Marie-Antoinette had a reputation for collecting stratospherically valuable diamonds—one particular necklace, in the infamous L’affaire du collier de la reine, would even spell her eventual doom—but she was an equal opportunist with as much a taste for faux bijoux. She wasn’t alone: In the 18th century, paste—the term used for glass cut and polished to resemble diamonds and gemstones—was a Parisian art form. Today, quality Georgian-era examples can sell for thousands of dollars, higher with provenance.
Still, the terms faux and fine are often used to classify jewels. But with fresh ideas coming from contemporary stars like Giovanna Engelbert, who is making technicolor magic with Swarovski crystals, and Daniel Roseberry, who conjures up audacious surrealist brass for Schiaparelli, it’s time to rethink those antiquated words and challenge the notion of what’s real and fake. And whether it matters.
“I don’t call our jewelry ‘costume,’” says Engelbert, the street-style icon, editor, and Swarovski’s first-ever global creative director. “It’s made with the same savoir faire as precious gems.” She celebrates the crystals’ lightness, stringing them into opera-length strands, rivière chokers, and multicolored earrings. Meanwhile Roseberry’s bronze sculptures honor Schiaparelli’s legacy and illustrate jewelry’s transformative power—who can forget the gilded dove that adorned Lady Gaga as she sang the National Anthem at Joe Biden’s inauguration?
“What’s precious is just a matter of taste,” says Engelbert, who layers antique paste with haute joaillerie as women have done throughout history, from cosmetics giant Helena Rubinstein to Coco Chanel, who worked with goldsmith Robert Goossens to forge her signature vermeil jewels. Chanel never bothered with terms like faux and precious, so why should we?
This story appears in the May 2022 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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