The popular rhinestones of the 1950s and 1960s gave way to a 1970s vogue for ethnic handmade styles, particularly for daytime wear. There was a craze for American Indian silver and turquoise jewelry, African beads, South American metalwork, and pieces made from natural materials such as shell, horn, feathers, and wood. People at this time also enjoyed making their own jewelry.
Fine American Indian and other ethnic jewelry is valuable and avidly collected today, but these specialized areas are beyond the scope of this book. However, although more ephemeral versions of the "handmade" look will never be valuable, an original macramé necklace or a pair of pheasant feather earrings do add authenticity and breadth to a collection.
Other popular styles include the gold snakechain wrought anklets worn by disco divas at night as well as the costume novelties that express the kitschy side of the decade. Original mood rings, zodiac pendants, and battery-powered light up disco jewelry are fun and inexpensive fashion souvenirs.
Some good pieces were produced in the 1970s. Prices for these are relatively modest, so there is scope for future investment. Look out for pieces by fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, and Diane von Furstenberg. Plain gilt collars, pendant necklaces, and simple gilt cuffs by Trifari and Monet are also sought after. Enamels by Eisenberg and Mimi Di N. are rising in price, along with large animal pendants, particularly those with composition heads signed "Razza". Zodiac inspired jewelry is typical of the period, so pieces on this theme are probably a good investment, along with ethnic-style pieces by designers such as Stanley Hagler and Kenneth Lane.
Yves Saint Laurent Enamel Necklace, c.1975
Costume jewelry by Yves Saint Laurent can be valuable, but certain pieces are much more sought after than others. Collectors avoid small-scale delicate styles in preference for his bolder, showier designs. Look out for huge ethnic-inspired bibs, shoulder-dusting dangle earrings, and whimsical enamels such as the one shown here. The rainbow colours reflect the influence of Pop Art on early 1970s fashion.
Diane von Furstenberg Enamel Necklace, 1975
Diane von Furstenberg produced a limited, and now highly collectable, line of costume jewelry to accessorize her iconic 1970s"wrap"dress. Bold, graphic patterns were a hallmark of her designs. Although original 1970s clothing by Von Furstenberg commonly appears in the vintage market today, her jewelry is rarer.
• Costume jewelry and fashion are closely linked, so pieces designed by fashion luminaries are always sought after. These pieces both benefit from fashionable associations.
• Many 1970s necklaces are long pendant styles. Both these are an unusual shorter length.
• Enamel work is prized, but check the condition carefully. • Light enamel washes can sometimes be renewed with model paints, but repairs to these kinds of thick, high-gloss enamels are rarely successful.
Yves Saint Laurent
According to Vogue's Diana Vreeland, "Coco Chanel and Christian Dior were giants, Saint Laurent is a genius." For collectors drawn to the fashion side of costume jewelry, pieces by Yves Saint Laurent have a special allure. His jewelry was manufactured by a variety of firms, including Monet, but Saint Laurent maintained strict control. His 1970s fashion collections for evening were inspired by Chinese, Moroccan, and Russian cultures.
These called for exotic fantasy costume jewels - huge ethnic beaded pieces, hammered metal medallions, or heavy Byzantine settings studded with cabochon pastes. Later glass, plastic, and Lucite pieces are also gaining in value and are good investments. The most valuable Saint Laurent pieces are the catwalk jewels made for his couture fashion shows. Produced in limited quantities, they are rare in the market.