I am thrilled to welcome you to Jewelry as Fashion as Jewelry, curated by my friend and colleague Michelle Finamore. This exhibit traces the evolution of wearable adornment from the early 20th century to today. From the glamour of an Art Deco diamond brooch to the wit of a contemporary J.W. Anderson crystal bra, jewelry and fashion go hand in glove in defining personal style. This exhibition is the first in a series of thematic shows we will mount periodically that will take as their starting point an object, a style or a maker from our collection. Jewelry celebrates the collective desire to tell our stories through personal ornament and I look forward to sharing these explorations with you.

-Tiina Smith

JEWELRY AS FASHION AS JEWELRY explores the multifaceted connections between fashion and jeweled adornment throughout the 20 and 21st centuries. Chanel’s notion of turning a woman into the night sky evokes the timeless allure of adorning the body with glittering gems. Chanel is one in a long line of fashion designers who have collaborated with jewelers. In the 1930s fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli famously worked with jewelry maker Jean Schlumberger to adorn Surrealist garments that blurred the boundaries of fashion and art. In 1956, Christian Dior began a longstanding partnership with Swarovski that resulted in dazzling garments and jewelry that, like Chanel’s dictum, transformed the wearer into a sparkling constellation. Beyond such designer-driven alliances, 1920s beaded Art Deco dresses were ornament in motion, complemented by swinging sautoirs that captured the energy of the Jazz Age. Mid-century American designers Beth and Herbert Levine created dramatic pearl-encrusted high heels that were, in essence, jewelry for the feet.  

Using the historic depth of the Tiina Smith Collection as inspiration, Jewelry as Fashion as Jewelry presents, for the first time in a gallery setting, the dynamic interplay between vintage and contemporary fashion and spectacular jewels. The works here reflect fashion trends extending from the 1920s through the present and consider stylistic alliances and artistic collaborations between jewelry makers and fashion houses. 

The synergy between fashion and jewelry extends much deeper than the two centuries exhibited in Jewelry as Fashion as Jewelry. In what are perhaps the most compelling examples of fashion literally turning into jewelry, 16th century jeweled stomachers - removable, ornamented V-shaped bodice panels - morphed into brooches that covered the décolletage and the term “stomacher brooch” is still in use today. Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and Italian Renaissance ladies feature pearls and gemstones intricately woven into the wearer’s garments and elaborate hairstyles. The works featured in Jewelry as Fashion as Jewelry celebrate this long history, but bring the story into the present, revealing a narrative that is much richer than what can be presented here, but is worthy of deeper exploration.

Chanel’s 1932 Bijoux des Diamants collection is a natural place to start, with the 2012 Cosmos ring embodying a remarkable fusion of past and present. The inimitable Coco Chanel was a pioneer in promoting both costume and fine jewelry as integral to her couture house brand. Chanel had great foresight in hiring the talented Fulco di Verdura (Italian, 1898-1978) to design her costume jewelry line, and his eight year tenure launched a prolific design career that lasted over thirty years. For her 1932 couture presentation, Chanel herself designed a fine jewelry collection that featured diamond encrusted necklaces, rings and bracelets with celestial motifs of stars, comets and moons. In 2012, the couture house relaunched and re-envisioned the Bijoux des Diamants collection. The Cosmos ring pays homage to this history, and combined with the circa 1960s Van Cleef & Arpels diamond earrings and 1980s crystal embroidered Swarovski gloves as seen below, give physical form to the illusion of being enveloped in a diamond-dusted constellation.

In the 1940s, jewelry reflected the dramatic cultural changes brought on by a world at war. As clothing became more minimal due to wartime restrictions, accessories became bolder and larger in scale, with dramatic clutches, towering hats and platform shoes completing a fashion look. Jewelry of the era is noted for its sculptural appearance, Machine-Age aesthetic, and, with limitations on the use of silver and platinum, an increased use of gold. The 1940s Tiffany & Co. (American, establ. 1837) gold bracelet is an excellent example of the World War II aesthetic, combining the look of “machined” elements with organic curves.  

