A history of the top fashion and costume jewelry designers with image samples of their exclusive work and designs.
Art (ModeArt): Art made fine fashion jewelry from the mid 1940’s until the late 1960’s. Jewelry collectors like the diversity of the Art line, comparable in quality and variety of their contemporary Hollycraft . Most Art jewelry incorporates high quality rhinestones of multiple colors and set in typically ornate metalwork or filigree in a style similar to that used by Florenza.
Avon: The Avon Company began its existence as the California Perfume Company and used the CPC trademark when the company was founded in 1886. In 1929 just as the Great Depression was first taking hold, CPC introduced the Avon line and reincorporated as the Avon Company. They soon adopted the well-known advertising phrase “Avon Calling”; a perfect allusion to the fact Avon representatives going door to door sold those Avon products directly to the American consumer. The Avon Company contracted out their manufacturing and design to firms such as Krementz, and Avon door to door salespeople had great success introducing low cost, high quality American costume jewelry to middle America.
Barclay: McClelland Barclay was an artist, sculptor, and Art Deco jewelry designer, a well-known American artist and patriot killed by a Japanese torpedo in July 1943 during World War II. Born in St. Louis, MO on May 9, 1891, Barclay studied art with Thomas Fogarty, H. C. Ives, and George Bridgman and in his early years worked as an illustrator for Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping magazines and created military posters for recruiting and urging the nation to action for the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps.
He designed jewelry from approximately 1932 to 1938, often contracting out the manufacturing to other firms such as the Rice Weiner Company but always doing his own designs. He used both goldtone metal and sterling silver in his designs, usually coupled with high quality rhinestones. McClelland Barclay jewelry is usually marked with his signature impressed into the metal, and occasionally he signed a piece “Mac” which was said to be the case for one of a kind pieces commissioned by individuals.
Early Barclay jewelry incorporated new “Verneiuil” man-made synthetic gemstones like sapphires and rubies; these synthetic gemstones emerged from the same industrial and creative marriage that was also now creating new plastics such as bakelite and Lucite also used in jewelry and accessories.
Blackinton: R. Blackinton & Company was founded in 1862 North Attleboro, Massachusetts by Rosell Blackinton and Walter Ballou as an outlet to sell sterling silver and 14k gold jewelry and accessories in a variety of functional forms such as flatware, compacts, cigarette cases, and all kinds of jewelry. The original trademark of a block B with a sword was used until about 1900, after which block letters in individual octagons R B and Co. with the hilt sword was used thereafter. R. Blackington was acquired by Wells, Inc. in 1967, and it continued to operate until its final closure in 1978.
Bogoff: The Bogoff, Spear Novelty Company of Chicago, IL made interesting and realistic costume jewelry in 1940s and 1950s meant to simulate as best possible the look of high cost designer fine jewelry. They used quality materials and craftsmanship to create their jewelry, with a rhodium framework and handset stones.
Boucher: Marcel Boucher was born in France and apprenticed under Cartier in Paris before emigrating to the U. S. and New York City in 1922. Once there, he designed jewelry for Mazer Brothers in the early 1930s before forming his own company registered Marcel Boucher et Cie in mid 1937. Boucher made very high quality costume jewelry and was constantly experimenting and seeking out rhinestones that really resembled true gemstones. Boucher quality was so good that even today many non-experts mistake Boucher for fine jewelry, and it’s usually signed and has inventory and style numbers. While imprecise for definitive dating, the below ranges of inventory numbers can be used to approximate the age of Boucher jewelry:
2300 – 2350 from 1945
2351 – 2450 from 1946
2450 – 2550 from 1947
2550 – 2750 from 1948
2750 – 3000 from 1949
3000 – 3500 from 1950 Marks with copyright symbol after 1955
Early marks he used included a cartouche with either “Marboux” or “MB” inside, while later work is typically signed “Marcel Boucher” or simply “Boucher”. Marcel Boucher died in 196 and was succeeded by his wife Sandra running the company until watch manufacturer Dovorn Industries purchased it in 1972.
