Suz King Enterprise

The Story of Perfum and Jewellery

Early Use of Perfumes

There has always been a trade in scents and by the year 2008 perfume had become a $10 billion industry. Today women have fragrance wardrobes of at least six different perfumes, rather than a single signature perfume, keeping one special perfume for occasion moments.

People have used perfume, oils and unguents on their bodies for thousands of years in lesser or greater amounts dependant on fashion whims.  The early Egyptians used perfumed balms as part of religious ceremonies and later as part of pre love making preparations.  Myrrh and Frankincense were exuded gums from trees used to scent the atmosphere in rituals.  Other plants such as rose and peppermint were steeped in oils until a perfumed unguent formed. The unguent was then rubbed into the skin.  It's interesting to note that perfume has come full circle today as more and more of us seek out high quality aromatherapy perfumed oils to use in exactly the same way as our ancestors did.

Picture of lavender field.Products that enhance the feel of skin and the smell of the body have been highly valued in every culture.  Trade routes introduced spices to other parts of the world and a wider range of scents could be made.  In the past people often mixed their own potions using home methods creating their own aromatherapy products.  Many homes had a still room where essences were steeped out of flowers and herbs. 
Left - Lavender field in Grasse France. 

Perfume fell out of use during early Christianity, but was revived in the medieval period. By the 1600s scents were applied to objects such as furniture, gloves and fans.  In the Georgian Era non greasy eau de cologne was developed and it had many uses from bath essence to mouthwash.


Chemical Advances in Perfumery

The late 19th century was the first real era of perfume as we know it when new scents were created because of advances in organic chemistry knowledge.  Synthetic perfume products were used in place of certain hard to find or expensive ingredients.  At the same time a similar chemical knowledge development happened in textile printing dyes.

Picture of basket of pansies and flowers.Grasse in Provence, France became a centre for flower and herb growing for the perfume industry.  The men who treated leathers in the same area found the smells so bad they perfumed themselves and the leathers.  They were knowledgeable about making the botanical essences and were the early perfume noses.  But it was only in the C20th that scents and designer perfumes were really mass produced.  Before that, the few trade names that existed were Coty and Yardley who made fairly light scents with familiar smells.

What Is Perfume Made From?

Perfume is made from about 78% to 95% of specially denatured ethyl alcohol and a remainder of essential oils. 

Perfume is the costliest form of fragrance with 22% of essential oils. 

Eau de Parfum (EDP), comes next with between 15 and 22% essential oils.

That's followed by Eau de Toilette (EDT) with 8 to 15% oils.

The weaker Eau de Cologne has just 4% essential oils.

For those who crave super subtlety Eau Fraiche with 1 to 3% essential oils, is the lightest dilution of fragrance.

Many new perfumes are promoted as EDPs and an EDT is not always produced as there has been a vogue for Eau de Parfum as individuals want a more lasting signature.  

Picture of violets.There are major fragrance categories - Floral, Oriental, Floriental, Chypre, Green Marine and Fruit.  Typical plant products include anise, bay leaf, bergamot, cardamom, cedar wood, eucalyptus, frankincense, gardenia, geranium, iris, jasmine, lavender, lemon, lilac, lily, lily of the valley, magnolia, moss, neroli, orange, orris, patchouli, pine, raspberry, rose, sage, sandalwood, tuberose, vanilla, violet and ylang-ylang. 

The memory of a scent left by violets.

Typical animal products used in perfume include musk from the male musk deer, ambergris from sperm whales, castoreum a secretion of the beaver and civet from the civet cat.  All are used as fixatives and add an indefinable mystery to the smell at the same time.



Tips for Wearing Perfume

When you apply perfumes apply them to pulse points such as the folds in the crook of your elbow and back of knees, wrist, neck and cleavage.  Make sure you do not rub wrists together as this crushes the smell.  Spraying a little into the air is also good if you walk straight into the perfume.  This helps to diffuse it over your body.  Do not simply apply to the neck always work up the body as the scent rises.  Also consider wearing in your bra a small ball of perfume impregnated cotton wool.

