Tassels! Through History

“If there is one embellishment that has appeared in every form of the decorative arts — from interiors to accessories, across cultures and times — it is undoubtedly the tassel.”

Tasseled pieces pop up several times throughout jewelry design history. It's hard to say what inspired each one: some were based on archaeological styles, others seem like they were simply meant to express joyful movement. For use in personal adornment, the tassel dates back to ancient times and is even referenced in the Bible. We see some fabulous examples of tassel jewelry from the mid-19th century and early 20th century; some are flirty, some are fun, all are fabulous.
Pearl and emerald bead Cartier sautoir on top of a film still of Lois Chiles wearing the jewel and an emerald and diamond brooch in The Great Gatsby
Photo from Hollywood Jewels by Penny Proddow and Marion Fasel

In the early 1970s, when news leaked Paramount Pictures was going to make The Great Gatsby into a movie, every A-list actor in Hollywood wanted the leading roles of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. And, why not? F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterwork has long been considered one of, if not the, great American novel. The author poetically captured the 1920s period of prosperity through his passionate characters and coined the phrase Jazz Age. Once Robert Redford and Mia Farrow were cast in the plum parts, there was no question of who would provide the jewelry. The role went to Cartier.
In the late 1960s, Cartier in New York had begun acquiring and locating its important deco pieces in American collections. Several of these Cartier art deco jewels can be seen on the leading ladies in the movie and other jewels were made by Cartier in the art deco mode for the film. Seen above and below are some very popular Cartier tassel necklaces seen on Lois Chiles who plays Jordan Baker in the movie.

Lois Chiles wearing the pearl and carved emerald art deco necklace by Cartier, New York in The Great Gatsby, Photo : Paramount Pictures
A peek into the history and their journey so far

Tassels were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. In the 14th and 15th centuries, they were made of silk, which was believed to be as expensive as gold at the time. As an indicator of opulence, the tassel naturally was used in jewelry.

One of history’s most infamous — the so-called Affair of the Diamond Necklace, the centre of a scandal in the 18th century, that discredited Marie Antoinette and the French monarchy before the French Revolution — was, in fact, an elaborate confection of diamond pendants and tassels.

Image : A recreation of the necklace, the diamond necklace at the centre of the furore was made by Parisian jewellers Boehmer and Bassenge. It contained 647 flawless diamonds, some several carats in size. The necklace was the most expensive piece of jewellery in France, possibly the world.
The jewelry made during the 19th century encompassed Etruscan, ancient Roman, early Christian, Byzantine, and medieval styles. Artists and designers looked to various artistic periods for forms and motifs. There was also an interest in reproducing works of art from earlier epochs with historical accuracy—an approach that is particularly evident in the taste for archaeological jewelry. The firm of Castellani in Rome both pioneered and dominated the production of archaeological jewelry.
Image : A gold tassel necklace with cameo of Veronica's Veil, Firm of Castellani ca.1870
“The first two years of 1920’s marked the beginning of the Art deco era.”

Between 1920-1922 waistlines dropped to the hip and hemlines for daywear were just below the calf. Shoes became attractive. Hair got shorter and part of this change was due to the practicality required by women working in factories during World War I.
 The plunging necklines of the 1920s lent themselves well to long pendants and other long necklaces. The sautoir, a long necklace made up of numerous strands of pearls or colored beads, and ending with one or two tassels, became particularly fashionable.
Pearls, diamond and emeralds provide a striking combination in this Oriental-motif necklace by Cartier (c.1925). The hexagonal carved emerald pendant weighs 86.71 ct. Photo courtesy of Cartier, Inc. New York, NY.
The short hair styles, which exposed the ears, favored ornate earrings, often long, jeweled, and dangly. The short-sleeved or sleeveless dresses paved the way for a flood of bracelets and a variety of bracelet styles.

