There are two House Of Gucci scenes you probably already know by heart even if you haven’t yet seen the movie. There’s the “Father, Son, and House of Gucci” prayer of course but also what I call the espresso cup scene. “I’m not a particularly ethical person” Lady Gaga drawls as Patrizia Gucci, “but I am fair.” She strikes the cup twice with the small spoon for emphasis. Clink Clink.
Both scenes are studies in the power of gesture, in hand placement as plot point, and if you are paying attention to any of that there is no way you are not seeing the jewelry. It is bold and yellow gold and set with diamonds or cabochon cut colored stones. A big dome ring, heavy earrings, a double row of gold links. It is, in short, the jewelry of the 1980s.
What does that mean exactly? The decade’s designs have not received the attention or to be honest the respect of other periods. There is no official or unofficial name for them the way the 1920s diamonds and onyx bracelets are called Art Deco or the way the cuffs of the 1940s are termed Retro. But they do have distinct characteristics.
The experts weigh in: “Jewelry from the 1980s,” Henry Bailey, jewelry specialist from Christies explains, “is typically characterized by bold, impactful designs and the use of yellow gold and repeated geometric motifs. Alongside diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, a wide variety of ‘semi-precious’ gemstones were also favored by many designers in the 1980s, often cabochon-cut.” Think back to what Alexis Carrington Colby wore, think Paloma Picasso, think Raquel Welch. But also note what else was happening then, in those years known as the Greed Decade. Context is key to jewelry design.
“The 80's? Lots of dancing, lots of uptown meets downtown, high fashion meets street fashion, music, travel, logos, and new wealth eager to acquire art, jewelry and make an entrance!” says Rebecca Selva, creative director at Fred Leighton. “When I think of 80's jewelry, of course I think of Italian jewelry design of the period and iconic jewels. Gucci gold chains— horsebit, puffed and mariner links—as well as the gold, gemstone and pearl earrings and chokers of Marina B. Bulgari, with strong shapes, distinctive outlines, and iconic motifs. Many of these iconic designs looked to classical forms, art, and architecture in their design. What unites all these is a sense of boldness and flair—make a statement, why not? So the bow on the ear, is a big one; the button on the ear is oversized; the earring's tassel is a shoulder duster; the pearl chain or diamond necklace is worn in multiple strands.” And Selva believes all of this jewelry has something to say, loud and proud: “These jewels have great presence and a rich air, that said and continue to say I've arrived.” The message is clear and the message is money.
The presence of the era’s jewelry in House of Gucci is fitting then of course, and true to the aesthetic of the film and to its timeline and to the plot itself. But the influence of the jewelry of the 1980s has infiltrated more than just Lady Gaga memes. At a recent Bulgari High Jewelry appointment there was one whole room dedicated to one-of-a-kind pieces of yellow gold jewelry—a rarity in more recent years that favored white or rose gold or even platinum for this level of design. The house, whose tubogas and Monete coin pieces are also icons of the era, leaned into those collections too. And if you leave the movie wanting to channel Lady Gaga, there is a tubogas Monette choker waiting for you at Bulgari to aid in your time of need.
In the recent Paris collections, too, the decade got its due—the Paloma Picasso inspired pieces at YSL, the chunky gold link chains at Valentino, the large gold and pearl domes at Miu Miu, and that heavy yellow gold at Schiaparelli. There is also the general trend in jewelry against timidity, the statements are clear in almost every category, and the designs are not shy. It’s good news. “With this new bold spirit in jewelry design,” says Selva, “I think we are also making our way back to appreciating the 1980's. We are maneuvering past the big hair, ruffs, and shoulder pads, and focusing on the creativity.”
And if the original designs of the 1980s signaled that you had arrived, perhaps these new designs suggest something else: our big, and long awaited return.