Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Jewelry of Downton Abbey

In early January when the weather is dreary and I get the taxes and inventory blues, along comes  the PBS series, Downton Abbey to cheer me up. I watched the first episode of Season 5 this week and was dazzled by the abundance of jewelry.  All the young women on the show wore long necklaces of glass beads or pearls with pendants paved in diamonds.  Set in a time often referred to as The Roaring Twenties, the jewelry and fashions of Season 5 belong to the period of decorative design known as Art Deco. 

Art Deco style diamond and platinum brooch by Cartier.

 Art Deco is characterized by geometric design and a celebration of the machine age.  In the 1920s,  women bobbed their hair and the boyish haircuts brought long earrings back into fashion. Longer necklaces often extended to the navel with a matching pendant or jeweled tassel. Female bosoms were flattened and women wore shorter, simpler dresses with dropped waists. Downton Abbey gives us a glimpse of how the very wealthy dressed for dinners and parties and also how the common folk, their servants, interpreted the styles.  

Art Deco earring designs for diamond, onyx and a green stone.

According to Claire Phillips at the V&A Museum in London,"The period between the first and second World Wars saw the commissioning and wearing of opulent jewelry in society on a grand scale and abstract geometric forms predominated.  Discovery of diamond sources in Africa expanded the supply of precious stones. Stark motifs were derived from modern architecture or machine parts while at the same time more exotic effects were inspired by Indian jewelry, Oriental art and Egyptian iconography." (Look for Lady Edith wearing a print dress decorated with designs from Egyptian hieroglyphics.)

 The Crysler Building in New York City was completed in 1930 and remains one of the best examples of Art Deco style architecture. The interior structure is steel and brick, the outside is clad in stainless steel.

The women of Downton Abbey still wear tiaras for fancy parties although some of them wear a bandeau, a simplified headdress worn across the forehead or encircling the head.

Carey Mulligan wears a bandeau in her role as Daisy Buchanan
in The Great Gatsby

 This diamond tiara designed by Laclouche is considered one of the great masterpieces of the Art Deco Movement.

The Duchess of Westminster wearing the same tiara given to her by her husband when they married in 1930.

Art Deco cigarette case and enameled powder compacts.

The 1920s were also a time when more women took up smoking, a daring activity to match their skimpy dresses and short hair. Elegant cigarette cases and powder compacts were essential accessories.

1930s cocktail cabinet by Maples of London.

Cocktail drinks were the rage and cocktail cabinets were the mark of a changing society as the servant class was leaving service and choosing factory work.  When there weren't enough servants to staff elaborate dinner parties, the easiest way of entertaining was to invite people to cocktails.

For the next seven Sunday nights, don your tiara, mix yourself a cocktail and tune into the glamorous world of Downton Abbey!