The design industry has long been dominated by men, though the primary consumer of fashion has always been women. In our history women designers were rare. Women designers in the jewelry industry were just as uncommon, however, not completely absent from the creative world of jewelry design.
Several women of the past, and women designers of today, had an immense influence on the direction of jewelry design. Some of these women remain almost unknown and not household names, yet their contributions to jewelry design continue to resonate with today’s top designers.
5 Inspirational Women Jewelry Designers
Ms. Chanel, given to orphanage as a child after the sudden death of her mother, rose from her sad circumstances to become a leader in the fashion and jewelry industry. She was a fiercely independent, modern visionary who took women’s fashion and haute couture in a fresh direction.
Chanel’s iconic designs, the basic black dress, tailored suit, collarless jacket, and wide-legged yachting pants were quite different from the fashion of the period and modern. Chanel’s designs lead women away from the constraints of clothing and cumbersome attire to a relaxed and comfortable fashion. Her innovative fashion designs continue to reverberate today.
Coco Chanel was also a pioneer and innovator of jewelry design. She was a driving force in wearing jewelry pieces during the day, a champion of costume jewelry, and loved to layer strands of pearls, large and small, for added interest.
Coco Chanel herself designed only one fine jewelry collection Bijoux de Diamants in 1932. The collection was inspired by the night’s sky; stars, constellations, and the heavenly bodies. Consisting of stunning arrays of diamonds, the collection is a beautiful interpretation of the celestial bodies.
Today, Coco Chanel continues to be an industry leader, inspiration, and innovator for women. Her story as rich and vibrant as her designs.
Marianne and Oliver Ostier, Austrian immigrants, founded Ostier, Inc. after immigrating to the United States in the 1930’s. Marianne, the creative mind behind the jewelry company, was a musician, painter, and sculptor. Her creative talents and visions are responsible for the stunning designs Ostier, Inc. produced in the early 20th century.
Many of her designs have a free-form and organic feel, often created with diamonds. Certainly her background in sculpting influenced her designs and execution of pieces.
In addition to her stunning creations, Marianne Ostier was highly regarded by her peers. She was awarded the first life-time Diamonds-International Academy membership; received the Diamond U.S.A. award three times; and the Diamond International Award for design excellence.
After the death of her husband, Oliver Ostier, Marianne did not believe she could continue running the company without compromising her artistic integrity. The entire inventory of Ostier, Inc. was auctioned in 1969. Though sad, Marianne Ostier’s contributions continue to ripple through the jewelry design industry. Her vision and creative talents live on in today’s designs and in particular, opportunities for women.
Suzanne Belperron is among the rare group of women master jewelers. Her design career began as an art student in France. In 1921 Ms. Belperron was employed as a draftswoman for Maison Boivin in Paris. While there she mastered her skills in the hugely popular Art Deco style of the period. She quickly outgrew the conformity of the style and felt limited by the angular and rigid lines of the fashion. Her creativity found expression through experimentation of organic shapes and color families.
Bernard Herz recognized Belperron’s talent and hired her in 1932 to design exclusively for his company, B. Herz. At B. Herz, Belperron found the freedom to let her creativity flow and design with inspiration. Her pieces explored different cultures, shapes, and stone colors making her work unique and sought-after in the 1930’s.
During World War II, she is credited with saving B. Herz from the Nazi invasion by securing the company in her name. After the war ended, the company continued as Herz-Belperron. Despite passionate encouragement of friends to leave Paris during the Occupation, Belperron stayed and worked for the Resistance against the Nazi occupation, of which she was recognized and highly respected.
My style is my signature.”
Suzanne Belperron – why she rarely signed or marked her pieces
Though her name is not usually recognized today among the prominent designers, her work introduced a different aesthetic to the fashion world and broke long-held traditions for women within the industry. Expressing her creative voice gave the fashion world different interpretations of shape, nature, and stone combinations that were new and unique.
Noted for the panther pieces at Cartier, Ms. Toussaint took the infrequent references to the panther in early Cartier pieces and re-envisioned them to the Cartier icon of today. She worked closely with Peter Lemarchand to elevate the panther from the one-dimensional form into a work with movement and volume. She pushed to bring back color (after the lack of during the Art Deco period) in her pieces, adding a luxury and warmth to each creation. Ms. Toussaint’s designs also played with different textures, shapes, stones, and colors that intrigued women. Her panther bracelet was a unique piece that wrapped the panther about the wrist rather than simply placing a one-dimensional image on a cuff. Rather the pieces were texturally interesting and visually enticing.
The panther, now the icon of Cartier, was at the behest and creative talents of Jeanne Toussaint, an innovator and fearless explorer of design.
Marilyn Cooperman transitioned her creative talents from fashion to jewelry design creating stunning pieces of high-end jewelry for discerning women. She began her design career in fashion for Fred Leighton and later learned and mastered jewelry design. Her jewelry designs are the interpretation and expression of what Ms. Cooperman believes a woman wants to wear, expressing a woman’s sense of herself.
Ms. Cooperman brings a new, modern sense of style to femininity through jewelry design. She often designs with different tones of blue, golds, silvers, and patinas to create unique and undulating pieces.
Using her skills and talents as a couture pattern designer, she envisions and creates her pieces first as hand paintings, bringing her vision to life in one medium only to later transform that vision again using quite different mediums.
Marilyn Cooperman is a creative force who inspires other female artists to test their creativity and explore their visions.
I hope you found inspiration from these 5 Women Jewelry Designers. Each of these artists found ways to express their creativity, boldly experimenting with shape, color, and texture. Their contributions continue to influence fashion, jewelry design, and women across the globe.