Women Jewelry Designers – Elsa Schiaparelli

Elsa Schiaparelli was born in 1890. She was an Italian-born fashion designer who established an important couture house in Paris.  This couture house is still designing haute couture, jewelry, ready to wear, and fashion accessories.  Schaparelli was famous for her Surrealist fashions of the 1930s and for her witty accessories, such as a lucite collar decorated with painted bugs.

Fashion design - dress form in studio

Elsa Schiaparelli gloried in creating zany and playful jewelry. One of my favorites (in addition to the bugs necklace I mentioned above) is a belt with a buckle of clasping hands.  In a Museum of Modern Art photo, the material used for the hands appears to be a plastic and the fingernails have red polish! Her jewelry did not rely on the monetary value of the materials, but was fashion forward in style. Her early designs were influenced by the 1930s Surrealist Movement – artists like Salvador Dali.  Schaparelli collaborated with Dali during the 1930s and 1940s and with other celebrated artists of that period as well.

Some of her collectable early pieces were pea pod designs, heavy enamel pins and dress clips with clowns, hands, and versions of the human eye decorated in rhinestones. Surrealist 1930s pieces were mostly unsigned. In the 1930s, Hollywood generated a trend for antique looking designs.  Her fashion designs were also influenced by Dali – Dali and Schiaparelli were fashion collaborators in the 1930s and 1940s.  Elsa Schiaparelli was the first to design a jumpsuit.

When Dr. Steven Miners was writing Costume Jewelry How to Compare and Value, (around 2004-2005), a lot of the Schiaparelli designs available were from 1940s and 1950s. The 1950s market thrived on very showy rhinestone jewelry. Many of Schiaparelli’s pieces were created with frosted glass and rhinestones in fantastic colors.There are lots of fakes, too, according to Miners.  Miller’s Costume Jewelry: How to Compare and Value; p.104-105; Steven Miners; Elsa Schiaparelli, 1890-1973. 

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