Consider layering perfumes. Use all the same perfume in various products.  Begin with shower or bath gel and then rub in body lotion or spray with a matching after bath spray.  Finally apply the scent preferably as perfume or EDP.  I find that the use of body lotion makes you feel really scented and it is probably to do with starting at the feet and applying the scent all over allowing the scent to rise.  It also makes you feel extra special and very pampered.

Keep bottles tightly stopped, away from direct heat and out of sunlight.  You will certainly know when they have gone off as you'll notice that you do not get that lovely boost of heavenly scent when you spray or dab and the fragrance will look darker in the bottle.  Some perfumes come in blue or opaque bottles and these store perfume well.

Try to choose perfumes that suit you, not your friends or family.  Test a perfume in a store and then walk around for a minimum of ten minutes.  Some perfumes take more like half an hour or an hour to truly develop.  For example, Boudoir by Vivienne Westwood, Jicky by Guerlain and Must de Cartier are all ones I love after an hour, but am not convinced on first sniff.

Put a few drops of perfume onto an oil burner to scent your bedroom.  At Christmas use musky oriental room fragrances in the form of perfumed incense sticks, candle or sprays to enhance the familiar associated yuletide seasonal smells of cinnamon, orange oil, pine, frankincense and myrrh.

Famous Early Perfumes - Chanel No 5 

Picture of roses.Ernest Beaux created Chanel No. 5 for Coco Chanel in 1921.  It has a floral top note of ylang-ylang and neroli, with a heart of blends of jasmine and rose all above a woody base of sandalwood and vetiver.  Chanel believed women should wear perfume wherever they hoped to be kissed.  Today Chanel No.5 sells a bottle every 30 seconds. 

In recent years Chanel No. 5  has been marketed as a spray with two refills in an effort to have it recognised as an essential everyday finishing touch rather than a precious scent to be used sparingly.

Right - The hypnotic scent of roses.

One of my favourites is Guerlain's Shalimar launched first in 1925 and relaunched in 2001.  It's a refined oriental feminine fragrance with iris, vanilla, and rose.  It has the wonderful Guerlain quality that never dates and always gets compliments.  I still think it's one of the very best Guerlain perfumes.  They are all particularly wonderful and each seems to develop with the individual. Maybe it really is because the secret ingredient called Guerlinade the X factor that is added to every new perfume bearing the Guerlain name, makes it smell like a truly sense hitting perfume unlike later unisex creations.

In 1932 Dana made the exotic Tabu, Worth made the memorable Je Reviens which remained popular in the 50s and 60s and in 1934 Elizabeth Arden developed Blue Grass. All are still sold today.  Later Molyneux and Schiaparelli and other designers produced exotic perfumes in direct competition with Chanel. Jean Patou launched Joy in 1935 and it was voted Scent of the 20th Century at the Fragrance Foundation FiFi awards 2000.

1944 saw the introduction of Femme by Rochas.  After the war lighter fresher perfumes by Dior and Balmain which could be worn easily by day became more and more popular with the middle classes. In 1947 Dior launched the ever popular Miss Dior.  I still love these older perfumes such as Miss Dior and the wonderful lily Diorissimo.


Scents for Everyone

At this time the working classes still rarely used anything more exotic than the very early scents or the new perfumes produced by cosmetic houses rather than fashion design house couturiers.

Some of the less costly perfumes had quite pleasing scents, but they had none of the cachet of Couture house names.  Everyday prices meant that the ordinary person could afford to buy a perfume gift from ranges by Coty, Yardley, Max Factor and Revlon and not break the bank.

Max Factor's Hypnotique and Primitif were very popular in the 1950s as was Tweed by Lentheric, and Coty's L'Aimant.  Revlon scored great success with Intimate and Aquamarine. Intimate is still available on some Internet sites.  Yardley's Lily of the Valley or French Fern bath salts and talc were always to be found in the Christmas stockings of the masses of working folk. Picture of rose and lily of the valley.

