‘Adorning Fashion’ Is a Fine Education in Jewelry History (no Wi-Fi Necessary)

For those of us not immersed in the childcare versus work melee, quarantining has likely been Webinar City, a time to bone up on jewelry sales and marketing-related survival tips, participate in virtual chats with influencers and designer peers, and “attend” talks hosted by jewelry historians.

If jewelry history is your thing (it’s totally mine), but you’re kind of Zoom-conferenced out at the moment, now’s a great time to curl up with Adorning Fashion (ACC Art Books, $75), a rather large but beautifully illustrated and contextualized volume that traces the evolution of costume jewelry from the 1700s to the early 2000s.

Yes, the book is focused on the design and production of costume jewelry, but the parallels to the world of fine jewelry, especially the reigning aesthetic movements, relationship to the fashions of the day, and socioeconomic external forces driving the use of certain materials and trends, are quite nearly identical.

Author Deanna Farneti Cera, a Milan-based international expert on European and American fashion jewelry, has organized her material and photos chronologically, making it easy to jump around to the eras you’re curious about or that happen to interest you, whether they’re the jewels of the Wiener Werkstätte or the titans of 1980s and 1990s fashion (Lagerfeld, Valentino, Versace, Armani, and Lacroix).

This book has been on my desk since it was published last fall, and quarantining recently inspired me read through it more thoroughly, and it was a delicious and informative escape from reality.

And if you’re a designer or a creative, there are so many inspiring images. In this regard, and in my opinion, the real “gems” to be unearthed are pieces by marquee names from the pantheons of fine jewelry and couture fashion—Schiaparelli, Chanel, Dior, Dunand, Lalique, Fouquet, Després, and Yves Saint Laurent, among others.

A few of these are shared below.

Art nouveau and art deco costume jewelry
From left: Adjustable necklace with sliding clasp and matching bangle in Bakelite, feathers, and cotton string in original box, Georges Flamand for Josephine Baker, circa mid to late 1930s; Madame Agnes illustration by Jean Dunand, circa 1925–26, courtesy of Galerie Michel Giraud, Paris; and art nouveau diadems, both Edoardo Saronni, circa 1905
Pink glass stone bracelet and necklace set
Necklace with pink glass stones and matching articulated bracelet, Argenzio Brothers, circa 1945
Hot pink glass dior necklace bracelet Chanel brooch
Multistrand necklace and bracelet set featuring round and teardrop glass paste beads, multicolored rhinestone rondelles, spacers, and teardrop glass paste stones, Maison Gripoix (attributed to Christian Dior), circa 1950; and shield-shape brooch in pâte de verre enamel elements, rhinestones, and gilded metal mountings, Maison Gripoix for Chanel, circa 1950s
Chanel bow motif necklace
Festoon necklace with mesh bow motifs in gilded wire and handmade glass stones in melon-cut and rough-teardrop shapes, Robert Goossens for Chanel, circa 1955
Chanel gold necklace with drop pearl
Articulated necklace with dragon motifs, antique Russian gilded metal components, and simulated teardrop pearl, Robert Goossens for Chanel, circa late 1950s
Dior green bead choker and drop earrings
Festoon choker with matching drop earrings in silver-colored metal and colored glass stones in various cuts, Roger Jean-Pierre (attributed to Christian Dior), circa mid to late 1950s


Top: The completely alluring cover of Adorning Fashion by Deanna Farneti Cera and published by ACC Art Books shows the English model and actress Jean Shrimpton captured in 1963 wearing a suite of unsigned costume jewels. Photo by John French (courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum and ACC Art Books).

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All That Glitters writer