NOW AND THEN: Jewelry by Tony Duquette
I don’t usually blog about fashion–you can head over to my tumblr to see some snaps of outfits that inspire me. But I simply can’t resist anything to do with creative genius, Tony Duquette.
By now you might have heard that Coach has launched a limited edition of jewelry in collaboration with his estate. The motifs in the collection are classic Duquette. It’s splashy, sparkly and fun, with a big style bang for the buck.
As a child, Tony made his first piece of jewelry, a necklace, out of clay, for his mother. In the 1930s, he began designing jewelry for friends and relatives, using old Victorian jewelry as a base to which he would add elements such as a citrine bumble bee or enameled flower.
His first commissioned piece was a tiara for Elsie de Wolfe in 1945. While I couldn’t find a picture of that piece, I did uncover this photo of the Duchess of Windsor wearing her favorite piece of Duquette jewelry. I think Coach’s bib necklace seen above echoes some of the same motifs as the Duchess’ piece.
In addition to the Duchess of Windsor, Tony had many other prominent clients including Mary Pickford and Liza Minnelli. According to the book More is More, by Hutton Wilkinson, he considered the necklace seen below worn by his wife Beegle, and created for Pilly Pillsbury, to be his most beautiful piece. The Pillsbury family ultimately sold it and now its owner is no longer known. How would you like to stumble upon that necklace at an antique fair?
In the late 1980′s, Tony created a collection of collar necklaces that he called the Talismans of Power. Wilkinson writes that Tony found the creation of these necklaces to be therapeutic after his beloved exhibition space, the Duquette Pavillion in San Francisco, burned to the ground. This therapy continued—-Tony Duquette went on to lose 3 other properties to fire. As someone who has lost only one home to fire, it is almost impossible for me to conceive of how it must feel to suffer 4 devastating ones.
After each fire, Tony embarked on a trip to an exotic location in the Far East, where he gathered the stones to create his jewelry. Here is a shot from More is More of Tony at his home, Dawnridge surrounded by his jewelry making supplies, c.1990.
Wilkinson says that Tony Duquette liked his jewelry to be versatile. For example, some items had removable pieces that could be used as brooches. In the fish below, the eye can be worn as a separate pin. This piece surely served as inspiration for the fish pendant and fish decoration on the evening bag shown in the Coach collection.
Many of the Coach pieces draw on a sunburst motif. This was a common element though out Duquette’s work. Perhaps the closest parallel is the Canticle of the Sun decoration that adorned the outside of the Duquette Pavilion. It is used in miniature in several pieces in the Coach collection.
Of course I have my personal stash. Yes I rushed right out and bought my favorites from the Coach collection. The necklace I chose has the legendary Duquette versatililty—I also can wear it as a belt.
If you like something from the collection, don’t hesitate. My necklace is already sold out online. I went to 2 stores in Manhattan before I found it. The 57th street flagship told me I got one of the last 3 copies left in the city, adding that Coach was not making more of these designs. When they are gone, that’s it. Fingers crossed that some of Tony’s prodigious creativity will wear off on me when I wear these pieces.