Costume Jewellery Is Nothing Without Coco Chanel

Chanel Coco Chanel CJPHOTO COURTESY OF CHANEL

In case you missed it, every look from Chanel’s spring-summer 2024 show came with matching costume jewellery. Necklaces, chokers, earrings… you name it, Virginie Viard gave it. The history of Chanel’s costume jewellery is, but of course, intimately linked to Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s personal style.

Chanel Coco Chanel CJPHOTO COURTESY OF CHANEL

Prior to introducing her own line of costume jewellery in the 1920s, the art of bijoux existed mainly in fine jewellery. In other words, only the affluent could afford it. Enter Coco, the fashion renegade who altered this archaic mindset by mixing fine jewellery with faux. At the time, her styling prowess made distinguishing her authentic pieces from fake ones a conundrum for many. However, this only challenged the styling maven to reinvent the art of dressing up more.

Chanel Coco Chanel CJPHOTO COURTESY OF CHANEL

“The point of jewellery isn’t to make a woman look rich but to adorn her; not the same thing,” she declared.

The game changer came in the form of a Romanov pearl necklace. A gift from Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich during their brief love affair, this precious piece was allegedly Coco’s favourite. Enchanted by the allure of fame and royalty, Chanel clientele began coveting their own pieces. This prompted Coco to create costume versions, which she then wore often. In fact, she would don up to seven rows of faux pearls to pitch pure volume against a streamlined LBD (little black dress).

A few years shy of 1930, the first pieces of Chanel costume jewellery debuted in collaboration with various goldsmiths and jewellers. Sicilian aristocrat and jeweller, Duke Fulco di Verdura, was one of them. Having worked with Chanel as a textile designer before making his foray into jewellery, they shared a penchant for artistic experimentation.

Choosing not to conform to popular designs of their time, the duo instead looked to the past for inspiration. Spearheading the revival of baked enamel, it was Verdura who designed the brand’s iconic Maltese cross in 1927. This design was popular on cuff bracelets, which Coco herself wore on both wrists. She championed the appeal of double bracelets in lieu of cuffs on a sleeve, a styling technique that Chanel still practises in its shows today.

Chanel was also working with Suzanne Gripoix, a notable jewellery designer during this time. The daughter of Augustine Gripoix, a Parisian glass worker and founder of Maison Gripoix, she realised for the French fashion house Baroque- and Byzantine-style pieces.

Coco was forced to close her fashion house for 15 years because of WWII, but reopened it in 1954. She was then 71 years old. Her comeback brought forth a brand new partnership with a young goldsmith by the name of Robert Goossens. Much like Gripoix, Goossens created exceptional pieces for Chanel that were inspired by antiquity. The partnership also saw Coco push Goossen’s creative limit into furniture design, with the atelier eventually joining Chanel’s Fashion Métiers d’art stable in 2005.

Chanel Coco Chanel CJPHOTOS COURTESY OF CHANEL

Almost a century has passed since Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel pioneered the fine art of costume jewellery. Yet its status in the world of fashion has not waned. If Chanel’s spring-summer 2024 show is anything to go by, that is.

For more information, do visit CHANEL.com

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHANEL

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