Women Jewelry Designers – Coco Chanel


This edition of Women Jewelry Designers focuses on Coco Chanel.  Coco Chanel was a style icon who was known for her simple yet sophisticated outfits that could be paired with her outstanding accessories.  Her trademark suits and little black dresses are timeless designs. The nickname Coco came from a brief stint as a singer.

Chanel shopping bags


Early Years

Coco was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel on August 19, 1883, in Saumur, France.  Her mother died when Chanel was 12 and she was placed in an orphanage where was raised by nuns.  The nuns taught her how to sew, a skill that was invaluable to her career.   She designed costumes for the Ballets Russes and for the theater.

Chanel No. 5 perfume

In 1910, Chanel started a millinery business in Paris with help from some friends and she later added clothing stores.  She designed costumes for the Ballets Russes and for the theater.   Her world famous Chanel No. 5 perfume was launched in the 1920s.  In 1925, Chanel introduced a now legendary suit with a collarless jacket and well-fitted skirt. Her designs were revolutionary for the time.   

In the 1920s Chanel’s jewelry featured ropes of pearls and jewels with cross pendants.  The 1930s brought gilded cuffs.  During WWII, the business was closed. 


1950s and Later


Chanel jewelry

In the 1950s, Robert Goossens who was a skilled goldsmith and metalworker collaborated with Chanel to produce striking designs there were some of the most important Chanel jewelry of that period.   According to Steven Miners in Miller’s Costume Jewelry (pp 110-111), Maison Gripoix was a firm of artisans that created elegant jewelry for Chanel and other well known fashion houses.  Goossens and Gripoix were leaders in creating jewelry designed to compliment specific outfits – sumptuous jewelry that was the height of elegance in the first half of the 20th century.   

Chanel died in 1971 at her apartment in the Hotel Ritz.  Several years later, Karl Lagerfeld became the head of the company.  Lagerfeld brought a different outlook  – ornate glittery styles like the intertwined double Cs logo and a return to frankly fake stones.


This article is part of a continuing series.   Here’s the first blog.