Goya also produced scents in a price conscious range.  Goya's Black Rose and Here's My Heart featured regularly in full page adverts.  Many people still used 4711 Eau de Cologne, with its clean fresh smell. 

A 4711 roll on stick was especially popular for summer heat perspiration before air conditioning. 

From Woolworth's young teenagers bought Soir de Paris by Bourjois in its small blue bottle.  They delighted in translating the French into Evening in Paris. 
Right - The ever popular rose and lilies of the valley.

 Perfume to the Masses

Throughout the 1960s ordinary people began to buy perfume in quantity.  People who had never been abroad before began to spend time browsing in perfume stores and buy perfume in duty free shops.  They came home with bottles of Madame Rochas, Worth's Je Reviens, Carven's Ma Griffe, Arpège by Lanvin, Houbigant's Chantilly, Guerlain's Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleu, Calèche by Hermes, Sortilege, Ecusson and Estee Lauder's Youth Dew.

Yves St. Laurent launched Y in 1964, Rive Gauche in 1968. Guy Laroche presented Fidji in 1966.  Those old favourites Chanel No.5 and Miss Dior were still best sellers with considerable competition from products like Avon's perfume's such as Topaze, Coty's Imprevu and in total contrast, Faberge's earthy daytime Woodhue. 

Perfumes for the 1970s

By 1977 Yves St. Laurent had put 'Opium' perfume into production and it was a huge huge success with women everywhere.  It was definitely a perfume for sultry evenings. By contrast women enjoyed wearing perfumes like Nina Ricci's L'Air du Temps and Nina Ricci's orange based Bigarade was popular for a while. Ô de Lancôme, Lauder's Cinnabar, and Anais Anais by Cacharel in 1978 (the latter beloved by schoolgirls) were all well received.

Revlon's Charlie was a top seller and the trouser wearing woman who wore it was portrayed as a woman at ease with herself at work and play.  Avon perfumes were also popular as they were affordable, but interesting coming in huge sprays to dainty containers for perfumed wrist creams. Max Factor's Maxi was in a similar affordable everyday price range.

Various musk based oils and scents at quite low prices flooded chemists shops.  Aviance Night Musk by Prince Matchabelli was popular and affordable.

1980 Power Perfumes Match Power Dressers

New designer scents were marketed fiercely in the 80s and for the first time ever, blatant erotic advertising which generated enormous attention from the media led to the success of the 1985 Obsession campaign from Calvin Klein.  Obsession with its heavy smell of vanilla was dominant in the market.

It was equally impossible to open a magazine or Sunday supplement without being overwhelmed by the scent of Giorgio Beverley Hills on a yellow and white striped sample strip.  Eventually Giorgio was banned from restaurants because the smell was too dominant over food aromas.Picture of Casablanca lillies.

Image and a gimmick were a specialty of the 1980s and Jean Paul Gaultier put a perfume in a glass torso in a tin and continued to produce limited editions and variations of the designer package.  Vanderbilt a refined oriental of carnation, rose and mimosa was put on the market in 1982 and was one of the more affordable attractive perfumes.  Lou Lou launched in 1987 was a refreshing subtle change from the more oppressive oriental scents.
Right - The intoxication of the heavy scent of lilies.

Some scents of the era like Yves St Laurent's wonderful rose with violets in Paris have become true classics.  Sultry sirens found Givenchy's Ysatis and Guerlain's 1989 Samsara hard to beat.  Champagne the perfume caused a court case in the champagne making industry and was eventually taken off the market under that name.  It is now sold in similar packaging, but as Yvresse. 

Fresher Marine Green 1990s and New Millennium Perfumes

The 1990s saw a whole new range of cleaner sharper scents which probably began with Estee Lauder's White Linen from the 1980s.  Perfumes such as L'Eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake in 1992, Eternity and Dazzling all have a crisper scent.  One refreshing oriental fragrance was Sun Moon Stars by Lagerfeld in 1994 and the earlier 1990 Safari by Ralph Lauren was set in one of the prettiest bottles to grace a dressing table.  Organza by Givenchy in a great bottle, launched in 1996 has the smell of a long lost much loved scent and was in competition with the now very popular Allure from Chanel launched the same year.


The century ended with softer scents such as Cristobal by Balenciaga or unisex perfumes such as CK One popular with urban fashion followers.  In 1999 Cacharel launched Noa Noa.  Now renamed simply Noa it is a rounded floral oriental that smells divine.  New perfumes of the millennium include the lovely Kenzo Flower, Guerlain's Mahora, Calvin Klein's Truth, Rossellini's Manifesto, Lancôme's Miracle, Boucheron's Initial, YSL's Nu, Michaels Kor's Michael, Nina Ricci's Premier Jour and Vivienne Westwood's exotic tempting Boudoir.


A great deal of snobbery surrounds perfumes and they are often only considered worthwhile initially if expensive and very exclusive.  But the consumer is not stupid however much the hype.  If a scent smells unattractive on the individual the consumer will not buy it.  The selection of perfumes that do smell wonderful is so great that no one has to wear the latest designer perfume if they hate the smell. Whilst many perfumes do succeed, just as many do not.  The perfume has to be good and marketed properly to recoup initial development costs.  Launching a new perfume costs between a half and a million pounds, so the scent has to match the mood of the era.

The $10 billion market place is so overcrowded that to keep up with the consumer's desire for new scents and still keep mystique and a measure of exclusivity, design houses such as Dior, Guerlain and Lancôme are now producing limited edition perfumes for a few months only with bottles destined to become designer items.  In 2001 Dior's limited edition perfume was called Remember Me, a lily fragrance. 

There is already a bottle collectors Internet trade for scent bottles with or without perfume.

A great many individuals are now seeking out classic perfumes or specially blended oils. A classic is a perfume that has lasted a minimum of ten years and grown to be much loved.

Some people also find that they sneeze quite violently when they wear modern perfumes.  I include myself in this category and I've found that wearing the older perfumes designed more than 50 years ago seems to reduce the sneezing.  It's also wonderful to rediscover some of the older perfumes and sense their depth, special individual quality and difference from the scents of today.  If only manufacturers would stop tinkering with old favourites.

This may be why many have gone back to purchasing 100% alcohol free perfume oils and mixing their own scents.  You can get high quality oils easily online.

Lost Perfumes

There is quite a bit of Internet activity of web surfers seeking perfumes either no longer in production or not sold in some countries.  It is hard for the consumer to understand why manufacturers remove perfumes without warning, but their reason for being is profit.  If the profit margin does not meet their ideal they ditch a perfume regardless of diehard fans.

Lancôme's wonderful original version of Magie was called Magie Mist.  How I wish they would bring the original Magie Mist back, so much more feminine, pretty, softer, rounder and more memorable than the revamped version called Magie Noir that makes me sneeze.

But manufacturers are in the game of making profits and if sales are slowing they either withdraw the item or relaunch it as a new formula thought to be more in keeping with the mood of an era.  Two recent examples of this are Ô de Lancôme and Yves St Laurent's Opium, both of which have been updated in 2000-1.  If you want the old versions get a stock in now.  Venezia and Cacharel's Lou Lou have also been withdrawn not so long ago, so if you see it and like it, get it in. 

Always buy perfumes from reputable dealers when using the Internet for your purchases. One site with a 20 year sales background in the UK is which sells skincare, hair and perfume products.  You can get many famous perfume brands from there at heavily reduced prices.

