Swinging 1970s Jewelry

From Left to Right: Silver Elsa Peretti Bone Cuff, signed Tiffany & Co., courtesy Tiffany & Co.; Coral, diamond and gold earrings, 1970s, signed David Morris, courtesy Berganza; Lapis, turquoise, diamond and gold brooch, 1970s, signed Kutchinsky, courtesy D&E Singer; and Gold Taurus zodiac medallion, 1970s, signed Fred, courtesy Charlotte Fine Jewelry.

Bohemian, The Me Decade, Jet Set, Women’s Rights, Watergate, Eastern Influences, Ethnic, Oversized, Bellbottoms, Disco, Environmentalism, Earth Day all defined the 1970s.

WHEN: 1970-1979. The 1970s started out with the Vietnam war at the forefront of the news as protesters continued to fill the streets with antiwar demonstrations. The war ended in the mid 1970s and the Watergate scandal led to the resignation of President Nixon. Pop psychology directed people to explore feelings and relationships. Rock remained popular with the Rolling Stones, Elton John, David Bowie, Led Zepplin and Queen leading the pack. As the decade progressed disco hustled in to take over clubs and music radio spawning a whole new fashion story and cultural touchpoint. The movie “Saturday Night Fever” crystallized the disco scene along with music by the Bee Gees, Donna Summer and the Village People among others.

FAMOUS MAKERS: Bulgari, Cartier, Chaumet, David Morris, David Webb, Fred Paris, Kutchinsky, Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels

MOTIFS: Florals, Zodiacs, Fanciful Animals, Abstract Forms, Bold Color, Geometric, Medallions, Big Link Chains, Ancient Coins

THE LOOK:  Statement Pieces, Textured Gold, Sleek Silver, Chunky, Colorful, Layered, Multicultural

MATERIALS: Yellow Gold, Silver, Lapis and Other Hardstones, Wood/Shell Combined with Gems or Gold, Fancy Shaped Diamonds, Antique Coins  

The early 1970s were an extension of the 1960s with bellbottoms and frayed jeans, prairie dresses and floral prints a core style. Towards the middle of the decade, miniskirts headed south and the mid-calf length midi took hold. “What’s your sign?” was the question on everyone’s mind and the interest in astrology spawned a constellation of zodiac jewelry. During the 1970s large, intricately designed gold medallions — sometimes with gemstones — on long chunky link chains were popular. The large scale of the pieces held up well to the highly patterned fabrics that were everywhere in clothes. Layering was back in style and chain link and/or bead necklaces were piled gleefully around the neck, while multiple bangles jingled on the wrist and large hoop or drop earrings completed the look. Who could forget Rhoda Morgenstern and her huge hoop earrings on the Mary Tyler Moore Show?

In 1975 the Vietnam war ended; hippies and the peace movement began to fade into the background as the counter culture turned mainstream.  As the decade progressed, clothes and jewelry changed especially as disco took hold and the look became much more streamlined.

Daytime was easy dressing, the Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress was ubiquitous. Nighttime brought out all the glitter and glam of the club scene — sequins and rhinestones sizzled unapologetically. The look was sleek and the stretchy fabrics were made for easy movement. Patterns were replaced with shiny fabrics and monochromatic pieces.  Studio 54 was famous for its dancing and decadence and many of the decade’s most influential artists and designers were regulars, including jewelry designer Elsa Peretti who joined Tiffany & Co. in 1974. Her sensual silver designs gave the white metal a new glamour and her Diamonds by the Yard made it simple to wear diamonds during the day with more casual clothes – even jeans. The Cartier Love Bracelet designed by Aldo Cipullo was a huge 1970s hit that continues to entice couples today.

The jetsetters — a term that had been around for a number of years, but saw a resurgence with the introduction of the Concorde Jet in 1976 — were jetting off to the world’s most glamourous playgrounds inspiring a more multicultural style that borrowed motifs from other countries, especially Morocco and India. Morocco made its way into fashion through Yves Saint Laurent. The fashion designer had homes there where he hosted his jetsetting friends and clients as his fame was rising during the 1970s. Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier were both leaders in jewelry that drew upon the East for inspiration, creating oversized pieces with colorful gemstones generally set in gold. Another very popular motif in the 1970s was coin jewelry. Bulgari introduced its Monte Collection of jewelry made with ancient coins in the mid 1960s and by the 1970s it was everywhere, gaining in popularity as the 1980s took hold and everything big – hair, shoulders, jewelry and life in general was on a grand scale.