C & H Co.: William P. Chapin and Frederick R. Hollister in Providence, RI founded The Chapin & Hollister Company in 1898. Chapin & Hollister were known mostly on a regional basis for their gold and silver chains, cutlery, and jewelry before ceasing operations in 1923.
Carnegie, Hattie: Hattie Carnegie was born in Vienna, Austria in 1886 and when 18 years old she immigrated to America with her family. Soon thereafter in the early 1900s, she opened her first dress and hat shops in New York City. From this humble beginning she built up her diversified fashion business incorporated as Hattie Carnegie Inc. in 1918. At around the time of incorporation, she introduced jewelry she manufactured largely to complement her dresses and clothing line. Her jewelry is always of the highest quality and was expensive even in its day, often worn by New York and Hollywood Theater and movie celebrities. She was known for whimsical themes using multiple materials combined in interesting ways, with techniques utilizing enameling, faux pearls, rhinestones, and beads. Carnegie jewelry is usually marked either “Hattie Carnegie” or simply “Carnegie”, while occasionally one sees an HC mark within a diamond. Hattie Carnegie accessories such as compacts and hair ornaments are also marked “Pooped Pussy Cat” or “Pooped Poodle”.
Carolee: Producing finer costume jewelry since 1973, Carolee designs tend to be classical in inspiration and include a popular 1980s line called the “Duchess of Windsor”.
Celebrity: Celebrity made finer costume jewelry from the 1950s through the 1970s in New York City. Higher quality rhinestones were usually handset in frames of silver, gold, and rhodium plate metalwork.
Ciner: Ciner Manufacturing Company began making expensive fine jewelry in approximately 1892 under the direction of its founder Emanuael Ciner. The company moved into the design and manufacture of costume jewelry in 1931 and produced a variety of styles replicating the look of fine jewelry but using rhinestones and simulated gemstones to make them affordable to the middle class through the nations emerging network of department and gift stores. Early Ciner jewelry is frequently unmarked, but following World War II most Ciner pieces are marked “Ciner”. Ciner jewelry typically uses smaller stones than the norm in a rainbow of different colors and individually set in goldtone metalwork. The purchased many of their stones from the glassmaker Swarovski and had their faux pearls made especially for them in Japan using glass beads treated with a glaze that makes them appear as real pearls.
Cini: Guglielmo Cini emigrated to the U. S. in 1922 from his birthplace in Florence, Italy. He settled in Boston where he worked until 1957 when he moved to Laguna Beach, California. Cini was known for making his costume jewelry in sterling silver and sterling silver plated with gold to achieve a higher quality common with the finer Italian artisans of the day. Cini was one of the few top costume jewelry artisans to have also done much silverwork, and only for the most part during the middle of the 20th century did he commonly incorporate colored rhinestones into his designs. Cini produced jewelry in Laguna Beach until 1970.
Coro: In 1901, Emanuel Cohn and Gerard Rosenberg founded a small New York City shop selling jewelry and accessories that later became the Coro company and the largest of all the American costume jewelry manufacturers with over 2000 workers. Early Coro jewelry was marked “CR”, the initials of the 2 founders, while most jewelry produced from 1919 has the simple “Coro” mark The mark “Coro Craft” was used commencing in 1937 on some of the higher quality pieces in each year’s line, shortened to “Corocraft” after WWII. Many different marks were also used from time to time including a Pegasus emblem and a line marked “Vendome” which became their highest end successor to Corocraft. The different lines and marks enabled the company to produce a wide variety of styles and quality to make Coro jewelry affordable to most all Americans.
