From placing crystals as nose rings to rings on our toes, we’ve long loved adorning, decorating and embellishing every possible displayable inch. Seventy-five thousand years ago, our prehistoric ancestors festooned themselves in feathers, stylish shells, and protected themselves with necklaces made of shark teeth and twine. When the ancient world discovered metalworking, royals and nobles preened in gold, silver and gems, the style mavens of the status-conscious world of the medieval and Renaissance European courts delighted in being better able to pull sartorial rank on each other. And where turquoise, jasper, lapis lazuli and carnelian had been favorites of the Pharaohs, the Tudor and Elizabethan periods were studded in glittery rubies, emeralds, blue sapphires, black pearls, and diamonds. (Even the word “jewelry” touches on its form-over-function past. From the Latin for “plaything” (jocale), it became the Old French “joule” and, finally, jewelry – or jewellery, depending on which side of The Pond you call home.)

While yesteryears’s glittery top-down aristocracy has long vanished, our love of adornment remains undimmed. The woman in the upper left hand corner of the inspiration board above is actress Jessica Pare, who plays Don Draper's wife on Mad Men. She is French Canadian (on the show and in real life) and on the show she acts as a bridge between his era’s staid American ways and the quickly approaching youth revolution of the late 1960's and the advent of multiculturalism. A foreshadowing of the free spirited albeit commodified future, her actress character represents ‘beauty’ in a flickering film reel and commercial...She’s hard and soft, performative and self-aware in her use of spectacle (who can forget her “Zou Bisou Bisou” serenade to Draper at his 40th)—a symbol of what jewelry in the post-modern, post-Mad Men era can be.
Today, we look to accessories neither to dazzle nor trounce, but to reach out, bond, communicate. Vintage-inspired, yes, but studded and on-edge (like us). Bohemian but with spikes. A material girl with a martial edge. The story behind the jewelry of the new millennium tells of a tribe seeking strength in unity. “There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’,” prophesied Dylan. “It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls. For the times, they are a-changing.”

~Lesley Scott
Lesley Scott is the Editor in Chief of Fashiontribes. Her work has been feautured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, WWD, and The New York Observer. 

February 2013