What Great Depression? High-end, high-style jewelry had its Hollywood heyday in the 1930s. Movie audiences didn’t want to see their own hard-knock lives. They wanted to see pretty people in expensive things—like Marlene Dietrich in a baguette-cut diamond and cabochon emerald Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin strap bracelet in the 1936 comedy Desire. “It was well known that Dietrich collected jewelry,” says Elizabeth Irvine Bray (The Jewels of Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin). “It added to the glamour to see her in her own piece.”
There were more where that came from. The piece was one of a pair (along with a 97 ct. t.w. emerald and diamond clip) the actress commissioned from Mauboussin, which solved its financial woes by catering to the film crowd. “Hollywood was quick to embrace the firm’s distinctive Art Deco style,” says Mauboussin global CEO Alain Nemarq. And why not? Nouveau riche actors and studio bosses were among the few who could still afford fine jewelry!
There was another (more practical) reason for posh jewelry’s popularity in 1930s Hollywood. With silent film giving way to the talkies, the crude microphones picked up the “tink-tink-tink” of cheap metal pieces.