04.01 . A history of jewelry according to Evelyne Possémé

Always immaculately dressed and draped in precious jewels, Helena Rubinstein quickly found her trademark style. Fascinated by jewelry, she accessorized her outfits with unique pieces that created a classic, tasteful look. Evelyne Possémé, chief curator at the museum of decorative arts in Paris (Musée des Arts Décoratifs) and head of the art deco & jewelry department, gives us an insight into jewelry trends from the 20th century.


Helena Rubinstein recognized the undeniable link between beauty and jewelry. Both were, and still are, designed to enhance a woman’s natural beauty.  “Women have always loved jewelry. During the 20th century, women began to work and suddenly had the spending power to be able to buy themselves beautiful pieces of jewelry. Whether they bought costume jewelry or real, precious jewels, women had a link to jewelry that wasn’t necessarily linked to its monetary value”, explains Evelyne Possémé.

Visionary Helena Rubinstein was so inspired by the beauty of jewels, she incorporated their design into her face powders and lipsticks; something which doesn’t surprise the chief curator. She adds that “many top jewelers launched perfume businesses and vice versa. The world of beauty is inextricably linked to jewelry. The two belong to the same family. In the 20s, some jewelry brands started creating makeup vanity cases for women, meaning that jewelry and beauty were once again combined”. Women had access to both whenever they wanted it.


Helena Rubinstein was fascinated with all things beautiful throughout her life. For her, precious stones enhanced the wearer’s natural beauty. “During Helena Rubinstein’s era, jewelry became big business. Women began to design fine jewelry including bracelets, cuffs and intricate rings. They enjoyed wearing precious gems and weren’t afraid of wearing too many. Quite the contrary. Rings, chokers and earrings were regularly worn on a daily basis. The different colors of these precious jewels added an oriental feel to their look. In the 20th century, women mixed costume jewelry with beautiful gems, and Helena Rubinstein was no exception. Her love of jewelry was always tasteful”, according to Madame Possémé.

Her passion for precious jewels is reflected in the packaging of her products. For over a century, the Helena Rubinstein brand has created jewelry-inspired cases and tubes, echoing the beauty queen’s appreciation for finery.

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