Coventry, Sarah: Sarah Coventry, Inc., was founded in Newark, NJ, in October, 1953, named after granddaughter Sarah of the founder of Emmons Home Fashion Company Charles H. Stuart. This propensity of naming companies after family members he had started earlier in naming the Emmons company after his wife Caroline Emmons. Emmons Home Fashion started marketing jewelry in 1948 and used an “Emmons” mark, and the Sarah Coventry brand was established the following year in November 1949. Emmons and Sarah Coventry did not design or manufacture pieces themselves but rather contracted with third parties for designs and outsourced their manufacture mostly in the Providence, RI area. True to their roots, much Sarah Coventry jewelry for both men and women was sold at home fashion shows until the mid 1980s when new owners moved to a more corporate and traditional distribution network. Early Sarah Coventry jewelry was marked simply “Coventry” until about 1950 they began using both “Sarah Coventry” and “SC”. Other rather frustrating (to experts) variations were used periodically and almost ad hoc and included “Sarah”, “Sarah Cov”, and “SAC”.
Danecraft: in 1939, Victor Primavera in Providence, RI founded Danecraft although they changed their name to Felch and Co. during World War II and again to Felch-Wehr in 1977 after the death of Victor Primavera. Primavera served as president of the company for many years where he manufactured finer silver and vermeil jewelry sold in better department stores. Despite the changes in corporate name and structure over the years, they for the most part retained the Danecraft brand for their costume jewelry line sold in major department stores like Macys and Marshall Fields. The company specializes in quality sterling silver jewelry similar to but usually surpassing in vintage Mexican sterling silver jewelry and with designs reminiscent of Scandinavian sterling silver jewelry.
de Lillo, William: The Belgian designer William de Lillo worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany and Harry Winston in New York City before establishing his own company in 1967 with former Miriam Haskell designer Robert F. Clark. Given their tutelage, it should not be surprising that their work is very innovative and high quality, using Swarovski crystal beads and stones in their jewelry and accessories. They moved to France in 1976 where they worked as freelance designers selling their services to Schiaparelli and Nina Ricci among others.
DeMario: DeMario was founded in New York City in 1945, producing jewelry, which combined materials of beads, faux pearls and rhinestones in unique designs and myriad colors. DeMario never had large production, serving mostly a regional Northeast market and thus rarer than most marked vintage costume jewelry.
DeRosa: In the booming New York City of the Art Deco period, Ralph DeRosa founded this fine jewelry company in 1935, one of the earliest manufacturers of good quality costume jewelry incorporating the new materials and local craftsmanship. DeRosa was known as among the top quality producers of innovative, quality design although regrettably much of the DeRosa jewelry was not marked. As such, signed DeRosa pieces are very much in demand and command high prices, but as usual in such situations one must be extremely careful of fakes and reproductions.
Di Nicola: The Di Nicola jewelry company was the creative outlet designer Jerry DI Nicola established in 1957. In the 1960s, DI Nicola became part of the Capri Jewelry Company before ceasing operations in about 1973.
Diamonbar: Specializing in bracelets and bangles, Diamonbar was the trademark of the Wachenheimer Brothers Company, one of the many American costume jewelry manufacturers who congregated around the Providence, RI area. Wachenheimer began making costume jewelry in 1907 along with many contemporaries about the same time and finally ceased operations in 1931.
Eisenberg: Jonas Eisenberg, an émigré to the United States in 1880 from his native Austria, founded his company in Chicago in 1914 to make and sell high quality but ready-to-wear clothing. Jewelry was not introduced until 1930, mostly as a complement to their clothing line, and their accessories were typically sold as part of the garment but were also sold individually in a blue velvet box marked Eisenberg & Sons Originals. Jewelry eventually became predominant and they stopped selling clothing in 1958. While mostly producing very fine costume jewelry, they also produced some outstanding sterling silver pieces mostly during the years of World War II and up until 1948. The costume jewelry was some of the finest ever produced in the U. S., using Swaravski Austrian crystals and rhinestones, the best plating and metalworking techniques available, and other high quality materials that made their jewelry expensive even when originally marketed. This is a trend that has obviously continued in the collectible market as their pieces are highly sought by vintage costume jewelry collectors. The Berns-Friedman group purchased the company in 1977. Most early Eisenberg jewelry was unmarked although some sterling silver pieces made during World War II due to restrictions on other materials were marked “Sterling”. About 1935, Eisenberg began marking their jewelry “Eisenberg”, “Eisenberg Original”, or the script letter E used during World War II. In the early 1950s they also began marking some pieces marked “Eisenberg Ice”, but throughout their history some number of pieces emerged from the factory absent any markings to identify the piece as made by Eisenberg.
