Coco Chanel, of all the opinionated and chic fashion designers and trendsetters of the twentieth century, is by far the most influential and relevant.
This week, I’ve selected Susie Hoimes’ Chanel costume jewels for inspiration—and a quick style recharge. Some pieces are pure fantasy—and others could be worn with a gala gown for a convincing injection of style and sparkle.
Susie Hoimes has become the top-secret source among San Francisco, Montecito, New York, Dallas, London, and Los Angeles fashion trendsetters for her superb collections of rare and elegant vintage jewelry. Among her recent treasures are early Chanel necklaces and cuff bracelets, Tony Duquette necklaces, Miriam Haskell pearl earrings and necklaces, and Elsa Schiaparelli necklaces.
“My clients love the fine craftsmanship, drama and character of really fine vintage jewelry,” said Hoimes, who is originally from London. She is also a co-founder and partner in the new and highly popular jewelry collections for Dallas-based BuDhagirl.
“The vintage jewelry pieces I sell at MDVII in San Francisco are classic and glamorous, never trendy,” she said to me recently. “Chic California women today wear vintage Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent with their favorite diamonds, just as the Duchess of Windsor wore Kenny Lane costume jewelry with her precious jewelry.”
Chanel’s influence is evident among jewelry connoisseurs who heed Chanel’s opinion that style is more meaningful than cost or status. Sometimes beautifully crafted costume pieces can be more dramatic, elegant and chic. Chanel’s Maltese cross bracelets, Byzantine looks, cabochon stones in many hues, and ropes of simulated pearls are among Hoimes’ selections. They celebrate the beauty of fine craftsmanship, rarity, and originality.
“Costume ornamentation often looks more beautiful as Chanel turned the world of precious jewelry upside-down,” noted Hoimes. ‘She worked closely with Verdura and Gripoix and others to make some of her most memorable and important designs, sometimes inspired by her own collections of precious jewels.”
Also in the velvet-lined display drawers at MDVII are sixties Christian Dior and Pierre Cardin dazzlers, early Lanvin and YSL pieces, and hard-to-find Coppola y Toppo forties to sixties beaded necklaces and bracelets.
Susie is also on speed dial for many of New York’s leading fashion stylists and style editors, including accessories and fashion editors at Elle and Vanity Fair and Vogue. Look for her jewels in star portraits of upcoming issues.
“Everyone is collecting over-the-top Kenneth Kay Lane Egyptian-revival pieces, and they love Boucher, William de Lillo, Goossens, Schreiner, and Hobe,” said Hoimes, who has a roster of top-secret international sources and is ultra-discreet about her clientele. “Chanel is essential for vintage jewelry collectors, as her designs cover such a wide range of materials such as Gripoix poured glass and faux emeralds and sapphires.”
It’s not all costume. Hoimes also sells antique Indian handcrafted gold and enamel jewelry in the kundan style, along with exquisite rare pink conch pearl necklaces and earrings, and pieces she has collected in Bangkok and Paris.
“Chanel and Hermes recently showed very beautiful Indian-inspired fashions and jewelry in Paris. I’m expecting an increased interest in Indian styles,” said Homes. “But I don’t really follow trends, precisely. I prefer timeless styles, classic pieces, and designs that have lasting quality and allure. My clients love one-of-a-kind pieces, and most of my vintage pieces were either singular designers or were made in very limited collections.”
Chanel called her costume jewelry ‘vrais bijoux en toc’ (real jewels that are fake), and mixed them with real pearls and diamonds, in a style she called ‘nonchalance de luxe’. She introduced this style in 1924. It was fantasy, artfully alluding to precious pieces, and was beautifully allegorical, and often convincingly ‘real’. Chanel and her collaborators loved movement, drama, and irony—and were seldom sentimental about nineteenth-century styles. Modern was her watchword.
Susie Hoimes vintage jewelry from $200 for a pair of sixties Cartier-style Ciner earrings. Prices on request.
A note from Susie, sent from Hong Kong recently:
“At MDVII and at my trunk shows I present virtually all the important costume jewelry designers. My brother founded the jewelry department at Spink in London (now owned by Christie’s) and is an expert in colored stones, as a result I have access to very special pieces of fine jewelry along with important costume jewelry
“Peter Truman also advises me on important pearls, Peter is a fourth generation jeweler in London whose family started in the mid 19th-century making mourning jewelry for Queen Victoria and high society in London after Prince Albert died. They made Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother’s wedding ring and still make exquisite jewelry for top jewelers internationally today.
Peter Truman is also a world-recognized authority on conch and natural pearls (Peter’s grandfather and President Truman were brothers).”
Jewels at MDVII:
Among the designers Susie offers are rare pieces by Hermes, Christian Dior, Yves St Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Isabel Canovas, Gripoix, Lanvin, Alexis Lahellec, Hervé Van Der Straeten, Dominique Aurientis, Miriam Haskell, Kenneth Jay Lane, Hobe, Boucher, Philippe Trifari, Hattie Carnegie, Ciner, and Pucci, as well as many others, including leading Italian designers.
Susie’s charming boutique, filled with rare Venetian glass, quirky and chic antiques, and a treasure trove of jewelry, is located on Russian Hill and not far from Pacific Heights. I propose: call ahead and make an appointment as Susie is often traveling to find new wares, or visiting her private clients throughout the country.
1507 ½ Vallejo St. (near Polk Street)
San Francisco, CA
Chanel jewelry images courtesy Susie Hoimes, used with kind permission. Note that most pieces are stamped ‘Chanel’.
Portrait of Susie Hoimes by Barbara Vaughn Photography, Barbara Vaughn Photography, 415-515-5112, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography of Chanel jewels: