The Jazz Age that phrase coined by J Scott Fitzgerald for the 1920s during which he portrayed his Great Gatsby ... seems to epitomise the spirit of the post War/pre Depression era ...
The Goldsmiths’ Company had another exhibition this year “Ultra Vanities - Bejewelled Make-Up Boxes from the Age of Glamour” (1920 – 1970) ... displaying nearly 300 of these most exquisite little nécessaires de beauté or minaudières...
The collection is owned by one person – but what a wonderful co-incidence of timing that the Goldsmiths’ were able to show us these works of art.
With the end of the War, society had once again to adjust ... but times had changed – the middle classes were wealthier and could move into the upper echelons of life, while the rich mingled as travel was easier ... yet many were poorer, then there were the wheeler-dealers, gangsters call them what you will ... who preyed on others to get by ...
|My photo of the inside of the|
This ‘little’ collection takes us back and lets us look forward ... these bejewelled precious-metal cases are miniature feats of engineering and skilled craftsmanship ...
... the War encouraged new developments, yet people moved to escape those ravages ... the engineers, designers and jewellery trades came into their own catering to these new classes ...
|Wiki: Van Cleef + Arpels'|
Cosmetics date back to 4,000 BC, Egyptian times, however in western societies they remained largely the preserve of the upper classes until the 19th century: their application had been for private consumption, not public flaunting.
Now as a response to changing fashion and the developing social history after the War, make-up became acceptable and these little ultra vanities offered an essential accessory in the early 20th century.
The Jazz Age prevailed ... minimal clothing, a bob hair cut and a counterbalancing micro handbag or minaudière ... the jewellery trades, fashion houses and designers all flourished: stone cutting and setting, enamelling and lacquering – with some ‘boxes’ taking up to 500 hours to make.
|My photo - unknown maker|
c 1925 made from Lapis Lazuli
with a Chinese incluence
The skill of the craftsman is so apparent ... a tiny metal box ingeniously engineered to contain a powder compact, lipstick, comb, cigarette holder and occasionally a notepad and pencil ...
... then the designers and jewellers could craft their magic on the metals ... adding rubies, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, using soft stones, enamelling, exquisite artwork, creating modern designs ... setting trends ...
As fashion changed during the 1930s to the simpler, elegant Art Deco designs ... the French jewellers and fashion houses changed accordingly ... feathering the gold lids, pierced work for a screen top, jadeite plaque added onto an enamelled face ...
|My photo: Tiffany 1950 - 1960|
... during the 2nd World War the design was more severe ... while their decoration came from coloured metals, rather than the ostentation of precious metals, stones or enamels.
The 1950s saw a brief resurgence, when the tiny metal cases were incorporated into the frames of handbags, but the advent of youth culture dealt minaudières their death knell.
|Charlton: 1950; another Tiffany; Lacloche 1920|
(black enamel, with gold and coral);
Chaumet 1925 (grey gold, enamel, rubies and
diamonds) Photo from Luxury Launches
and much better photos if you'd like to look.
The incredible luxury, sophistication, decadence and romance of the Age of Glamour is so exquisitely on show at this Gold Exhibition ... which puts into context the film of the book “The Great Gatsby” ...
... as many of you know – my education starts here – I am so unread it’s almost embarrassing, but I’m learning through you ... on my way to London yesterday – not for this exhibition ... but to see some Harry Potter, tube posters and Lego maps! ... strange but true ... I spent a few minutes looking at books as one does waiting for trains ...
I picked up The Great Gatsby, the paperback, in which there’s an interview with Baz Luhrmann on his realisation of the film ... and realised the connection with this Goldsmiths’ Exhibition ...
|My photo: and open necessaire|
by Lacloche Freres c 1926
... the interview opens up new doors too ... let alone the fact that the Great Gatsby is a novella ... so on my return last night I bought it – hence the fact I know about Fitzgerald and Zelda being the Jazz couple and his adoption of that phrase The Jazz Age.
Fascinating times ...
I’ve posted some photos ... but if you’d like to look at better ones please visit The Jewellery Editor site ...
... which has wonderful descriptions of these little boxes – for example:
|This is a photo from The Jewellery Editor site - which|
really does show the incredible engineering skills
that went into the design of these tiny ultra vanities
A rectangular nécessaires de beauté or minaudières, by Van Cleef + Arpels (5 ½ x 3 x 0.7 inches) showing the internal elements of compact, comb, lipstick and a space (possibly for cigarettes).
Made of gold, the lid is engraved with plant motifs, with each flower comprised of four rubies and a diamond in closed settings. At the edges of the cover, each flower has three ruby petals. There is an invisible button on the base to open and close the lid.
The Goldsmiths' Company Summer Exhibition - free entry and open til 20th July 2013
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