The Kunstgewerbemuseum is showcasing masterpieces of costume jewellery dating from 1930 to 2007, with around 500 objects from the Gisela Wiegert Collection – all celebrated designs from major fashion houses and renowned designers such as Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and William de Lillo – in Berlin for the very first time. Beginning with the relatively sober styles of the late 1920s and early 1930s as well as the playful creations of Miriam Haskell, the exhibition draws a connection to the audacious and sumptuous parures of the present.

Apparel and jewellery have always been inextricably linked, playing off of and inspiring each other, and costume jewellery – originally made from base or semi-precious materials for serial and thus inexpensive production – is now considered an indispensable complement to high fashion. Until the mid-20th century major production centres included Idar-Oberstein (Germany) and Jablonec (Bohemia), and after World War II Neugablonz (Germany), and Providence, Rhode Island in the United States. Here, jewellery was and continues to be designed as well as manufactured in large production facilities.

Coco Chanel was the first fashion designer to recognise the creative potential of costume jewellery, and from the early 1930s onwards, she made a point of incorporating it into her collections as a design element. Other couturiers followed, and today nearly every major fashion house creates its own jewellery line, season after season. Costume jewellery – or, to be more precise, ‘couture jewellery’ – has become an integral part of haute couture collections, encompassing its own artistic aspirations that distinguish it from ‘real’ jewellery.

The roughly 500 objects in the exhibition – mostly forming matching ensembles, known as parures – are going on show in Berlin for the first time. The pieces have been loaned from Gisela Wiegert, one of the most prominent German collectors of costume jewellery. Wiegert has been passionately and knowledgeably collecting high-quality costume jewellery for over 30 years, and has generously provided the most significant and beautiful pieces of her opulent collection to the Kunstgewerbemuseum for the exhibition.

The show is formed of two parts. The first is embedded in the Fashion Gallery of the Kunstgewerbemuseum and vividly demonstrates the reciprocal influences between costume jewellery and high fashion by presenting the objects alongside outfits in the museum’s own collection. Featuring works by Coco Chanel, Coppola and Toppo, Eisenberg, Miriam Haskell, Kenneth J. Lane, William de Lillo, Pricharé, Trifari, and, more recently, Elsa Schiaparelli, Vendôme, and Albert Weiss, the display presents a survey of costume jewellery and its evolution in Europe and the USA from 1930 until today. The second part of the exhibition is dedicated exclusively to the creations of the House of Dior and features, decade by decade, brilliant parures from the mid-fifties to 2007.