When to Buy Perfumes

Perfume is often sold in the run up to Christmas as a coffret set at a good price.  So it's often possible to buy at an eau de parfum price and get a body lotion and a shower gel in pared down size thrown in for good measure all in one box.  This is the ideal way to try a new fragrance without breaking the bank as you get to try the main products.   Aware of the popularity of cocooning, some manufacturers are also adding matching candles.

If you can bear to wait until January you will often find similar great offers at even lower prices.  Always check the sell by date.  Always ask the assistant if they have fragrance samples in the run up to Christmas or whenever you buy fragrance as that's when they are most likely to give them to you.

A word of caution - some of us now think that some of these specially produced coffret products are not as good as they used to be and that the perfume smell is often less desirable a smell to our nostrils than the regular stock.  Why do we think this - well we have had samples given, bought the coffret and then found that the smell was nothing like as wonderful as the sample.  One perfume marketing man wrote to tell me that the samples we are offered at perfume counters are always of eau de parfum quality. This means we may get confused and not fully realise at the point of sale that the coffret contains eau de toilette plus gel and lotion, but at the price of eau de parfum. Hmmm...


Gold in Egypt 3000 BC

In the ancient world gold was the preferred metal for making jewellery. It was rare, did not tarnish and best of all it was malleable, so it could be worked fairly easily.

Magnificent bracelets, pendants, necklaces, rings, armlets, earrings, diadems, head ornaments, pectoral ornaments and collars of gold were all produced in ancient Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs.Picture of golden mask of Tutankhamun. Costume and fashion history of jewelry.

Excavations by Howard Carter in 1922 led to the great discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb and many gold funerary artefacts, all showing the art work of ancient Egypt. 

Left - Gold funeral mask of King Tutankhamun.

Gold and Gems in Greece 1400 BC

Picture of Greek hoop earrings in gold.  Costume and fashion history of jewelry.In ancient Greece, beads shaped as natural forms like shells, flowers and beetles were manufactured on a large scale.  Beautiful and delicate necklaces and earrings were found in burial sites in Northern Greece.  By 300 BC the Greeks were making multi coloured jewellery and used emeralds, garnets, amethysts and pearls.   Right - Greek earrings.

They also used coloured stones, glass and enamel.  Carved cameos of Indian Sardonyx (a striped brown pink and cream agate stone) along with filigree gold work were widely made.  Beads were made by joining two flat pieces of gold and filling them with sand.

Italian Gold and Roman Coinage

Eight centuries BC the Italian Etruscans in the Tuscany region produced granulated textured gold work.  They made large fibulae or clasps, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.  They also made pendants that were hollow and could be filled with perfume. The Italians are still renowned for high quality stylish trend making gold work today. 

In coinage the Romans used 18 and 24 carat gold.  Being fairly easily available the coinage was the craftsman's raw material for decorative jewel work.  2000 years ago the Romans were using sapphires from Sri Lanka, cloudy emeralds, garnets, amber and Indian diamond crystals.  When England was under Roman rule, fossilized wood called jet from the North of England was carved into interesting pieces. 



C13th Medieval Sumptuary Laws

Sumptuary Laws in C13th Medieval Europe came into force and capped luxury in dress and jewellery.  Townspeople in France, were not allowed to wear girdles or coronals made of pearls, gemstones, gold or silver. Similar laws existed in England.  The fact that these laws forbade yeomen and artisans from wearing gold and silver indicates how the status of jewellery and sumptuous dress had become widespread beyond just the nobility.

Gems and Pearls Real and Fake

Jewels have always been used as love tokens and whilst many pieces were fine gems and precious metals, good fake jewellery intended to deceive existed.  True gemstones and pearls originated from the east and were bought chiefly by the Italians.  The Italian merchants then sold the goods on in Europe.  Good glass imitations were often used and sometimes with intent as in royal funerary robes and children's jewellery.

