Making a Statement: 70 years of House of Dior Jewellery

By Harriet Quick

PARIS – In the week when Dior launched their latest collection at Paris Fashion Week - 70 years after their landmark debut - we take a look at the iconic brand's jewellery, which features in the Christian Dior, Bijoux de Mode: Fashion Jewellery Online sale, which is open until 4 October.


“As a rule I would use jewellery generously to get the most out of it. A many stoned necklace of rhinestones for instance will look lovely with a décolleté frock for evening. It will go equally with a fine black knitted sweater for afternoons,” wrote Christian Dior in his pocket style guide (The Little Dictionary of Fashion, 1954).

Generous is apt in consideration of Dior’s vast history of designing and crafting jewellery – the pieces are flamboyant, individualistic and intricately detailed.  At Dior, jewellery was designed not as a discreet finishing touch but as a statement, and the pieces in Christian Dior — Bijoux de Mode – the first online auction at Sotheby’s France – reflect that.

The sale comprises over 200 pieces from a French private collection of costume jewellery, ready-to-wear and haute couture as well as unique prototypes. Stylistically the range is vast with pieces reflecting the influence of seven creative directors including John Galliano, Marc Bohan and Gianfranco Ferre. There are rococo necklaces featuring house motifs such as bows and lily of the valley through to graphic sculptured pieces and everyday adornments such as Marc Bohan’s Swarovski crystal punkish chain logo bracelet that dates from the 1970s.  

Rich themes and inspirations are explored. Find an elegant Victorian Masai-style necklace made from glass and fresh water pearls that featured in John Galliano’s first haute couture collection for Dior in 1997; a delicate drop necklace created from ovals of tiny rhinestones and teardrop-shaped green emerald coloured stones alongside a graphic enamelled choker in tones of ochre and red.


There are collar bone-sweeping earrings crafted in silver to look like wheat sheaves; a necklace and bracelet fashioned after a bicycle chain and beautiful articulated headpieces in Swarovski crystal with tiny painted Sevres Porcelain medallions with hand painted lotus motifs. These were made for the groundbreaking Matrix haute couture collection that John Galliano presented at Versailles in the autumn of 1999.

According to Alexander Fury, journalist and author of Dior: The Collections, 1947-2017 (Thames & Hudson), ‘jewellery had a huge impact in the Dior catwalk vision - Christian Dior himself designed costume jewellery specifically to accompany many of his dresses and unlike Chanel, Dior's jewels weren't "fake" - in that they weren't pretending to be real. Monsieur Dior's creations were fantasies - often resembling imaginary flowers around necks or fingers. The jewellery designed by his successors is very much in the same mould. John Galliano is the best example - his globetrotting and historical fusions (say, Native Americans meeting Elizabethan England with touches of Ming Dynasty) were extraordinary, and often impossible. But there were interesting collisions of inspiration - like Galliano allying the brass neck rings of Burmese tribes women with the choker necklines of the Belle Époque, using both in collections to create a specific silhouette.

‘The vision of Galliano - like that of Christian Dior himself - is multi-faceted, and the shoes, accessories and bijoux were just as important as an haute couture ball gown in expressing his ideas and inspirations at Dior. It also underscored Galliano's relentless invention: only under his hands could a Burmese neckpiece become an Edwardian necklace, or the initials "C" and "D" transform into a gilt horse-bit, or a pair of jewelled handcuffs - both worn as necklaces by Dior models. Just as Galliano reinvented Dior silhouettes time after time, the jewellery was transformed each season, an essential component to a 21st-century re-imagining of Christian Dior. These were the same components - the strass, silver, pearl beads - Galliano just changed the setting.’


The robust catalogue bears witness to Christian Dior’s legacy. The couturier’s business developed at breakneck speed in the post-war years and thanks to his radical evolution in silhouettes and his embrace of a womanly woman; the Dior name was revered worldwide. Dior launched jewellery, stockings, perfumes, handbags, heels by Roger Vivier, make-up, sunglasses, and even men’s ties creating a romantic and fully immersive universe best witnessed at the iconic store at 30, Avenue Montaigne. ‘I wanted a woman to be able to leave the boutique dressed by me from head to foot, even carrying a present for her husband in her hand,’ Dior wrote.

The atelier worked with the finest artisans including Sevres Porcelain, Gossens, Lumens and individual jewellery craftsmen to realize the pieces.  One of the longest collaborations has been with Swarovski crystal, the Austrian-based family company that was founded by Daniel Swarovski in 1895. Dior’s New Look collection was accessorized with drop-shaped crystal necklaces and earrings (the haloed ‘drop’ stone remains a classic motif) but it was in 1956 when the collaboration took on a new dimension. Manfred Swarovski, the grandson of the founder, created the Aurora Borealis stone named after the Northern Lights. Lower facets of the crystal were coated in vaporized blue metal creating multi hued iridescent dazzle that would reflect the tones of the wearer’s ensemble. The stone, or AB, as it became known, was a phenomenal success. Dior continued to work with Swarovski and its succession of creative directors including the current artistic lead, Maria Grazia Chiuri.

The sale Christian Dior — Bijoux de Mode (open for bidding from 20 September until 4 October) is timed perfectly. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the iconic Parisian house. The outstanding exhibition ‘Christian Dior Couturier du Reve’ is currently on show at Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris. It showcases the excellence of the house through ready to wear, haute couture, jewellery, millenary and perfumes over seven decades curated through thematic rooms. What is immediately clear is that jewellery has and will always remain an integral part of that dreaming.

The exhibition Christian Dior — Bijoux de Mode will open on the 28-30 September, and 2 October at Sotheby’s, Paris. The sale is open for bidding from 20 September until 4 October. 

CLICK HERE to see the full sale catalogue

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