Approximate Date Marks f or Eisenberg:
Eisenberg Original (1935-1945)
Script letter E alone or with Originals (1940s)
STERLING along with block EISENBERG signature (1943-1948)
Block EISENBERG and block E (1945-1950)
EISENBERG on marker in small block letters (1950s)
Script Eisenberg (1935 onward)
Eisenberg Ice in block letters (1941-1958)
Script Eisenberg Ice (1970s onward)
Florenza: Florenza was the marketing trademark of Dan Kasoff Inc., of New York City, founded in 1937 as a diversified manufacturer. They did not begin producing jewelry until 1950, creating the Florenza name to market the line and create brand identity for the company. Florenza was a very successful line with some unique designs reminiscent of Renaissance Revival style of the Victorian period. Florenza tended to use more antique finishes on their metalwork, favoring an antique goldtone metal finish to the more polished pieces more common at the time. They also used more pastel colors in their selection of rhinestone colors, and they always used very high quality materials. The company finally ceased operations in 1981.
Francois: Francois was a marketing name created by Coro in 1933 to market a higher end line of costume jewelry to a wealthier clientele. While Francois was modestly successful, marketing was interrupted by the advent of World War II and subsequently it was determined that a new marketing image was needed for the line. As such, Coro introduced the Vendome line in 1944 and positioned it was their highest end line.
Freirich: Solomon Freirich began his fashion business career in the 1920’s by acquiring Maison David, a French manufacturer of clothing and accessories such as hats, hatpins, couture buttons, and trimmings and ornamentation for various garments. Expanding into the U. S., Freirich decided that the Maison David name was too French for the Americans so he decided to market the company’s wares there under his own name Freirich while retaining Maison David in Europe. Solomon Freirich’s son Arthur joined the firm in 1955 and dramatically expanded their line of fine costume jewelry in the Victorian style. Early Freirich jewelry was mostly unmarked, but they began marking pieces “Freirich” in about 1964 and continued thereafter until they ceased operations in 1990.
Goldette: Ben Gartner founded The Circle Jewelry Company in 1958, and the company marketed their good quality costume jewelry using the trademark Goldette. It was very popular throughout the 1960s and 1970s before ceasing operations in about 1977. While Goldette was designed and marketed in New York City, it’s production was outsourced to a facility in the Providence, RI area. They were best known for producing Victorian look pieces with ornate antique finish goldtone metalwork, and pieces were usually signed “Goldette” from 1959 onward.
Grossé: The German company Henkel & Grosse created the Grossé trademark for their costume jewelry business headquartered in Pforzheim, Germany since 1938. Grossé was one of the primary manufacturers of finer costume jewelry for Christian Dior and other third party labels. The French accent mark over the “e” originated as a marketing initiative to enter the French market, which were understandably reticent to transact with German companies in the years right after World War II.
Hagler, Stanley: Stanley Hagler is a New York City jewelry designer specializing in pearl necklaces and bracelets, and they are still in operation today. Hagler jewelry used all individually strung pearls to highlight the high quality of his pearls, while many other makers of faux pearl jewelry grouped pearls together to hide individual flaws and inconsistencies. The first Stanley Hagler marks from the 1950s had “Stanley Hagler” on an oval disc printed straight across, then upon his moving to South Florida he incorporated N.Y.C. to read “Stanley Hagler N.Y.C.” on the curve of the oval.
Haskell, Miriam: Like her design predecessors in the Art Nouveau era, Miriam Haskell sought to design and manufacture jewelry that evoked nature in their subjects and construction. Haskell first began making jewelry commercially about 1924, and intensively began to create her unique flowers, animals, and other organic materials in her jewelry. Frank Hess joined her in the company as the lead artistic designer, and he was a master of new and technically complex production techniques that allowed their vision for the jewelry to come into being. Hess worked as the lead designer until he retired in 1960, and he was succeeded by Robert Clark who continued the traditions but incorporated some of his own ideas into production and used new materials such as mother of pearl.
