AUTUMN VINTAGE JEWELLERY INSPIRATION
Last Saturday, we went off down to the RHS’s main garden at Wisley for a book signing and some Autumnal inspiration – the garden was simply resplendent in its beautiful autumnal colours, and this got me thinking about autumn-inspired jewellery.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when the biggest vintage brands were in their heyday – Trifari, Monet, Coro, Napier, and the smaller, more affordable brands too, like Sarah Coventry, BSK, Hollywood, and Exquisite, there was a huge trend for nature-inspired jewellery – matching sets of leafy brooches, necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Coro was particularly good at leafy cold-painted enamel necklaces, adorned with diamanté, and Exquisite bought out their famously collectable Leaf series of enamelled brooches (available in two sizes) and all with matching earrings.
So I though I’d do a short piece about these gorgeous jewels and team them up with some of the best photos from Wisley for your entertainment – get inspired by nature and invest in some of these leafy beauties for the Autumn !!
First of all, the weather wasn’t great – dry but cloudy and dull – but for photography purposes, strangely, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the lighting was even, with no harsh shadows, and the autumnal colours were still brilliant, and produced some striking images. Often the colours were soft and muted like an old tapestry :-
However, more often than not, they were simply blazed with fire, strikingly beautiful, and contrasting strongly with the black branches and white sky :-
Fabulous stuff !! I love the Autumn – the weather is often still gloriously sunny, but the leaves have all turned, the ground is covered with the fallen ones, and the ones that remain are all shades from dark evergreen through sunny yellow, blazing orange to brilliant rusty-red, and our thoughts are turning to bonfires, and fireworks for November 5th.
AUTUMN-INSPIRED VINTAGE JEWELLERY:-
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when the biggest vintage brands were in their heyday – Trifari, Monet, Coro, Napier – and the smaller, more affordable brands too – Sarah Coventry, BSK, Hollywood, and Exquisite – there was a huge trend for nature-inspired jewellery. Matching sets of leafy brooches, necklaces, earrings and bracelets were all the rage. Coro was particularly good at leafy cold-painted enamel necklaces, adorned with diamanté, and Exquisite, a British company, brought out their famously collectable Leaf series of enamelled brooches (available in two sizes) and all with matching earrings.
Back then, this changeable season was all the more enjoyable, because with the horrors of World War II behind them, times were hopeful and things were defintely looking up !! People were earning more money than ever before, and thus they could really enjoy fashion trends, both in dress and jewellery.
Looking through my Etsy shop, I was struck with how many of my brooches and necklaces from that era are beautiful leafy designs, inspired by nature, often in plain gold-plated metal, and sometimes enamelled in cold-painted enamel, which was the technology of the day. Later on in the 60s, this nature-inspired trend really came into its own with extremely high quality gold-plated brooches being produced by companies like Trifari and Monet.
Here are just a small selection of the gold-plated and gold-tone brooches in my Etsy shop that are inspired by the shapes of leaves. The three biggest photos here are all brooches by Crown Trifari – the signature is the Trifari name in upper case with a small pointy crown over the ‘T’ – a sure sign of the best quality costume jewellery of the day. What made it the best quality ? The main thing was that they used a thicker layer of gold plating than any other company – triple plating was their standard, adding gold layers up to 8/millionths of an inch thick rather than a mere 1 millionth. The only brand that came anywhere near them for quality was Monet, which famously also laid on the gold-plating thicker than other brands. This means that the Crown Trifari and Monet jewellery of the 1950s and 60s still looks just as great today, 50-60 years later.
Enamelling was also popular – just look at these 5 magnificiently large brooches by the Exquisite company, possibly the best quality range they ever produced, presenting the best of our British trees, by reproducing their leaves and seeds in all their glory:-
This range actually numbered 12 in total, but I have only these five of the large size available to buy in my Etsy shop. They are in fantastic condition for their age, and the fact that they are painted in cold-painted enamel paint makes this all the more astonishing – this technique produces beautiful hand-painted effects, making very subtle shading possible, with brush-strokes visible in a lot of cases. The enamel paint used was what hobbyists use for model airplanes and the like today, and therefore isn’t that hard-wearing at all. In the case of jewellery like this, the enamel paint often didn’t withstand the rigours of living in a jewellery box for decades, rubbing and bashing up against other jewellery pieces. It’s pretty rare to find these brooches without any enamel paint missing, but these five are all in near-immaculate condition, with virtually no paint loss at all.
Also in the 50s and 60s, trends for leafy jewellery included necklaces and bracelets too – the famous Coro brand was especially good these – however, like the Exquisite brooches, the hand-painted enamelling often hasn’t withstood the passing years. Their plain silvertone and goldtone items are often also suffering a little plating wear, mainly on the backs.
These are all by Jewelcraft, which was a subsidiary of the Coro brand, and their somewhat more affordable line produced here in Britain. Sometimes they are signed but often not, and what would have been gorgeous cold-painted necklaces and bracelets are often suffering wear and tear – for instance the necklace right in the middle under the pink leafy bracelet, is a little worse for wear and faded down to a gentle soft rusty brown, and is cheaper as a result – however, it’s still a beautiful necklace, but perhaps with a rather more vintage feel than the others !
Diamanté and facetted glass stones were also tremendously popular, and amber and rootbeer-coloured diamanté were used to give a real autumnal feel, like these two here:-
This leaf brooch with large amber glass stones was produced by the British brand, Sphinx, based in Chiswick, which is only about two miles from where I am writing this !!
This gorgeous amber glass-stoned Grape-vine brooch is in fantastic condition and was produced by the Sarah Coventry company, an immensely popular and eminently collectible brand even today, with vintage jewellery collectors.
Later on, in the 1980s, more hard-wearing enamelling techniques were developed and so the jewellery from that decade has survived in much better condition. Here are two of the most beautiful enamelled leaf brooches from the 80s in my shop:-
I just love the swirly effect in the second leaf brooch, and the first one simply glows with its beautifully autumnal coppery colour – gorgeous stuff and much better quality than anything produced in the 60s – you can see how thick the enamel paint is and how glossy it is too.
Autumn is such a fabulous time of year, and with Christmas around the corner, I thought I would give you a bit of inspiration for your jewellery gifts perhaps with this piece – all these items are available to buy from my Etsy shop –