Discover the 1980s jewellery design talents that put Italy on the map.
Fashion Jewellery: Made in Italy by Deanna Farneti Cera explores Italian jewellery design from the turn of the 20th century to the present day. This excerpt, dedicated to the 1980s, charts the rise of mixed-material jewellery and the emerging design talents of the era.
In the 1980s we saw a return of costume jewellery to the forefront with a ﬂourish of different shapes, materials and colours, marked by a witty, innovative, playful character.
Having surmounted the prejudices that condemned it as an improper substitute of fine jewellery, fashion jewellery rediscovered its joyfulness in non-traditional subjects or by imitating fine jewellery but this time with class.
Even women à la page, rich and famous, wore fashion jewellery in quantity. Some of the first were the protagonists of the TV series Dallas and Dynasty, which in those years burst into every Italian house with their plots woven into their own surreal world, too rich to be true. A piece of fashion jewellery – easy to change, not too expensive, cheerful and of no consequence – became the perfect accessory to brighten up clothes and personalise outﬁts.
Like the clothes, the ornaments were also conceived to follow the curves of the body and to caress it. We witnessed a return of colliers de chien (chokers), particularly in pearls, in all possible colours, from white to metallised red; pearls were among the most widely used materials for creating ornaments in the 1980s. Long chains, twisted, bulky but empty inside so that they were not too heavy, with jingling coins or pendants, were the best sellers, inspired by the eternal Chanel style and perfectly in tune with the severe look of suits or the provocative style of certain outﬁts based on lace collars and white shirts that recalled the fashion of the English dandy.
But the stars of the show, particularly in the second half of the eighties, were brooches. Taking inspiration from those of the 1940s, they were large and showy, with reﬂective and shiny surfaces to capture light, full of coloured stones, ideal for illuminating and customising a strictly black dress or a jacket. Jackets had become a basic part of apparel and they were not only a complementary part of the very popular suit with padded, wide shoulders (except those of Armani, unlined and without padding), narrow and tight waist to accentuate the roundness of the breasts, sometimes with gathered sleeves to give yet more volume to the bust. Brooches could be of current production, but the most popular were vintage, which were imported from America and quickly sold out.
A compromise solution was to produce new objects with period materials, precious and most sought after as they belonged to the past. Two names stand out in this area: Annarita Vitali and Simonetta Starrabba, both of whom are still producing jewellery today. Annarita Vitali, a designer from Bologna, infuses the jewellery she designs with her love for art and decoration. She ﬁlls her ornaments with the spirit of a recent past, focusing on quality, and giving shape to that spirit through a modern design, better suited to contemporary life. Simonetta Starrabba creates ornaments using only old buttons which she assembles in improbable and poetic combinations, in contrasting colours or tone-on-tone shades.
Ugo Correani is undoubtedly the star performer among the manufacturers of fashion jewellery in the 1980s. A versatile figure, intelligent, curious, he was able to orientate himself in the world of fine jewellery and yet, at the same time, to find inspiration in the objects that crowded the flea markets. He was commissioned to create jewellery by the greatest fashion designers of the time, in particular Karl Lagerfeld, who, besides managing his own brand, also designed for Chloé and Chanel.
Correani was unsurpassed in his ability to take inspiration for his projects from the realm of real jewellery, from the Czars’ treasures to the crown jewels on display at the Louvre, transforming the original models by enlarging, colouring and simplifying them. At the same time he was not ashamed to get inspiration from the avant garde movements, above all Surrealism, coming up with improbable pieces of jewellery such as brooches in the shape of chairs and armchairs from an 18th century sitting room for Karl Lagerfeld, or pins shaped like an adjustable spanner and bangles made as huge bolts. Everything in his production was permeated by the irreverence and boldness that belonged to his ‘Italianness’. At the same time, however, he also knew how to adapt his creativity to the request for classicism demanded by Gianni Versace. Versace wanted opulent, glittering, magnificent jewels for the brands he designed – Genny, Complice, and then Gianni Versace Couture and Gianni Versace Atelier – yet they [had to] be traditional and clearly inspired by 18th century grandeur.
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