Coco Chanel once said: "Nothing looks more like a fake jewel than a beautiful jewel. Why get mesmerized by a beautiful stone? One might as well wear a cheque around one's neck." The quote is ironic considering that much of the jewelry she wore was the real deal. Nevertheless, pronouncements such as this and more importantly, her extensive use of costume jewelry in her collections did incontestably contribute to the rise in popularity of the craft. In addition to her somewhat dictatorial pronouncements on style, Coco Chanel was renowned for her exacting standards. One of the few makers of costume jewelry whom she entrusted with the task of producing pieces for her collections was the House of Gripoix.
Founded in 1890, the House of Gripoix is one of the oldest if not the oldest in the trade. The artisans of Gripoix were among the first to master the techniques of glass enamelling, the sheening of fake pearls and various other techniques of the art of parure so essential to the world of haute couture. Gripoix's treasured petites mains, the artisans who toil tirelessly in cramped workshops to create the exquisite details that transform a beautiful garment into a sumptuous showpiece worthy of haute couture, have over the years turned out extraordinary pieces for Lanvin, Paul Poiret, Worth, Givenchy, Yves Saint-Laurent and many more. In particular, the House of Gripoix is credited with developing the pearl sheening that perfectly imitates cultured pearls and for which the House of Chanel has become famous.
The costume jewelry trade attained its apogee in the first half of the twentieth century. The dwindling number of haute couture clients since the late 1960's and the availability of cheaper overseas labour have translated into dwindling demand for the painstaking craft. In recent years however, there has been a resurgence of demand for the craft driven in part by modern designers such as Alber Elbaz at Lanvin and Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint-Laurent each of whom have introduced lines of high quality costume jewelry. Similarly, the House of Gripoix is enjoying a resurgence of sorts as women search for unusual and beautifully crafted accessories to make a personal statement. In early 2007, Gripoix named as its Artistic Director, Gilles Dufour, former creative director of Balmain. Dufour is also the former righthand man of Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel where for 15 years he designed the accessories collections. He now designs a line for Gripoix called "Gilles Dufour pour Gripoix" which includes, among many beautiful pieces, a stunning metal mesh evening bag (pictured below). He also oversees the company's haute couture accessories. For more information, please visit the House of Gripoix website.
Row 1: Blooming Bouquet Brooch; Groseille Treasure Necklace; Nuit Cuff.
Row 2: De Berry Mesh Bag; Gilles Dufour; Marguerite Glass Brooch.
All photos except Gilles Dufour by Denko Ivanisevic.
Coco Chanel quote taken from F. Muller, Costume Jewelry For Haute Couture (2006) Thames and Hudson Ltd., London, p.25.