During the Great Depression in the 1930’s many American jewellery designers were forced out of business, however, those that survived were prepared to be experimental and create innovative designs for new markets. This was facilitated by the Art Deco design movement of the time which favoured bold and striking designs and a Modern Vintage Style approach.
Los Angeles took over from Paris as the new centre of glamour and Van Cleef and Arpels, Harry Winston, and Cartier were amongst the few who appreciated the potential of product placement . They offered their jewellery for free to the movie industry and Hollywood stars, in return for a mention in the credits. During the 1930’s other well established jewellers opened stores in Hollywood to satisfy the needs of the top movie starts of the day.
One of the big jewellery names was Joseff of Hollywood, whose career as a jeweller began in 1930 after he made the move from Chicago to Hollywood. Joseff’s talent was to merge vintage jewellery detail with enough luxury and glamour to meet the demands of a modern audience. He made jewellery for many of the most extravagant film productions in Hollywood. All of the jewellery was made in his own studio and was then rented out to the film companies for the duration of the movie. This astute measure meant that the firm possessed a great archive of jewellery from many famous movies which was regularly displayed in exhibitions.
Joseff pieces which the firm still retains include Scarlet O Hara’s necklaces and rings and Rhett Butler’s cigar case from Gone with The Wind . He also designed Katherine Hepburn’s crown from the movie Mary Queen of Scots. Other pieces include a famous headpiece of diamonds made for the 1938 movie Marie Antoinette, and a luxurious nine strand ruby and pearl necklace worn by Bette Davis in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex in 1939.
Stars wearing the luxury jewellery on set were looking for the same quality for the red carpet and Joseff designed various pieces for the personal use of Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford as well as other famous names. A successful retail line was also developed and appeared in stores all over America. It is recognisable by its size (many items were very large) and its figural Hollywood Baroque type designs. The designs combined faux gems, decorative floral scrolls, and tassels with a soft Antique Gold finish. Typical motifs used were owls, sun face pins with diamante eyes, and pendants showing bees, cats or cherubs.
For examples of beautiful vintage jewellery visit www.modernvintagestyle.co.uk