The iconic Chanel brand, with its universally recognized interlocking Cs logo, is one with a long and illustrious history. Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel was born in France in 1883. Historians credit her with being the driving force behind a dramatic change in women’s apparel following World War I. As a fashion designer, her innovative ideas freed women from the restrictive, corseted look that was the standard at the time. Instead, she promoted a style that emphasized a more sporty, casual aesthetic.
From clothing, she expanded her creative influence to fragrances, handbags, and jewelry. At one point, her Chanel No. 5 was arguably the most well-known perfume in the world and she was one of the world’s most prominent fashion experts. In fact, she is the only designer included on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. So let’s take a closer look at the history of Chanel, one of fashions most recognized luxury brands.
History Chanel Jewelry: An Innovative Blend of Fine and Costume Aesthetics
Before Chanel arrived on the scene in the late 1920s, jewelry was only made with fine metals and precious stones, and could only be afforded by the wealthy. And, even those who could afford jewelry often only owned a few pieces and rarely wore more than a single item at a time. More affordable “costume jewelry” existed, but it was looked down upon by many.
Coco Chanel, who had a large collection of fine jewelry from her relationships with a number of wealthy suitors, took the groundbreaking approach of mixing fine jewelry with costume jewelry when she accessorized. People were both shocked and intrigued by the fact that she would use layers of faux pearl necklaces and stacks of bracelets to create visual interest to complement her minimalist clothing designs. That contrast continues to be an essential element of the Chanel allure to this day and a reason that people continue to love Chanel necklaces, Chanel bracelets, Chanel rings, and Chanel earrings.
One of the brand’s most notable early jewelry pieces was what is referred to as the Chanel Maltese Cross Cuff. Collaborating with one of her designers, Chanel created a design loosely based on the star of the Knights of Malta. The piece was filled with multi-color semiprecious stones and mounted on a mismatched pair of white enamel bracelets. Coco Chanel loved the look of the bracelets and made them a centerpiece of her own wardrobe. The Chanel Maltese Cross Cuffs were first made available to the public around 1930 and have been part of the Chanel jewelry line ever since.
How Chanel Jewelry Changed Other Areas of Fashion
It is a testament to the strength of Coco Chanel’s designs and the depth of her creativity that her Chanel jewelry could cross over into other areas of fashion and change perceptions there as well. For example, the cuffs mentioned above are beautiful in and of themselves, but they can also change the whole look of a woman’s outfit, as they mimic actual shirt cuffs.
Similarly, a gorgeous jeweled belt can do more than simply please the eye. By cinching it just right at your waist, you can change the way your clothing flows. The same can be done with a perfectly positioned brooch. These simple but powerful changes are things many women never considered before Chanel made it fun to be fashionable.
Chanel Jewelry Today
Today, Chanel jewelry covers the spectrum from engagement rings and wedding rings, to a wide variety of collections including:
- Coco Crush
- Sous le Signe du Lion
- Plume de Chanel
The company has also expanded into luxury watches, eyewear, makeup, and skincare products.
Coco Chanel passed away in 1971 at the age of 87. However, her free spirit, and the Chanel jewelry line she created to express that zest for life, are as relevant today as they were nearly 100 years ago. Her belief that women should feel comfortable and confident creating a mix of fine jewelry and costume jewelry that suits them is echoed by women today who are excited about exploring new ideas and breaking free of preconceived notions about fashion. And, there is every reason to believe that this newfound freedom will continue to expand in the years and decades ahead.
How to Spot Real Chanel Jewelry
As one of the most beloved brands in the world, Chanel jewelry is often imitated, and there are many fakes on the market. Consequently, it is important to make purchases through a reputable dealer. It is also helpful to know a little bit about how Chanel identifies its jewelry.
In the early years, Chanel jewelry was not “signed” in any way, which makes pieces created prior to the 1950s very hard to authenticate. In the 1950s and early 1960s, pieces were often simply stamped with Chanel. Later, the company began putting copyright and registration trademarks on its jewelry. Often this was on a round tag noting “Chanel CC Made in France,” although in some cases this was stamped directly on the piece. It includes a copyright symbol to the left of the wording and a registration mark to the right.
In the mid-1980s, Chanel began identifying pieces with an oval signature tag that includes an indication of the season in which the jewelry was produced. Then, in the early 1990s, the company began noting whether the piece is from the Fall Collection (A) or Spring Collection (P). While the evolution of Chanel’s marking standards can be a little difficult for consumers to follow, at least it has made it harder on counterfeiters as well!
How to Buy Chanel jewelry for the Best Price
Looking to buy Chanel jewelry? At myGemma, we specialize in authenticated designer jewelry at up to 80% off retail. Browse our selection of new and pre-owned Chanel jewelry, each piece assessed by our fine jewelry experts and selling for fantastic prices. Why pay full price when you can get the real deal for less?