who were soon to be some of the most influential fashion and jewellery designers of the early 20th century.
“Jewellery went hand in hand with couture; costume (popularised by Coco Chanel) and authentic jewellery became a vital part of an ensemble, helping jewellery designers and jewellery houses to become household names” (page 22). Coco Chanel began experimenting with big and colourful gemstones creating bold neck pieces and statement jewellery. During the 1930s the diamond industry relied on Chanel’s fashion influence on the public to continue to invest in the precious jewel. She convinced her followers that diamonds will keep their value even during the financial crisis of the time.
“If I have chosen diamonds, it is because they represent the greatest value in the smallest volume.” Coco Chanel, 1932.
Louis Cartier appointed accessory and handbag designer Jeanne Toussaint to be his creative director in 1933 and taught her everything he knew about his world of high end jewellery. Toussaint transformed Cartier’s existing Art Deco style by introducing a more organic, feminine and floral design language and also created three dimensional figurative pieces such as the Ladybird Earclips and Palm Tree Brooch.
Cartier became an incredibly popular label for the socialites of the day and these stylish clients often requested custom Jeanne Toussaint designs. One of Toussaint’s most notable and successful design commissions while at Cartier was for Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor and wife of King Edward the VIII. Toussaint re designed pieces from the Duchess of Windsor’s personal collection into an whimsical and colourful flamingo brooch (pictured below, left).
Possibly one of the most recognizable designs of Toussaint’s time at Cartier is the feline and panther collection. She had a fascination for the feline form and in the late '40s Toussaint created her first solid gold panther perching on top of a large emerald gemstone (pictured below, right), later purchased by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
“Jeanne Toussaint – her great era was the 40s and 50s, without her, would Cartier have survived?” Harry Fane (page 84).
Part two of our three part series discussing the Women Jewellery Designers book is all about post war design!