Lead designer Larry Vrba joined the company in 1970, and he more than his predecessors introduced completely new and more exotic designs that reflected the times of the 1960s and 1970s. Millie Petronzio became the first woman to lead the design department at Miriam Haskell in 1980, continuing to make some of the old designs, often with archived older materials, but as those before her continues to introduce new designs and design elements in their lines. Miriam Haskell jewelry has always been noted for the detailing, which directly translated into the time it took to make and thus the cost, and for the asymmetry of many of their designs.
In the early years, Haskell jewelry was not marked and production was limited, suggesting that the proliferation of “unsigned” Haskell jewelry is questionable as to authenticity. There are of course distinct characteristics an expert looks for, including the design itself, which often incorporates surprises or irregularities that one looks for. Quality was always evident, with finer quality materials and all prong set in the design. Haskell jewelry is known for its use of elaborate filigree and careful wiring, all handmade and accommodating a variety of designs. Haskell filigree was typically electroplated goldtone metal in an antique gold finish. She purchased her beads mostly from France and Venice, Italy, while most crystals came from Bohemia. The advent of World War II forced Haskell to sometimes use alternative materials including for the first time plastics, and she purchased more of her beads and crystals from sources closer to home.
However, production did continue during the war years, and she introduced patriotic designs to contribute to the war effort. After the war, styles changed as soldiers returned from Europe and Asia and the women of the country waited. Clothing once again could be made of more luxurious materials, and the designs became more vibrant, colorful, and feminine as the 1950s approached. Haskell designs also became more elaborate to include larger pieces, necklaces of multiple bead strands, the use of pearls imported from Japan, and other looks largely impractical during the war. In the late 1940s, Miriam Haskell jewelry started to be marked for the first time, as fashion returned to the pages of the newspaper and designers began actively marketing their creations and growing their businesses. Several styles were used according to the design including an incised “Miriam Haskell” on the hook, “Miriam Haskell” in a crescent shaped cartouche, and an oval stamp “Miriam Haskell” on the clasp. Some designs during the fifties were incredibly elaborate, combining stones, pearls, beads, and filigree in new and exciting ways. The company was sold to Frank Fialkoff in 1990 and is still producing today, making some of the older designs such as the Retro line introduced in the early 90s as well as doing custom work.
Hobé: William Hobé, an émigré from France who came from a family famous for their jewelry making, founded Hobé Cie in New York City in the 1930s. Long before, William Hobé’s father Jacques Hobé in Paris, France established a French company of the same name in 1887. Jacques Hobé was quite well known in Europe as a master goldsmith and designer & manufacturer of fine jewelry. American Hobé costume jewelry was sold primarily in upscale department stores, adopting the slogan “jewels of legendary splendor” in 1946.
A master marketer, young William Hobé approached the legendary Florence Ziegfeld to create exotic costume jewelry for the showgirls to wear in the yearly productions of the Ziegfeld Follies. This contract was really the start of Hobé’s costume jewelry making operations in the U. S., and it is said that Florence Ziegfeld originated the term “costume jewelry” in referring to the pieces Hobé created for him and his theatrical productions. Throughout their history, Hobé jewelry has been all handmade and used in many theatrical and movie productions during the middle of the 20th century.
One of the most popular lines at Hobé were the romantic floral brooches and particularly the rose bouquet, an incredibly realistic recreation of a bouquet of long-stemmed roses with leaves and held together by ribbons and bows. Especially in their early years of production 1935-1955 their work was of the very highest quality and used many of the techniques of fine jewelry in creating the metalwork and hand setting the stones. Hobé jewelry uses high quality stones and sterling silver, gold, and platinum plated metalwork in contrast to lesser materials. They also made many reproductions of jewelry for the royal courts of Europe and other lines resembling such for sale at their exclusive outlets. Most of their work was signed “Hobé” impressed in the metalwork or on an oval plaque “© Hobé”. Hobe’ ceased jewelry making operations in 1992.
