The list of regrettable 1970s fashion statements is legion – casual suits and ankle-breaking platform shoes spring to mind – but period jewelry is another story. Sculptural and dramatic, sometimes whimsical or influenced by Pop Art, the designs now receive a favorable second look.
The reasons for the rise of the Me Decade are numerous. While antique diamonds from the European royal family or the finest Art Deco finery may grab headlines for their sparkling provenance and the multi-million dollar prices they sell, exuberance and (relative) affordability pieces created 40 or 50 years ago make them attractive targets for emerging collectors. . They are also much easier to fit into an everyday wardrobe than a river or a tiara.
Then there is the zeitgeist, which seems to be on the 1970s side. Recent publications of phonebook-sized tomes on the leading jewelry designers of the time, including Aldo Cipullo and Andrew Grima, landed on coffee tables last year. And the awareness of Elsa Peretti– famous for its long collaboration with Tiffany & Co., starting in 1974 – received a pop culture surge from the Netflix series Halston, which started broadcasting just months after his death in March. (Peretti was the fashion designer’s friend and muse.) current exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Simply Brilliant: Artists-Jewelers of the 60s and 70s, which features famous names (Boucheron, Cartier, Bulgari) alongside more modest manufacturers, is further proof of the renewed interest.
The jewels of the 70s mark a deep break with those of before, according to Catherine becket, responsible for the magnificent jewelry sales at Sotheby’s. “In the 60s the focus was more on gemstones, the big three – rubies, emerald, sapphire – but from the late 60s to the 70s there was more exploration of what the semi-precious stones are called – amethyst, tourmaline, geodes, “she explains. Instead of pieces with a high society formality, jewelry began to feature” yellow gold, ancient shapes, abstraction, texture and a very ‘groovy’ aesthetic, “she adds.” We are doing really well with this period.
Sotheby’s April auction of the collection by late businesswoman and philanthropist Michelle Smith included a series of 1970s jewelry that prompted tenders, especially for Van Cleef & Arpels lots of the time. A gold, cultured pearl and diamond long necklace from the house sold for $ 252,000, more than five times its high estimate; a pair of hoops from the same manufacturer exceeded his estimate by an equally impressive multiple, making $ 27,720. “The prices were amazing,” Becket says. “This specifically speaks to the strength of this period. People are passionate about this area. Many of them are younger, women in their thirties, forties and fifties.
Yet stratospheric prices are the exception rather than the rule (at least compared to sought-after Art Deco pieces), in part because the ’70s coincided with a wave of women entering the workforce and buying their own jewelry. . “A lot of this jewelry was pieces they could afford,” Becket notes.
Jill heller, a New York-based dealer who consults with private clients and has adorned celebrities such as Rihanna and Alicia Keys, sees the ’70s look as both flirty and relevant. “It’s feminine, sexy and relevant today,” she says. “I love Victorian jewelry, but some of it is a bit old-fashioned. With jewelry from the 70s, it almost feels like you could have bought it today. And several jewelers are now finding inspiration in the decade. Pomellato, for example, features knot patterns and rings with large semi-precious stones, such as topaz and lemon quartz.
Heller quotes Necklaces from the Bulgari Monete collection set with antique coins, textured gold Henry Dunay jewelry and animal bracelets enamel and gold by David Webb, some of the most sought after styles of the time. Their appeal often extends to generations who missed out on the last few days of disco a mile away. “My 19 year old daughter loves the look,” she says.
Tiina smith, director of an eponymous company jewelry gallery in Boston, also noticed a clear generational factor. “The daughters of the women who originally wore the jewelry of the 1970s rediscovered it as they grew older,” says Smith. “The jewelry your mother wore when you first start thinking about fashion and jewelry and how you look becomes very romantic and nostalgic as you get older.”
Smith’s line of flashback-inducing trinkets includes first-rate names, but also little-known designers, such as Norman Teufel, whose playful, kinetic pieces (think 18k gold rings with a movement reminiscent of a spinning top) represent a subset of period jewelry that was underestimated at the time.
Even among the well-known names, not all jewelry is equally in demand by serious collectors, according to the dealer Dana kraus, which specializes in unique pieces from the 20th century to DKF Estate Jewelry.
“If you are looking to collect, you want to get parts that are harder to find, ”she says. “For example, Elsa Peretti made plays for her friends and for Halston. These pieces are rare and not mass produced; that makes them special. An experienced dealer understands what it is.
It’s not just individual aficionados who are on the hunt. Brands are often looking for their own jewelry. Bulgari, for example, under the direction of Lucia Boscaini, his brand and curator of heritage, acquires between 40 and 60 of his vintage pieces each year for his private collection.
The assembled pieces trace the history of the Roman enterprise and are a resource for museum exhibits, red carpet accessorization and research by the creative team.
Through auctions and private transactions, Boscaini searches for items that best reflect the Bulgari aesthetic. Jewelry created in the 1970s is one of its main targets. “They are very representative of our style, of our iconic inspirations,” she says. “It is a turning point in the history of our artistic development. It was a decade of great experimentation with patterns and materials, with inspiration ranging from Pop Art to the Far East. Jewelry, especially necklaces with long chains and lavish pendants, grew quite large, reflecting the “hippie” fashion of this period.
High jewelry and the creations of its high jewelry collection are of interest to the brand. “It’s not a question of price. It’s about finding things that are representative of our style, ”Boscaini explains. “A plain Serpenti watch can be extremely representative of our style, even if it was a very limited item.” And to capture the breadth of the Monete collection, a coin line featuring antique coins that was hugely successful when it was introduced in the 1970s, “we need hundreds of items,” she says. .
Bulgari has good reason to keep her jewelry, but should other collectors insist on buying signed pieces or busts? Daniela Mascetti and David Bennett, experts who worked at Sotheby’s for more than 40 years each before founding Understanding jewelry, an online platform that offers reference materials, courses and experiences, as well as collection management and jewelry consulting services, encourages a nuanced approach to valuing signed and unsigned jewelry.
“If you are lucky enough to buy something beautiful and typical of the era that has a signature, bingo! Mascetti said. “But I wouldn’t be obsessed with a signing. If you are on a budget, rather than buying something small by a big name, buy a great design and look great by someone anonymous. Who knows? In 10 years, you might understand who made the play.
That’s what happened in the case of New York designer Julie Simpson, who has been collecting styles from the 60s and 70s for 15 years. In the beginning, competition was not a problem and the stakes were not high. “I found myself gravitating around the coins of the time and was able to buy some for less than the value of their gold 10 years ago. Nobody wanted it, ”she recalls. “And now the purse is better, so I have things that aren’t signed, but now we know who they are.” ”
Some of his treasured finds are a multicolored David Webb totem pendant with gems and gold and a two-sided Cartier zodiac pendant depicting his Sagittarius birth sign, as well as pieces from artist-jewelers including Andrew Grima and Gilbert Albert, both known for their bold and sculptural looks. “I like big things,” says Simpson. “They have to be nicely made and comfortable. I can wear one piece, and it makes a statement. I can wear a fancy bracelet with jeans, and when I do, no one else will be wearing the same.
Its connoisseur comes from first-hand experience. “I was a goldsmith. So I have an appreciation for the way things are done, ”she explains. “I got interested in jewelry because the quality is so high. It feels so good to wear it.
Likewise, nothing can replace jewelry that has its own history. Contemporary pieces inspired by ’70s design fall short of Simpson’s. “There is so much imitation jewelry out there,” she says. “I want something unique and not to be made anymore.”