When the war ended, Paris haute couture heralded its return with Christian Dior’s 1947 New Look – a style that embraced optimism, femininity, and flowing fabric. Dior’s relationship to jewelry design was as deeply rooted as Chanel’s. For the 1947 collection, the designer worked closely with the Swarovski atelier, accessorizing his fashions with delicate drop-shaped crystal necklaces and earrings. Swarovski remains one of the jewelry houses that is still closely aligned with the fashion industry, evident in the lavishly embroidered crystal-encrusted gloves and the company’s continued collaborations with designers as varied as Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, and Erdem.

Less known is the profound effect Dior’s distinctive fashion lines had on jewelry makers. Christian Dior’s iconic Envol collection of 1948, which added aerodynamic sweeps of fabric to the New Look line, resonated with jewelry designer Pierre Sterlé and milliner Tatiana du Plessix. Sterlé (French, 1905-1978) incorporated the idea of winged flight into his distinctive rope twist brooch. Known as the “couturier of jewelry,” he began designing for important French houses such as Boucheron and Chaumet before opening his own private jewelry salon in 1945. Inspired by the asymmetry of the natural world, he often paired the warm tones of yellow gold with vibrant gemstones.

The talents of the European designers who fled the war in Europe shaped the American design scene in countless ways. Tatiana du Plessix(American, born in Russia, 1906-1991)arrived in New York City in 1941 and married another Russian émigré - Alexander Liberman – who was editorial director of Vogue 1943-1961. She started her career as a hat designer at the exclusive department store Henri Bendel, but soon moved to Saks Fifth Avenue where she remained head of the custom hat salon until 1963. Her millinery creations ranged from the structured and dramatic, as in the sweeping velvet hat worn with the Sterlé brooch, to singular jewel-encrusted heart-shaped head pieces.  

The ingenuity and post-war optimism of American design shines in the pearl-encrusted high heels designed by Herbert and Beth Levine. Founded in 1946, the Levine shoe company was known for experimenting with novel and non-traditional materials and counted Nancy Sinatra, Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Barbara Streisand among its clients. Beth Levine covered the entire surface of these shoes with pearl beads, echoing the classic appeal of the requisite strand of pearls which completed the 1950s look. Pearls and the fruits of the sea are an endless source of inspiration for jewelry designers, including Seaman Schepps(American, 1881-1972)and Fulco di Verdura, who opened his American jewelry studio and retail space in 1939. Schepps’ use of real shells for his ear clips now rank, along with the strand of pearls, as a classic of American design. Verdura purchased a collection of shell specimens in the 1940s and transformed them into spectacular brooches inset with diamonds and gold. The house continues that tradition, creating shell-shaped earrings carved from stones such as chalcedony and adventurine that are then adorned with pearls. 

Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907-1987) once said “I try to make everything look as if it were growing, uneven, organic… I want to capture the irregularity of the universe,” which made him the perfect candidate to execute Surrealist designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s unique vision. She originally hired him to create startlingly unusual buttons for her garments – miniature sculptures that looked like starfish, pebbles, shells and rough gemstones. She eventually asked him to design her costume jewelry line, including one that, like her great rival Chanel, was based on the stars and the heavens. Schlumberger’s propensity for asymmetry and organicism is clear in the c. 1965 Schlumberger for Tiffany gold and diamond earrings, which have the appearance of undulating sea creatures from the ocean trenches. Schlumberger’s design life, like Verdura, began with a collaboration with a fashion designer. Bringing Jewelry as Fashion as Jewelry full circle, Miuccia Prada created a dress that pays homage to Schiaparelli’s famous 1938 “Tears” dress with Salvador Dali-designed fabric that makes the dress appear as if it is ripped and torn, exposing the flesh below. In a conscious, or subconscious, nod to Schiaparelli, Prada’s dress has jeweled trompe l’oeil “tears” made of rhinestones, sequins and beads, blurring the line between art and fashion, body and dress, fashion and jewelry.  

- Michelle Finamore


We are grateful to all the many individuals who have generously helped with this exhibition and accompanying catalog. In particular, we would like to thank those who have graciously loaned garments and accessories from their own closets and personal collections.

Susan Esco
Chandler Elisa Fredrickson
Sinesia Karol
and Jimmy-Raye Collection