Authored by Amber Michelle

New Jewelry Books on Bulgari & Cartier

From left to right: Cover for Bulgari Magnifica: The Power Women Hold published by © Rizzoli. Cover for Sixieme Sens Par Cartier: High Jewelry and Precious Objects by François Chaille, © Flammarion, 2022.

For those of us who love reading about jewelry and looking at the wonderful images showcased in the pages of luxurious coffee table books, it is truly a treat when a new tome on the subject is published. Rizzoli and Flammarion have both recently published beautiful new books on two jewelry houses, one focusing on Bulgari the other on Cartier.

Bulgari Magnifica: The Power Women Hold

Bulgari Magnifica: The Power Women Hold is an ode to women. The new Magnicifa high-jewelry collection “pays tribute to the pioneering vision of indomitable women who blazed their own paths, broke boundaries or shattered cultural norms.” When stylist Tina Leung was approached to curate this book about the Magnifica collection, she knew it would be about magnificent jewelry, but as she writes in the book’s introduction, it is “A magnificent book about women for women by women.” 

The women who are Bulgari’s muses have also been instrumental in shaping a new perception of women based on their courage, resilience and talent. Although they come from many different backgrounds, the commonality between these women is that they have an innate ability to think outside the box and reimagine the future. 

There are three chapters in the book: The Head, The Heart and The Hands. Inside the pages, Bulgari creative director, Lucia Silvestri takes readers behind the scenes for a look at the inspiration and design surrounding the Magnifica collection. There are also poems throughout the tome written by DJ Mia Moretti for each chapter. Other women have also written essays in the book about being a woman and what that means and how society views women. Ultimately, of course, throughout the 208-page book there are pages and pages of fabulous color renderings of the pieces in the collection along with full color photos of the jewels once they were made.

Edited by Tina Leung, a fashion stylist known for her eclectic sense of style and work with luxury brands, the text is by Amanda Nguyen, Lucia Silvestri, Mia Moretti and Noor Tagouri. Jewelry photography by  © Bulgari and additional images by © Laura Sciacovelli

Sixieme Sens Par Cartier: High Jewelry and Precious Objects

In Sixieme Sens Par Cartier: High Jewelry and Precious Objects, author François Chaille explores a new collection of high jewelry and precious objects from the design house and how these pieces touch our senses and our hearts. The author suggests that as we view the jewelry it will be appreciated with our five senses and then one step beyond with our “sixth sense”.  The 256-page book, published by Flammarion and packed with 200 color images, showcases a number of historic pieces. It is divided into six chapters: The Beauty of Mystery, Dizzying Senses, Luxuriance, Beyond Compare, Optical Games, Animal Instinct and Alter Egos.

The jewelry is considered for how it speaks to our senses. Textured jewelry appeals to our sense of touch, while perfectly cut gemstones attract our sense of sight, for example. The book takes an in-depth look at Cartier’s best-known collections including Tutti-Frutti and Panthère.

The chapter “Dizzying Senses” discusses Tutti-Frutti jewels, pieces created from rubies, emeralds and sapphires carved as florals and leaves, accented with diamonds,  as the embodiment of texture and color. It details how the cacophony of colors and textures appeals to the senses with some people even “hearing sound” from the artfully jumbled array of colored gemstones. The look was inspired by the Mughal Maharajahs and their brightly hued carved gems. When Tutti-Frutti debuted in Europe it was a modern look for modern women, freed from the rules of earlier decades. There are some wonderful images of vintage Cartier Tutti-Frutti jewels included in this chapter.

The chapter “Animal Instinct” takes a deep dive into the renowned Panthère collection. It investigates the way panthers, and other Cartier jeweled animals appeal to our sixth sense, the knowing of the unknown. The cats were created to be anatomically correct in the way their muscles move, their facial expressions and even the way they pose. The cat theme was also referenced by gemstones used to replicate fur. Panthers are perhaps one of the best-known motifs from Cartier and this book showcases a satisfying menagerie of jewels — beyond panthers — and the inspiration behind them.

Author François Chaille has written 15 books about the history of art, fashion, horology and jewelry including Cartier: Creative Writing and Coloratura: High Jewelry and Precious Objects by Cartier.

Authored by Amber Michelle