Hollycraft: The Hollywood Jewelry Manufacturing Company was founded in New York City in 1938 but adopted the “Hollycraft” trademark and logo in 1948. Some Hollycraft is dated, particularly from the 1950s when they were among the 2 or 3 dominant American designers of finer quality costume jewelry, and most is marked “Hollycraft” impressed in the metalwork. Hollycraft is particularly well known for their intricate costume jewelry rings and Christmas tree pins and brooches. Hollycraft jewelry tends to be done in an antique goldtone finish sometimes highlighted with enamels, quite colorful in their use of multi-colored rhinestones and glass beads. The company ceased ongoing operations in 1965.
J.J.: Abraham Lisker in East Providence, R.I., subsequently to change names to Lisker & Lisker when Abraham’s brother Nathan joined the company in 1938, founded The Providence Jewelry Company in 1935. The firm ceased operations during the years of World War II, and then following the war the firm was reorganized and reincorporated as The Jonette Jewelry Company in 1953 and the brand trademark J. J. was created. The new name came from combining the first names of his two parents, John and Etta, to create Jonette. J. J. jewelry was quite affordable yet well done, including many figural and Christmas pins that are favored by collectors. Of particular merit and uniqueness were the ballerina pins, and many of the figural pins were done in mother of pearl, unique compared to most period makers of American costume jewelry. J. J. jewelry is marked “© J. J.
Jomaz: Jomaz history has to start with the Mazer Brothers company which was founded in 1927 in New York City, one of the early makers of American costume jewelry. One of the founding brothers Joseph Mazer left Mazer Brothers in 1946 to establish Joseph J. Mazer and Company and adopting the Jomaz trademark while Louis Mazer stayed with Mazer Brothers until 1951. Jomaz pieces were usually quite affordable yet interesting in their design.
Joseff: Joseff jewelry owes its popularity and style to the founder Eugene Joseff, a master craftsman of jewelry making techniques but coupled with a design sensibility far beyond that of most of his contemporaries. Like Hobe, Joseff has its roots in outfitting some of the stars of Broadway theater and Hollywood movies during the 1940s and 1950s. Joseff executed some of the most exotic designs ever rendered in vintage costume jewelry, and he made designs for both men and women. Joseff jewelry appeared in many Hollywood movies including Gone with the Wind, Algiers, and Humoresque. Joseff jewelry was almost totally captive to the demands of movies and theater, so consequently very little was sold to the general public and it is accordingly quite rare. Eugene Joseff died in an airplane crash in July 1948 and the company ceased operations. Joseff designs are still being sold off from the inventory of over 3 million pieces Eugene left after his death, and these have been slowly offered to the market by his estate and wife Joan Castle Joseff.
Kirk, Alexis: Alexis Kirk is a contemporary designer of high quality costume jewelry and women’s accessories sold through exclusive retail outlets. Kirk designs are known as innovative and use the techniques of fine jewelry making with higher quality materials.
Krementz – Krementz and Company was founded in 1866 by two families, the Krementz and Lester families, who each owned 50%, to make men’s accessories such as cuff and collar buttons, shirt studs, cufflinks, and tie clasps. In the late 1800s, Krementz expanded into ladies accessories, making brooches, scarf & hat pins, bracelets, and more, most of which used their distinct gold overlay process and was marked with an umbrella with curved handle or with the mark “Krementz”. In 1936, the families decided to separate their interests, and the company was divided into distinct organizations with Lester & Company specializing in making fine 18k gold jewelry and Krementz & Company making lower cost 10k and 14k jewelry through more simple techniques and innovative plating and overlay processes which they largely pioneered. In the late 1930s, the company began making women’s jewelry as demand was falling way off for the types of men’s fashion accessories, which had given them their start. The years of World War II interrupted their growth, but Krementz designs became quite popular during the 1950s.
