Posted 8 years ago
I have to post this one!!
I have had this piece sitting in the safe for years and years. I belonged to my grandmother and beautiful as it is, I have always favoured rather baroque jewelry and so never had it out. After changes in my life, I decided to declutter and tried - in vain - to give this set to a friend of mine.... that having failed I thought I might sell it so started to look for its history and when I finally found it I nearly had a heart attack! This is its history. It is long I am afraid, but enjoy!!!
Traditionally costume jewelry is understood to be made with non-precious metals, faux stones, and faux pearls. Yet many of the most renown names of costume jewelry such as Trifarri, Miriam Haskell, Kenneth Jay Lane to name but a few, were employed themselves or later employed the designers from the great houses such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpel, who brought with them the knowledge to create pieces of 'faux' jewelry every bit as sought after as their 'real' counterparts. Today, there is an alliance between many of the Couture houses from around the world and the costume jewelry manufacturers. This relationship continues on the catwalks; often the jewels coming down the runway are one-of-a-kind. Later these designs are simplified and reproduced by mass production for worldwide sales. Trailblazer for this phenomenon in 1868 was a Paris glass worker skilled in the making of reproduction pearls who developed a sophisticated technique for setting and enamelling coloured, cast glass in intricate metal mountings. Augustine Gripoix.
Founded in 1869 Maison Gripoix is the oldest master of the art of ‘Pate de Verre” (poured glass) jewellery, a technique where a mix of molten glass and enamel is poured into gold-dipped frame surrounding each gem, (rather than through the kiln-firing of a paste of ground glass and binding agents) creating semi-precious gems in the most amazing array of colours and tones which hold aspects of enamel, crystal and even the natural shimmer of the mother of pearl. So unique is this process that even today any pieces made in a similar fashion bear the name of being a ‘Gripoix’.
Maison Gripoix’s first claim to fame was the creation of ‘stage necklaces’. Copies of fine Art Nouveau pieces for Sarah Bernhardt in the 1890s, followed by pieces for the world’s first couture house, Charles Worth. In a later collaboration with Paul Poiret, high-society clients commissioned pieces to go with the evening dresses they wore to Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. It was then that the term ‘costume jewelry’ was born, setting it apart from imitation jewelry — when its creative value was recognized. The design house, by then led by Suzanne Gripoix, soon began to create looks for numerous couturiers, from Chanel and Worth in the 1920s, to Christian Dior in the 1940s, and Yves St. Laurent and others in the 60’s, 70’s and 1980s, then under the leadership of Suzanne’s daughter Josette.
But it was the lifelong relationship with Chanel that was to define both companies. Together, Coco Chanel and Suzanne Gripoix created memorable pieces together. Iconic designs with inspirations that transcended the materials, becoming much sought-after works of art and adornment. Nothing can replace the vintage allure of these handmade masterpieces. Today, Chanel Gripoix jewelry is amongst the most coveted and collected jewellery in the world. They still have a huge market amongst women who seek the unusual beauty of hand crafted accessories that create a personal statement, rich in understatement and elegance.
This necklace is a rare piece of this costume jewelry history. A piece equally iconic for both its manufacturing history and its provenance. A much illustrated, aquamarine blue ‘Pate de Terre’ floral ‘Camellia’ demi parure set of necklace and fur clip made by Maison Gripoix for Chanel in circa 1932. An example one of the earliest pieces of the collaboration between these two titans of jewellery design. The initial piece for the much grandeur version illustrated in Vogue 1937 and used in Chanel Haute Couture in 1938.
Made of 11 graduating blue ‘Pate de Terre’ individual flower heads, each one joined to the next from links created as part of the actual gilded copper framework of the necklace. Each flower has only a single round enamelled glass bead as a centerpiece. The sheer craftsmanship and simple elegance of this piece is breathtaking.
Like all early Chanel pieces, this necklace is not signed but the fur clip does carry the stamp “Deposer” which roughly translated means patent pending and refers of the patenting of Maison Gripoix’s unique enameling technique which dates this set as having been made in 1930.
This necklace was given to the London Socialite Lady Morvyth Benson, as a ‘thank you’ gift for many pleasant times spent in hers and Constantine Benson’s “big old English house” (ref.Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend. Page 224). Upon Lady Benson’s death in 1955, the necklace was inherited by her daughter Lady Gillian Tomkins (nee Benson). It has remained in the family ever since.
Luxe et fantaisie: bijoux de la collection Barbara Berger, années 1920-1960. Page 43
Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend. Page 224