c1930 Sapphire and Diamond Bracelet
Geometric design, set with old European- and step-cut diamonds, highlighted with five oval sapphires, suspending a diamond-set tassel with pierced cupola top

c1920 Cartier
“Tassel jewelry was at its golden period in the mid-19th century and early 20th century; some were flirty, some were elegant, some were fun, all were fabulous.”
An Art Deco emerald, diamond, ruby and enamel shoulder brooch, Cartier, 1924. Offered in Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence on 19 June 2019 at Christie’s, New York
This ‘Indian-style brooch’ from 1924 boasts an oval cabochon emerald, pear-shaped carved, buff-top and circular cabochon emeralds, pear-shaped table-cut and circular-cut diamonds, and circular cabochon rubies.
The detachable seed pearl, onyx bead, enamel, diamond and emerald tassel was added later, having been recreated from original records by
Cartier workshops.
18 Karat Gold 'Cordes Ludo' Bracelet, Van Cleef & Arpels, France
Designed as gold ropes further decorated with gold chain tassels, circa 1950.
Diamond Bow Brooch/Comb Combination, Cartier, Paris, late 19th century

Platinum, Natural Pearl, Diamond and Emerald Tassel Brooch, Cartier, France, Circa 1915
Gold, Silver, Diamond, Pearl, Colored Stone and Seed Pearl Tassel Sautoir
Coming to the high jewellery of the 21st century, the tassels adorned almost each new collection of prominent Maisons. Emerald tassels were, perhaps,  the most popular style seen at Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels and Piaget in their transformable necklace.
Boucheron ‘Paris Vu Du 26’ collection ‘Verrière’ sautoir with emeralds and diamonds in white gold
Van Cleef & Arpels 'Romeo and Juliet' collection 'Giardino' transformable sautoir with 81.07ct carved Colombian hexagonal cut emerald, accenting emeralds, sapphires and diamonds in rose and white gold
Boucheron has a permanent collection dedicated to tassels. The Fleur de Nuit necklace, adorned with a long tassel, has a 1.59-carat pear-cut diamond at the center, and diamond-encrusted petals depicting the Milky Way in a midnight blue night sky.
“Though the 20s are long gone with the flapper dresses, and the long sautoir necklaces; a little part of the glamour they brought, would be a great joy to have in our day-to-day lives.”
Our obsession with tassels still lives strong through our designs. Cited below are a few of our designs that very subtly bring in the magic of tassels.

Image : The Mogul tassel necklace
In the true essence of the name, 'Mogul', the form of the silver plaque of this neckpiece is chased with detailed floral patterns. Attached to that is a floral unit worked in gold and studded with uncut diamonds. The necklace is finished with a pearl tassel and a delicate chain with pearls and gemstones interspersed.

Image : The Eve tassel necklace
 Attached to a green hued mother of pearl there is a floral unit studded with uncut diamond petals and an emerald in the centre bordered with rose-cut diamonds.. The neckpiece is finished with a pearl and onyx tassel and a delicate chain with pearls.
Image : The Haldili tassel necklace
Inspired from the ornate 'Haldili' or amulets prevalent with the Mughals, this is our minimal take on the style. The Adventurine plaque serves as a base on which is a detailed gold pattern encasing rubies and turquoise. The neckpiece is finished with a pearl tassel and a delicate chain with pearls and gemstones interspersed.
Image : The Monaco tassel necklace

A rare combination of grey and brown iridescent pearls and mother of pearl, this statement neck piece subtly commands the attention of the artistic eye! Worked in gold and silver this piece is embellished with rose-cut diamonds and uncut diamonds. The design is strung with a silk thread and an uncut diamond studded unit on each side.
“Treasure the memories of the glamorous 20s with tassels in your everyday wardrobe.”
References:
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/236764
https://www.trufauxjewels.com/jewelry-styles/
https://www.christies.com/features/Cartier-and-the-Indian-style-9918-7.aspx
https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2015/important-jewels-n09550/lot.6.html
https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2007/magnificent-jewels-n08371/lot.282.html
https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2010/magnificent-jewels-n08687/lot.443.html
https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2011/magnificent-jewels-n08732/lot.319.html
https://www.katerinaperez.com/articles/tassels-and-fringes#collapse-5
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/11/style/jewelry-tassels-van-cleef-and-arpels.html
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/396105729699696383/
https://alphahistory.com/frenchrevolution/affair-of-the-diamond-necklace/