The wearing and acquisition of antique and vintage costume jewelry was one way in which the fashion-conscious woman could easily adorn herself in the 1970s. To a great extent the paucity of new designs and interesting jewelry stimulated a revival of older pieces. So much so, that by the beginning of the 1980s, the vintage and antique costume jewelry market as we see it today was beginning to take shape. People's interest had been piqued, and once the ball had started rolling there was little to stop it. The collecting and wearing of old costume jewelry was soon to become a fashion must. This taste for retrospective adornment also spread to dresses, hats, and handbags, but it was the jewels that were the most important. All over the United States and Europe, hitherto small flea markets started becoming swamped with dealers and collectors looking for these faux treasures; and the sellers complied. A new network of trade started, whereby granny's baubles found their way from wooden trestle tables in fields to some of the most prestigious antiques shows, and even department stores, in the world. Stories abounded, quite possibly totally apocryphal, where for example a person had found a Trifari gem in a flea market and sold it for a modest profit to a third party, who then went on to make many thousands in the subsequent sale. It was stories like these, and I like to think, the love of the jewelry itself, that drove the market to fever pitch in the 1990s.
There were many who took note during these times and among them were a new breed of jewelry designers, who very wisely took inspiration from the jewelry pieces of old. Of all the producers operating during the 1980s, Butler & Wilson stand head and shoulders above the rest. Following small beginnings in the late 1970s, their energetic lines caught the imagination of the public, as we will see later in the book. Attwood & Sawyer produced jewelry in the west of England very much in imitation of precious pieces, and there were many other manufacturers working in similar styles, such as Fior and Ciro, both from London. But this is not where the true style and look of the 1980s lay. Instead, it is the handmade, artisanal pieces that stand out from this time.
The makers of the 1980s really cannot be called manufacturers in the sense that Trifari or Coro, who made jewels in their hundreds, were. They made each piece by hand, but they were unquestionably designers, as each piece was agonized over in minute detail. Among them several stand out as being worthy of special mention. Stanley Hagler although he had produced pieces since the 1950s, was now coming into his prime, and some of the best Hagler pieces date from the 1960s to the 1980s. Hagler's earliest pieces those of the 1950s and '60s, tended to be solely of seed pearl and crystal rose montees but very gradually over the decades he used increasing amounts of colour along with more and more unusual materials, including coral branches ivory celluloid flower forms Murano glass beads, and semi precious stones.
The Iranian born designer Iradj Moini started to make his mark in the 1980s, though perhaps achieving greater fame later, at the turn of the 21st century. He began by designing the jewelry for Oscar de la Renta's catwalk shows celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Dominican Republic the pieces were extravagant, to say the least, representing animals and flowers of the tropics. They were mostly large and always very colourful. These early pieces are the most collectable Iradj Moini jewels. Of impeccable pedigree, Lany Vrba started producing amazing jewels in 1985. While Iradj had a small group of craftspeople hand making pieces, Larry Vrba made every piece himself (and still does). His jewels are therefore very desirable and very individual. Although he excels in
the use of very unusual stones, crystals, and natural materials, such as mother of pearl and abalone shell, it is the sheer dimensions and striking design of his pieces that command attention.
The 1980s have also been dubbed the decade of me and ostentatious consumerism was rife this spawned mass produced costume jewelry that was meant to dazzle. These were the years of the Karl Lagerfeld Chanel jewels masses of gilded metal, massive pearls, coins, and hoops. Quilted leather handbags and Tweed suits were drenched in gilt and golden embroidery. Christian Lacroix burst onto the scene in 1987 with the opening of his own fashion house and the production of haute couture and ready to wear costume jewelry. The latter was signature Lacroix with vibrant colouring and in your face acres of gold Yves Saint Laurent's jewels were more muted in tones and commonly produced by some of the great manufacturers of costume jewelry history such as Gripoix and Goossens.
The 1980s was host to an explosion of jewelry designers and to mention them all is beyond the scope of this book. However, one must always keep an eye open for designers such as Zandra Rhodes, Andrew Logan, Billy Boy, Monty Don, Dinny Hall, Robert Lee Morris,Van Der Straeten, Dior, Wendy Gell, Isabel Conovas, Lina Baretti, and Bill Schiffer to name a few.
Writer - Steven Miners