Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Costume Jewelry

Madeleine Albright's "Statement" Costume Jewelry

Guest blog post by Martin Mulcahey

Madeleine Albright distinguished herself as the first female American Secretary of State, selected by the Clinton administration in 1997, her style of diplomacy finding near universal acclaim. In that role, Secretary Albright carefully formulated her words to send distinct messages. As significantly, she put similar thought into the selection of brooches to adorn her clothing when meeting foreign dignitaries. In her memoir, Albright revealed, “Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal.” That celebrated collection of brooches has morphed into a museum exhibit, serving a dual role as symbols of style and international intrigue. Albright’s pieces range from irreplaceable antiques to ordinary costume jewelry, all chosen for symbolic value rather than gem or metal content. The Madeleine Albright collection features more than 200 pieces, and is touring the country with an extended stop at the Denver Art Museum in April.

For most, the essence of vintage jewelry is an unexplainable attraction they possess over the individual. Fascination with old jewelry bridges time, an items worth judged on unique qualities more than monetary value. For some, it is the knowledge a brooch previously gave joy to another person, who shared a sense of style with them that spans decades and in some cases centuries. The life cycle of vintage jewelry is limitless, dependent on the kindling of an emotional spark to remain relevant. Madeline Albright (a graduate of Kent High School, who spent her teenage years in Denver) is an extreme example of this, whose use of brooches was solely to send a message instead of accessorizing an outfit.

The collection of Secretary Albright tips heavily towards costume jewelry; most that are not were gifted by foreign diplomats in appreciation of her use of pins and brooches. If you are interested in previewing the pieces on display, and captivating tales that accompany them, purchase or check out Ms. Albright’s book 'Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box' at your local library. The stories in the book are more detailed than placards that reside under the brooches in the museum display. The book can double as a conversational piece for the coffee table, steering discussions in the direction of your appreciation for antique jewelry.

Secretary Albright’s use of antique jewelry is certainly a peculiar case, but everyone sends messages with their choice of jewelry. Women with pins, necklaces, and earrings. Alternatively, the man does the same with cufflinks and ties. Ask yourself, what does your jewelry say about you?

Contact Marty: mmulcahey@elpasotel.net

Want to check out the exhibit?  I know I’ll be checking it out! www.denverartmuseum.org  April 15, 2012 – June 17, 2012
Photo Credits - Liberty, Gijs Bakker (Netherlands), 1997. Sterling silver, stainless silver watches; 4.2 x 3.6 in. Photo © 2009 by John Bigelow Taylor. Serpent, designer unknown (U.S.A.), circa 1860. 18kt yellow gold, diamond; 2.4 x 1.1 in. Photo © 2009 by John Bigelow Taylor.
About the Contributor

Trisha Nickson is a member of Got Vintage Shops and owns and operated Vogel Haus Vintage on Etsy where she specializes in vintage costume jewelry, skeleton keys and animal figures.