JJ Jonette squiggle paint tube brooch

Focus on 80s jewelry: the Squiggle

Sep 21, 2023 | 80s jewelry

In the Devil Wears Prada, villainous fashionista boss (Meryl Streep) chides heroine (Anne Hathaway) for her naive belief in the free will of fashion choice. The Casual Corner cerulean blue sweater was the signature color models were wearing on Paris’ runway two years before.

Thus is the way of 80s costume jewelry.

But with costume jewelry, first it’s launched at Tiffany’s.

80s jewelry Tiffany & Co. designer Paloma Picasso

Paloma Picasso, youngest daughter of Pablo Picasso, joined Tiffany’s as a signature designer in 1980. She quickly became that decade’s jewelry icon.

Her first designs incorporated large semi-precious stones, trending away from diamonds, and allowing more colorful designs on a grander scale.

Paloma Picasso wearing her signature red lip and one of her famous Tiffany designs, c. 1985

Read jewelry journalist The Adventurine‘s story, A Look Back at the Artistry of Paloma Picasso.

Or The Bold and the Beautiful: Paloma Picasso for Tiffany & Co.

The 80s jewelry Squiggle

Picasso then moved toward more affordable pieces that would be simpler to manufacture, and therefore easier to afford.

Her first modernist design in this vein was the 80s answer to the whiplash line: the Squiggle.

Paloma Picasso's Tiffany & Co Squiggle brooch in 18K gold with diamonds.

Paloma Picasso’s Squiggle design is ubiquitous in 1980s costume jewelry.

Like cerulean blue in The Devil Wears Prada, every “trickle-down” costume jewelry manufacturer producing jewelry in the 80s seems to have tried their hand at the free-form loopy-dee-loop, with endlessly echoing curvy varietals.

These are in my own collection, and may still be available at minusOne jewelry on Etsy.

The fever of the squiggle took awhile to cool. These Anne Klein 90s clip ons were still vibrating from the original 1983 design launch. (These or something like them – because I can’t help myself – may still be available at minusOne.etsy.com.)

And by 1995, the fever still hadn’t cooled.

1995 cartoon from the New Yorker with Paloma Picasso's Scribble brooch.
1995 cartoon from the New Yorker with Paloma Picasso’s Scribble brooch.

Graffiti and Splatter paint jewelry

Picasso explained of her move toward more affordable modernist jewelry in the early 80s as tied to street art: “At the time everybody was talking against grafitti…I thought, let’s give a good name to graffiti.”

So the Squiggle is at the heart of a lot of memorable 80s jewelry trends, including splatter paint and color block.

Here’s a splatter paint enamel bracelet for sale on Etsy by the Tacky Tourist.

Splatter plain enamel bangle for sale on Etsy by https://www.etsy.com/shop/thetackytouristlwb

And another splatter paint bracelet sold by ShopHullaballoo.

Splatter paint bangle sold by ShopHullaballoo. https://creatoriq.cc/3LvjPg8

Splatter paint bangle sold by ShopHullaballoo. https://creatoriq.cc/3LvjPg8

My soft spot for 80s jewelry becomes cavernous if you press too hard.

Do you like 80s fashion, too? Check out this 80s-does-Deco post on 80s Flapper Pins.

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