What is jewellery to you? A token of love, a protective talisman, a financial investment or even a tiny wearable work of art, the reasoning behind wearing a piece of jewellery varies. Jewellery has the power to create a network between what we wear and who we are- it provides an extension to one’s personality. This is why the marketing of said jewellery is so important, when we look back at jewellery advertisements overtime, it becomes ever so clear that when we buy a piece, we are buying not just an accessory, but also buying into a story, a feeling, and an experience.
Through the Art Deco period it was very common for jewellery companies to use graphic campaigns to show off their pieces, featuring simple illustrations of women wearing the pieces and very symmetrical patterning. Back through the ages- during the 40s and 50s, jewellery advertisements exuded opulence. The models in frame were decorated in diamonds and jewels, portrayed a timeless appeal and often posed side on to highlight the pieces they were wearing. These advertisements represented women in a demure and gentle way. However during the 60s and 70s we noticed a wave of change in the way that people wore jewellery, and therefore a change in the way it was marketed. We can notice the marketing becoming more gallant, more daring, the rings and bangles are often layered, and we can notice the use of more varied colours indicating a sense of freedom, or more vivid expression.
Throughout the 80s and 90s these advertisements became even bolder in their approach, the models were often captured with a more sultry gaze or in a more indulgent outfit. The 90’s supermodel appeal lent itself to jewellery marketing, oozing luxury and decadence. Now more effortlessly cool, the turn of the 21st century brought back the appeal of minimalism for a while, despite maximalism being on the rise again- jewellery campaigns echoed the simple aesthetic of a time gone by, often exhibiting a minimal and cohesive jewellery look, lit to put prime focus on the jewellery. An “It speaks for itself” approach. That being said, a full bodied, conceptual ad that sells a lifestyle or fantasy experience truly works wonders. A Van Cleef & Arpels advertisement comes to mind. It features a model- who’s styling screams 1950’s, eating jewellery soup- this ironic and comical quality is common in ads nowadays and injects a healthy dose of fun while maintaining elegance and beauty.
Brands like Tiffany have revolutionised their marketing. For example- their boisterous 2021 campaign featuring the slogan “Not your mother’s tiffany” is far from the days of cigarette holders and knee length black dresses, this campaign featuring denim, layered silverware and a grungy model aesthetic is a step away from the days of “Breakfast at Tiffany's” and a step towards the 21st century. It jolted the heritage brand straight into the present time and proved to be very contentious.
Long standing jewellery houses have to contend with the upkeep of a historical reputation, this requires striking a very fine balance between moving forward with the times and maintaining the essence of their name. Jewellery advertisements have changed drastically and it is interesting to reflect on how this evolution goes hand in hand with the progression of how women are represented and female identity. We have developed from bashful side portraits, to sultry gazes, to comedic irony and stark, ambivalent slogans that have the ability to create an uproar. We wonder what the next turn will be- whether it will lead us back to the beginning and how it will change our relationship with jewellery.
Vogue France, May 1962 issue