They used various labels for their different lines; with the popular 10k gold line “Diana” sold in the department stores like Macys and Gimbels, which were spreading across the nation. Krementz jewelry is typically marked “Krementz” in block letters, and they were known for making very realistic copies of classical fine jewelry. Krementz was sold to various parties in the 1970s and 1980s and now operates as part of Colibri who continues to produce Krementz and Van Dell jewelry.
Lang: The Lang Jewelry Company was founded in Providence RI in April 1946 and specializes in finer sterling silver jewelry. Their pieces are marked “Sterling” with the letter “S” stylized and represented by a swan with crown on head.
Ledo: Ralph Polcini, producing typically Art Deco design jewelry of rhinestones, beads, and faux pearls, founded The Leading Jewelry Company in 1911. The company changed its name and its marks in 1949 when renamed LEDO. The founder died in 1964 and the company passed on to Ralph’s sons who renamed the company after the family name Polcini.
Les Bernard: The Les Bernard trademark grew out of the company Vogue, founded in 1936 by Harold Shapiro to make fine costume jewelry. The Shapiro family sold their interest Vogue in 1962, and the company continued to operate under new owners until about 1974. Meanwhile, Harold’s son Bernard Shapiro established the new Les Bernard brand in 1963 along with master craftsman Lester Joy, thus creating the name Les Bernard.
Bernard wanted to carry on the family tradition himself and had no desire to work for the new owners of his father’s former company. Bernard Shapiro was fascinated with the combined use of rhinestones and marquisette in the design of elaborate costume jewelry, and combining these two materials was quite hard in the manufacturing process given their different shapes. The differing shapes meant that each setting had to be individually molded and formed, different depending on whether the stone was to be a rhinestone or marquisette.
Lisner: D. Lisner and Company was founded in New York City in 1904, a contemporary of Coro and similar in pricing and design. The heyday of their jewelry production was in the 1950s when they produced high quality designs using more expensive materials such as aurora borealis and Lucite cabochons as well as Austrian rhinestones for their Richelieu line. They produced many different lines of varying popularity and primarily lower cost offerings, but the Richelieu pieces were some of their best and most popular with collectors. In 1978, they changed their name to the Lisner-Richelieu Corporation before ceasing jewelry production a year later. The Lisner jewelry mark with “Lisner” in block letters was first used in 1935, and “Lisner” in script originated in 1938. From 1959 onward, most Lisner pieces used the “Lisner” mark in block letter and combined with an elongated “L” .
Marvella: Weinrich Brothers of Philadelphia were contract makers of costume jewelry and accessories, founded in 1911, but they also established their own trademark brand and identity with Marvella. In fact, the name of the company was changed to Marvella Pearls in 1950 and to simply Marvella, Inc. in 1965 in recognition of the jewelry line which brought them their greatest success.
Marvella jewelry is particularly noted and collected for their high quality faux pearls, sometimes combined aurora borealis crystal beads and rhinestone roundels. Marvella used a particular aurora borealis, which is known for its iridescence and ability to capture the light through color and faceting. Various marks and trademarks were used over the years, and they include many variations on the company name including Marvellesque and Marvellette. Trifari purchased Marvella in 1982.
Mazer Brothers: Joseph Mazer and his brother Louis founded Mazer Brothers in 1927 in New York City. Mazer was particularly known for their innovation in using new metal alloys in the manufacture of finer costume jewelry that would incorporate the best materials such as Swarovski crystals from Austria. Mazer used the services of many designers including Adolfo, Andre Fleuridas, and the best-known Marcel Boucher who went on to open his own jewelry marking operation under his own name in 1934. Joseph Mazer left Mazer Brothers in 1946 to establish Joseph J. Mazer and Company and adopting the Jomaz trademark while Louis Mazer stayed with Mazer Brothers until 1951. The Mazer Brothers Company ceased operations in 1977.
Monet: Brothers Michael and Jay Chernow founded what later became Monet in 1929 in Providence, Rhode Island, an area around which many of the early American costume jewelry designers were established. The original incorporated name was Monocraft, and they produced gold plated monogram plaques for purses and other leather accessories. In 1937, they expanded their offerings to include costume jewelry, which they marketed under the name of Monet.