Flawless, round, natural, large white pearls were prized more than precious gemstones. The finest of pearls were provided by South India and the Persian Gulf.  The Italians, particularly the Venetians and people from Murano, could make imitation glass gems and pearls that were very good likenesses of the real jewels.  Recipes for false pearls existed in 1300 when white powdered glass mixed with albumen (egg white) and snail slime, produced beads that were used as imitation pearls. 

The Importance of C17th Earrings and Dress Ornaments

In the C17th a woman always donned her earrings whether dressed or undressed.  By day fake pearl earrings and paste earrings to coordinate with clothing were acceptable. Fine diamond jewellery was kept for evening and embroidered stomachers which formed part of the dress frontage, could be decorated by jewels. 

Picture of diamond bows and shuttles for dress decoration.  Costume and fashion history of jewelry.Suites of left and right coordinating jewelled pieces called dress ornaments decreased in size as they were placed down the stomacher.  Sometimes the sleeves or skirts were decorated with smaller matching brooches.

Dress ornaments in the form of diamond bows and shuttles.  As many as 42 shuttles could be used to decorate a dress.





17th Century Fake Pearls and Strass Paste Gems

In the 1630s large quantities of pearls were used as clothing accessories.  To be truly fashionable pearls needed to be worn in abundance.  In the C17th, Jaquin of Paris patented a method of making fake pearls.  He coated blown glass hollow balls with varnish mixed with iridescent ground fish scales.  The hollow balls were then filled with wax to strengthen them.  This method made Paris the main producer of fake pearls for over 200 years.

Paste is a compound of glass containing white lead oxide and potash.  Paste jewellery was usual in the 1670s and was worn at court.  The best and most long lasting paste jewellery was produced after 1734 by Georges Strass.  Most fake jewellery was Paris led. Just about any kind of fake gem could be made, including fake opals.  Many pieces of fake jewellery have survived in their original setting, but fine estate pieces of real gems were often broken up for resetting into more fashionable styles of the era. 

After 1760 the production of fake jewellery spread to London and to Birmingham.  Steel which was produced easily during the industrial revolution was used for settings for marcasite and jasper ware cameos.  Glass and Wedgwood porcelain paste cameos were made in English factories and were very popular too.

Ornate shoe buckles of paste, steel and tin were part of fashionable dress.  A similar fad at this time were elaborate paste jewelled buttons, fashionable in British society.  As well as fake jewellery gaining popularity, semi precious jewels such as uncut garnets became usual as part of less formal day dress.

Empire Jewellery

When Napoleon eventually emerged as Emperor of France in 1804 he revived jewellery and fashion as a new court of pomp and ostentatious display evolved.

'Joailliers' worked fine jewellery and 'bijoutiers' used less precious materials. 

The members of the new French imperial family had the former French royal family gems re-set in the latest neo-classical style.  These new trends in jewellery were copied in Europe and particularly England.  Greek and Roman architecture were the main influence for designs as famous discoveries of ancient treasure had not yet happened.

Parures Picture of parure.

Parures were a matching suite of coordinating precious gems which could include a necklace, a comb, a tiara, a diadem, a bandeau, a pair of bracelets, pins, rings, drop earrings or and cluster stud earrings and possibly a belt clasp.  Both Josephine and later Napoleon's second wife had magnificent sets of Parures. 

Right - Parure consisting of bracelet, necklace, ring and earrings.


After Napoleon's cameo decorated coronation crown was seen, cameos were the rage.

Sometimes cameos were carved from hardstone, but more often from substitutes like conch shells and set pieces of Wedgwood porcelain. 

Victorian Jewellery

When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 jewellery was romantic and nationalistic.  It gave attention to the pressure of European folk art, which later influenced the Arts and Crafts Movement.  Until mid century most western jewellery came from Europe, but soon jewellery began to be made in America and Australia.Picture of garnet necklace.  Costume and fashion history of jewelry.

Although jewellery had been made by multiple methods of production for centuries, mid Victorian mass production in Birmingham (England), Germany and Providence, Rhode Island meant that standards were lowered. 

