Vintage Brooch Designers

By: Frank Sommers


Brooches are an art in themselves, but vintage brooches are a unique art. Modern day manufacturing can process out brooches and pins by the thousands, one after another all just alike. Problem is that they lack the character and unique individual attention given by a real artist to create these vintage brooches and pins. Perhaps this is why so many people today are looking for these old pieces. Two of the most popular brooch and pin designers were Marcel Boucher and Christian Dior. Who were these designers of old times and why did they stand out?

One of the more popular artists was Marcel Boucher. Marcel Boucher was born in Paris in 1898. He joined Cartier as an apprentice jeweler, probably in 1920. Some time around 1923, Marcel was transferred by Cartier from Paris to their New York workshop. After the 1929 Wall Street Crash, fine jewelry fell into a deep recession and Cartier's business was severely cut back. Marcel found employment with another precious jeweler, and was fortunate enough to be relatively unaffected by the Depression. He also did freelance work, mainly in fine jewelry, and designed show buckles and costume jewelry for Mazer Brothers, which enthused him with the possibilities. By spring 1937 he was ready to start his costume jewelry firm with his partner Halberstadt. The new designs were launched for the 1937 Fall/Winter Collection. The first collection consisted of six different designs. They gave Saks Fifth Avenue an exclusive to sell the collection for the first few weeks, before making it available to other top department stores. The three-dimensional naturalistic themes with their unusual enameling were so original after years of "art deco" designs and were such a success that they immediately put him on the map and made his reputation. For the next four years, until America entered World War II, Marcel produced a range of costume jewelry, which can be described as "very stylized, very elegant and very chic." They are considered to be innovative, bold, and fashionable. Perhaps best described as "couture" jewelry, and certainly based little on the imitation of fine jewelry. Marcel was prolific and was responsible for all the designs produced by his firm.

Christian Dior is another awesomely impressive designer that had no real formal training in the area of design and came into this profession later in his life. His design career started with an apprenticeship with the respected French designer, Robert Piguet. Dior opened the House of Dior which became immensely popular for its clothing line. Bolstered by this success the House of Dior then branched out into designing extravagant, gorgeous costume jewelry, which included brooches and pins, for such movie star icons as Betty Davis and Lucille Ball and that eternal symbol of haute couture fashion - the late Jacqueline Kennedy. The House of Dior was the first to use 'aurora borealis' rhinestones in their costume jewelry. The aurora borealis is a naturally occurring weather phenomenon and the rhinestones are treated to reflect those flashes of color. In a way the play of color and light is very similar to that found in opals.

In the world of vintage brooches and pins today the pieces designed by these two designers stand out. If a vintage piece is attached to one of their names it is sure to signify quality and artistic design. The art and design skills that made them so popular is still passed on today in the products they left behind. It is no wonder that costume jewelry that carry the Dior or Boucher name are in still in high demand. The unique artistic characteristics found in their beautifully designed products are transferred into the look of the people who wear them, and perhaps that is why they have such an everlasting lure to women all around the world yesterday, today, and perhaps in the future as well.

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