Obviously the 1940s were a very difficult decade for the luxury goods industry in Europe. But life did start to return to normal by the 1950s. Dior ruled haute couture and the jewels that he designed to complement his creations were made by the British firm Mitchel Maer. This continued until 1955 when production was moved to Henkel & Grosse in Pforzheim, Germany. As costume jewelry production started again in Europe that of the United States continued apace.
The 1950s saw Miriam Haskell launch her best jewelry. As we have seen, this rather enigmatic lady born in 1899 in Indiana opened her first store in the McLain Hotel in New York in 1924. Although in the early days it is almost certain that she designed pieces herself, her real genius lay in judging fashion trends, interpreting them, and commissioning and guiding the very talented group of designers she surrounded herself with. These included Frank Hess, Robert Clarke, William de I., illo, Peter Raines, and LarryVrba. Although greatly varied, Haskell jewels are instantly recognizable to the initiated. The use of faux seed pearls, blister or baroque pearls, high quality glass beads, and antique Russian patina ted filigree-style stampings of intricate detail all cry out the fashion house's name. Miriam Haskell is among the most prized names in collectors' circles. So influential was her work that it created many copyists then and even today.
Trends in costume jewelry differed either side of the Atlantic. In Europe, pearls were popular, in many ways imitating the “Belle Epoque"styles of the Edwardian era. Chokers also made a comeback, mirroring earlier fashions. Christian Dior produced paste hearts and horseshoe motifs, often hanging on strands of pearls. Dior also started to use the now famous aurora borealis (or "AB") stones, which were a great hit. The"A"line dress, and in the later 1950s the"Empireline, was in fashion. Dressing up, cocktail parties, and soirees were popular. Full skirts and low necklines allowed necklace sets to be worn and flaunted.
Americans were keen on the "real" look. Costume jewelry imitating fabulous diamond pins and draped necklaces was fashionable. Gilded sterling silver imitated solid gold. Fancy cut stones in every colour paid tribute to large exotic precious stones. Even the rich and famous wore imitation over precious, and in a coup for Trifari, Mamie Eisenhower even commissioned a faux pearl parure to wear at her husband's inaugural ball.
During the war many of the Parisian costume jewelry design houses had closed either temporarily or for good. Some designers moved to the United States, as was the case with Elsa Schiaparelli. In 1949 she opened a bijoux de couture office in New York City from which her more commercial line of jewelry was produced.
Other designers of note were active at this time. Henry Schreiner opened his eponymous costume jewelry company in 1939, but its most typical and desirable jewels were produced in the 1950s and '60s. He died in 1954 but his daughter and his son-in-law continued the business until 1975. Schreiner did not appear to be satisfied with the usual crystal stones coming out of Austria, and used to commission unusual shapes and coloured crystals from Germany. Schreiner jewelry is now among the most elusive, desirable, and expensive costume jewelry.
Stanley Hagler designed a bracelet for the Duchess of Windsor (\Wallis Simpson) in the early '50s, thus launching his career as one of the greats of the costume jewelry world. Based in the United States, Hagler went on to win the "Swarovski Design Award" an unprecedented eleven times.
In France, Chanel returned to Paris in 1954, and at the age of 71, reopened the RueCambon boutique. It was during these years that the clothing and jewelry we associate with Chanel were produced
Of the innumerable manufacturers producing costume jewelry in the 1950s, a couple of others are worth a special mention. One of these is Har, about which there is very little information available. We know that the company made jewelry because its name is stamped on the reverse of the pieces. Har is thought to have been a Californian firm that was in production for only one year 1955.This lack of information is interesting in itself, but a further noteworthy aspect is that, perhaps in part owing to a relatively small production run and amazingly whacky designs, it may well hold the price records for costume jewelry. The parures of dragons, cobras, and Arabian Nights “are very close to the top of every collector's wish list. Almost matching these dizzy heights are pieces by Coppola eToppo. Their brass collars studded with myriads of vibrant shades of crystal beads are much in demand.
In many ways the end of the 1950s marked a watershed in vintage costume jewelry. Although form and design from the Victorian era to the 1950s changed dramatically, the jewels of the 1960s and onwards evolved even more markedly, though often finding inspiration in the past.