Victorian women rebelled when they saw some of the machine made jewellery on offer, although much of what has survived is of good quality.  Many wore no jewellery at all, or bought from the artist craftsman jewellers who emerged at much the same time. 

Some jewellers like Tiffany began to make fine jewellery of such high standard that they soon opened shops in main cities of Europe.

Right - Victorian garnet necklace.


Mourning Jewellery

There was a huge fashion for mourning jewellery which highlights how sentimental the Victorian age was.  The initial months of mourning were unadorned by jewellery of any kind.  As the mourning rituals increased, mourning jewellery developed as a fashion item. Jet jewellery was worn a great deal by Queen Victoria after Prince Albert's death.

Jet from Whitby, North of England was set into mourning pieces.  All types of material that were black were used and almost all included a lock of the dead loved one's hair. Hair was also plaited, braided or twisted very tightly until it became hard and thread like. To many of us living in the twenty first century the use of hair is an unattractive side of some antique jewellery.

Arts and Crafts Jewellery

The new design philosophy of Arts and Crafts that sprang up after 1870 was a reaction to mass produced goods and inferior machine made products.  It was a reaction to the shoddy interior and ornamental products of the industrial revolution.  Leaders of the movement in England included William Morris and John Ruskin and they promoted simple Arts and Crafts of designs based on floral, primitive or Celtic forms worked as wallpapers, furniture and jewellery.

The polished stones used in Arts and Crafts jewellery gave a medieval, simpler, gentler, tooled hand made look and feel to items.  People inspired by the movement to produce work of a more individual nature included Liberty of London and Renee Mackintosh of Glasgow.  By 1900, Arts and Crafts as a movement declined, so Art Nouveau, a more ostentatious version started in France took root. 

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau jewellery follows curving sinuous organic lines of romantic and imaginary dreaminess, with long limbed ethereal beauties sometimes turning into winged bird and flower forms.  The movement began in Paris and its influence went throughout the Western world.

The Frenchman René Lalique was the master goldsmith of the era of Art Nouveau producing exquisite one off pieces.  As an art movement today, the style is still admired and still copied.

Magnificent floral and botanical forms often worked in enamel were inexpensive and became so popular once mass-produced, that the Art Nouveau style declined.

Queen Alexandra's Pearls

Most fine jewellery in the 1900s was white and made from either diamonds or pearls. Queen Alexandra initially wore dog collar chokers, called a 'collier de chien' to cover a small scar on her neck. Picture of Queen Alexandra in her pearls and regalia.  Costume and fashion history of jewelry.

Left - Queen Alexandra who wore pearls from neck to waist.

For state occasions and formal events she plastered herself in arrangements of pearl necklaces.  The rarity value of real pearls then was such that an American skyscraper exchanged hands for the price of a pearl necklace. 

This is not so ridiculous as it seems, as fine south sea pearls still command a high price. 


Mikimoto Pearls

Pearls were very fashionable, but still very, very costly.  After the 1890s Kokichi Mikimoto of Japan produced highly acceptable cultured pearls by placing a small bead into an oyster shell.  The bead coated itself with nacre (mother of pearl) and so good looking pearl jewels became more affordable. 

When I see Mikimoto pearls today I always think their lustre far surpasses any other pearl made this way.




Various combinations of pearl necklaces come in and out of fashion with regularity so pearls too are a must.  Both fake and real freshwater or cultured pearls are very affordable today.  Many are now bought from China since trade opened up in the nineties.  The price of pearls has dropped by about a fifth in the past 10 years and the Chinese are making waves in the pearl world with their cheaper prices.  The Japanese have suffered disease in their pearl beds as well as facing competition and are finding it hard to compete with China's prices. 

