Born in France in 1905, Christian Dior was originally an art dealer but gradually turned his talents to the fashion business. He opened his first salon in 1947, introducing the innovative "New Look" collection that brought a romantic feminine look to women, especially welcome after the austerity of the Second World War. With this "New Look" he also commissioned Maison Gripoix to design and make crystal jewels in the style of the 18th century. After that original collection, Dior commissioned a collection of costume jewelry to accompany every clothing line. As early as 1948, paste jewelry incorporating flower tremblers, animals, and large asymmetrical crystal necklaces was sold with each collection.
Although Christian Dior oversaw the basic ideas and look of each collection of jewelry, he relied upon others to bring his ideas to life, and the people involved in the design and production of Dior's jewelry included Gripoix, Roger Scemama, Mitchel Maer, Michael Grosse of Henkel & Grosse, and Roger Jeanpierre.
In 1952, Maer acquired the licence to produce jewelry for Dior's seasonal collections, which were designed by freelance designers in Paris. It was produced in London under the name "Christian Dior by Mitchel Maer". Among the more popular lines were those inspired by Victorian and Georgian designs and the "Byzantine" collections?
Following Maer's bankruptcy, Dior commissioned Henkel & Grosse to produce their jewels. They hand-made all of Christian Dior's jewelry, and after 1958 the date of manufacture of the piece accompanied the Christian Dior logo.
Dior Pin, 1962
The quality of design and manufacture is obvious in this brooch, which was made for Dior by Henkel & Grosse. It is in a form that folds over itself and curves in and out. The different layers and folds are mirrored by the clever use of stones and changes in colour. The settings for the stones were placed in a mould or frame and soldered together individually before being plated.
Dior Necklace & Earrings Set, late 1968
This necklace and earring set is among the most collectable of Dior jewelry. One can see at a glance the amount of work and the inspired design that have gone into making such an intricate piece.
• Some lines of Dior jewelry were made in the United States by Kramer, anti these are stamped "Kramer for Dior" or "Christian Dior by Kramer".
• The biggest collectors of Dior Jewelry are from the United States. They particularly value the later pieces, i.e. those date-stamped by Henkel & Grosse. The earlier pieces by Maer are more collectable in the UK.
• One particularly attractive aspect to Dior jewelry is the play of colours. The better pieces use many contrasting and complementary shades.
The Quality of Dior
Christian Dior jewelry has a well-deserved place in the best collections and exhibitions of costume jewelry. Not only does the brand name embody the very essence of European couture, but the two manufacturers who made the European lines of jewelry (Maer and Henkel & Grosse) also deserve cult status. Although the styling is strong and very much of its period, each piece also has a timeless quality. For example, both of the pieces shown here, although very much styled around the 1960s, would not look amiss with a modern outfit. The most collectable pieces are those with the date stamp on the reverse and those made by Henkel & Grosse. Sets of necklace and earrings are preferred, and of these either pearls or subtle shaded colours fetch the highest money. Original boxes always help the price, as do labels (see above), but they are not essential.