I’d never heard of Gripoix glass until I was given a thank you gift by my dealer. It tickles me to say that, and even more so because it’s my jewelry dealer, owner of Eli Estate Jewelry in Rochester, NY. (You should definitely go.)
I was given this beautiful Monet pendant in thanks for taking what must have been a year or two of costume jewelry off his hands in boxes.
It’s a higher-quality Monet signed costume brooch featuring a traditional fleur de lis. It’s from the 1980s with brilliant drops of glass, glass manufacturer unknown.
But there is a chance it might be Gripoix glass.
What is Gripoix glass?
Gripoix glass saw a height of production and consumption In the 1920s during the Art Deco era, when poured glass was used for simulating gemstones. The House of Chanel launched costume jewelry – first known as “cocktail jewelry” – by collaborating with Madame Augustine Gripoix to reproduce ancient Byzantine jewelry that included glass made to look like precious stones. Chanel’s renowned Maltese Cross cuffs are the best example of this collaboration.
Below is a bracelet by Trifari (1932) incorporating Gripoix-style and carved glass cabs. Photo by Giovanni Gastel.
Above: Vintage 1940s Gripoix-style glass clip-ons, copyright minusOne Jewelry.
Gripoix and pate de verre
Literally translated, pate de verre means “dough” of glass, or molten glass.
The pate de verre process involves pouring melted glass directly into molds.
At the time Augustine Gripoix re-introduced the ancient art of glassmaking in the 1860s, the common practice of creating glass beads had been to grind glass to a paste, to bake it, and then to pour it into moulds. Glass in the moulds would cool, and then be transferred to a setting.
Therefore, one of the defining characteristics of Gripoix glass is its use of the special “pate de verre” technique.
Below: Antique 14K gold and Gripoix poured pare de verre emerald green glass found on ebay for $US135.
How is Gripoix Glass Made?
Gripoix glass is made by melting small pieces of colored glass together by hand. The glass is stored before use in rods of glass of varying colors. Using a torch, the glass rod is melted, then the molten glass is dropped directly into molds that serve as the jewelry setting. The resulting pieces usually have a smooth, glossy finish.
This video documentary, LES ATELIERS AUGUSTINE by Thierry GRIPOIX, explains how Gripoix glass jewelry is made, first by creating a metal form, then by torching the glass from the end of a rod of the chosen color, and setting it in the mold. After the glass is set, it’s polished, and the piece is finished, with shaping and any addition of gemstones.
What’s the most famous piece of Gripoix jewelry?
One of the most famous examples of Gripoix glass jewelry is the iconic Maltese Cross cuff worn by Coco Chanel during her lifetime. The Maltese Cross cuff features a cross of Gripoix glass set in a variety of base cuff metals and enamels. The House of Chanel and Augustine Gripoix first designed the Maltese Cross cuff in collaboration in the 1920s, and it is still in co-production by Gripoix and Chanel today.
The ivory-colored cuffs are the actual Maltese Cross cuffs Coco Chanel was said to have worn daily, both of them at once as shown. These particular Gripoix glass cross cuffs have an enameled silver base. It is said they were inspired by the Byzantine mosaics of the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, seen on a visit there by Chanel in the company of Fulco di Verdura, the cuff’s designer.
Many similar cuffs have since been, and continue to be designed and sold by Chanel, still incorporating Gripoix’s poured pate de verre glass.
Art Deco jewelry’s fascination with the Byzantine aesthetic was born again in the 1980s, and the Gripoix signature glass features came with it.
Gripoix and 1980s Revival jewelry
The 1980s saw a resurgence of interest in the ancient cultures that both Victorian and Art Deco era jewelry designers and consumers enjoyed.
For the Victorians, jewelry saw an Etruscan revival.
For those who followed them in the 1920s and 1930s, there was a Byzantine revival.
Jewelry in the 1980s saw both.
The colorful, over-the-top styles demanded by 1980s fashion found its expression in the primary colors and jeweled tones of Gripoix-style glass. In addition, 1980s was an era that loved all things Art Deco, so it was happy to revive again what the 1920s had first resurrected.
By the end of the 20th century, costume jewelry was manufactured widely, and had decades of technology and marketing developments to support it. There was no need to use gemstones when gorgeous glass was so readily available.
Above: Gripoix style glass mid-quality costume jewelry, 1980s pendants designed originally to be worn as interchangeable pedants on hoop earrings. Notice how the colors are flipped with the green and blue alternating for top-billing.
Kenneth Jay Lane and Gripoix Style Jewelry
Kenneth Jay Lane is well-known for incorporating gorgeous glass to simulate precious gems and semi-precious stones. In fact, Lane incorporated Gripoix-style glass in his earliest designs. Below: a 1960’s pair of KJL Mughal-style earrings found for sale by DSF Antique Jewelry in New York for US$1,500.
Below: 1980s Kenneth Jay Lane red and green Gripoix style resin collar. Found on ebay, copyright nandaimo, listed for just under US$1,000. And Vintage Kenneth Jay Lane red, green, turquoise and royal blue Gripoix style resin collar. Found on ebay, copyright nandaimo, listed for just under US$500.
Kenneth Jay Lane and Monet are examples of late 20th century jewelry designers who made both Ancient Greek and Roman revival costume jewelry that mimicked the Art Deco era Byzantine revival designs made famous by Chanel and Gripoix.
Although Lane and Monet often relied on resin and lower-quality glass manufacturers to execute their designs, the 1980s and 1990s also saw revival style costume jewelry that relied on real Gripoix glass, including Chanel and Fendi.
Chanel’s 1980s Gripoix Glass Jewelry
Chanel continued to rely on Gripoix glass in the late twentieth century, and its revival jewelry continues to demand high prices. This necklace and brooch set sold for US$13,750 at Christie’s in 2021.
Above: 1980s Chanel Gripoix glass bib collar necklace, sold on Etsy by VintagEnMode, Mulhouse, France for US$10,000
Gripoix glass and contemporary jewelry
Gripoix glass remains a popular material in high-end and couture jewelry and luxury design. Many contemporary designers are using Gripoix glass to create pieces that are both modern and vintage-inspired, including Chanel, Tom Ford, and Guerlaine.
This 2014 documentary on Gripoix’s studio is worth a watch. See what Gripoix is up to today!
Want to hear when new blog articles drop? Sign up for the minusOne newsletter. Keep in touch!