Pearl necklaces and pearl earrings can lift a complexion and bring light and radiance to the face taking years off a woman whatever her age.  If you can afford it, invest in a pair of Mabe pearl earrings.  They have a wonderful white glow with a size about one centimetre across and look expensive.  Expect to pay about £300 for a pair trimmed with 9ct gold.  Look after them by rubbing gently with a pure silk scarf, store in their original box and always put them on after applying perfume and hair products.  A matching real pearl necklace freshwater or cultured, will enhance them and you.

Pearls are currently back in fashion again and with the modern twist of being interspaced on gold wire or floating on special synthetic cord they are essential to the millennium look.  Look out for variations too on drop pearl earrings in the next year or so. PP

Cocktail Jewellery

In the 1920s Lalique designed good mass produced quality glass jewellery.  Fake, or costume jewellery was sometimes then called cocktail jewellery.  It was greatly influenced by Coco Chanel (1883-1971) and Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973).  They both encouraged clients to use costume jewellery and to mix it with genuine gem pieces they already owned.  Both designers offered imagination and fun and both often sported fabulous fakes.

In the late 1930s Napier of the USA was at the forefront of manufacturing fake cocktail jewels, which offered glamour and escapism.  Napier still produces excellent contemporary costume pieces. 

Hollywood Influence

By the 1940s and 1950s American culture was very dominant in Europe.  The influence of movie films and the prominence of film stars set the fashion in manners, make-up, hair and clothes.  People wanted look alike copies of outfits and jewellery worn by screen idols.  It was widely believed that Hollywood glamour would rub off on you if you had the clothes and developed the look.

The Second World War in Europe halted production of fine jewellery when metals were rationed.  New estate type, fine precious metal and gem jewellery was simply not available.  Quality costume jewellery which was flourishing in America, became much more acceptable and was a real alternative to fine jewellery.

Because of technical advances in production methods, a huge range of styles was available from America, and since it was so popular the market became dynamic and inventive and affordable.

1980's Television Influence - Dynasty, Dallas and Diamante

In the 1980s there was a huge revival of costume jewellery after the glitzy scenes from the television soap operas Dynasty and Dallas were watched by 250 million viewers in the consumer boon of the 1980s.  Diamante by day became the norm in reality and earrings reached such huge proportions that the 1990s saw a reaction which quickly dated lavish dress jewellery as the fashion for tiny real diamond studs or a fine stud pearls became the only earring to wear.  As soon as the fashion was declared dead by everyone, including grandmothers, it was revived again in 2000AD by the fashion cognoscenti.  Now fabulous fakes, especially brooches have gained ground once more.

Jewellery for the 21st Century

Costume jewellery can enliven a fashion wardrobe and bring a dash of panache especially for one off special occasions.  Costume jewellery can be superb.  The superb is usually plated at least seven times with 18 or 22 ct gold. 

For example Joan Rivers does a range of good costume jewellery modelled on original fine gem pieces.  One of her trademarks is to make jewellery doubly useful and she produces sets of interchangeable earrings, pendants and tennis bracelets.  For example you might be able to slip a range of up to 10 different coloured stones, pearls or Swarovski crystals into an 18ct gold plated earring to vary the look.  Her jewellery is exclusive to the QVC shopping channel in the UK and she is constantly working on new ideas such is her enthusiasm.

Picture of hand shaped brooch.  Costume and fashion history of jewelry.Highest grade Cubic Zirconium man made imitation diamonds often set in precious metals is of such a good standard that almost everyone can afford to have attractive jewellery.

The best crystals used in costume jewellery are the first grade crystals that the top Austrian firm Swarovski can offer. Butler and Wilson costume brooch.

Some of the costume jewellery I have come to love, comes from companies like Ciro, Adrian Buckley, Butler and Wilson, Swarovski Crystal Jewelry Napier, Joan Rivers, Joan Collins, Christian Dior, California Crystal, Property of A Lady and of course Kenneth J Lane.



"All women who want to be groomed should aim to have one set of fine quality estate type gold jewellery of necklace or torque, and matching earrings, perhaps bracelet or bangle and a similar set in either silver, white gold or platinum."

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