The Chernow brothers used the same gold plating techniques developed for the monogram plates and applied them to the metalwork for intricate, modern costume jewelry. Monet jewelry can be found with a variety of base metals including silver, and they pioneered several manufacturing innovations such as the barrel clutch for pierced earrings and a new type of ear clip which adjusted to fit on the ear with less discomfort. In addition to producing their own designs, they have also outsourced the manufacturing for others including Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior.
Napier: What later became Napier was originally founded as a silver manufacturing operation in 1875 as Whitney and Rice in Attleboro, Massachusetts. The firm was sold in 1882 and was renamed the Carpenter and Bliss Company and then again a few years later as E. A. Bliss and Co. Bliss moved the operations to Meriden, CT in 1890, and in 1920 James H. Napier joined the company as its new president. With his hiring, the name of the company was changed again to Napier-Bliss Co. and yet again in 1922 to its final incarnation of simply Napier Company.
Napier designed and manufactured a simple yet elegant line of costume jewelry, but avoiding the more expensive materials like aurora borealis to keep the cost down. Napier jewelry was produced in fairly large quantities and marketed through a diverse array of outlets, which included major department stores, gift shops, and jewelry stores nationwide. The “Napier” mark has been used over the years mostly in block letters but also in script.
ORA: Italian Oreste Agnini was born in 1885 in Naples, Italy where he pursued the arts at an early age and studied violin at the Naples Conservatory of Music. He became an excellent musician and concertmaster for the Wurlitzer Orchestra, but he crossed the ocean like so many others in 1903 to New York. During World War I, Agnini served in the U. S. Air Force where his drawing skills proved strategically important in sketching enemy installations behind the enemy lines. After the war, he moved to Chicago and founded Agnini & Singer in 1921 as the first jewelry manufacturing company to be established in the rapidly growing midwestern city of Chicago. He had learned his craft in jewelry making by working at Trifari and also as a diamond setter.
His partner in the business, Ralph Singer, also designed jewelry and helped to keep the factory operation efficient and the quality high. A & S stones were purchased from Czechoslovakia through large buying cooperatives, which had grown up in and around Providence, RI. Agnini and Singer made costume jewelry pins and brooches for many of the top clothing designers of the time such as Eisenberg, before they and others established their own costume jewelry operations to accessorize their clothing. A & S also got many high profile commissions, making pieces for Hollywood and Broadway, jewelry for the 1939 World’s Fair, and even adorning costumes and crowns for Mardi Gras parades.
Marketed under the trademark Ora, their jewelry was also popular with groups such as the Masons, Shriners, and Lions, and they actively marketed to them locally and nationally. A & S used higher quality materials in their jewelry including Swarovski crystals and metalwork plated with a heavy layer of rhodium. The company’s lines were sold in major U. S. department stores including Macy’s and Marshall Field. The name Ora is a combination of the partner’s first names Oreste and Ralph.
The A & S business eventually came to be known as Ora Designs and the Ora logo was first used. Early Ora pieces were all unsigned, and the Ora mark was first used in the late 1940s and thereafter. Oreste Agnini retired in 1952, and his half of the company was sold to his partner Ralph Singer, who gave the company its final name The Ralph Singer Company. Shortly after Ralph Singer’s death in 1963, his wife took in their son-in-law Raymond Pausback as partner while keeping the name of the company and the trade name. He eventually bought out her half and ran the company until he retired in the 1980’s, selling the company to Stanford Smith Sr. whose heirs still operate it today to the best of our knowledge.
Panetta: Beneditto Panetta was born in Naples, Italy where he had a small jewelry shop and learned to craft fine platinum jewelry, but he emigrated to the U. S. in 1901 where he quickly found work as a platinum jeweler in New York City’s active fine jewelry trade. Panetta became a designer and model maker at Trifari, one of the pioneers of American costume jewelry manufacture. When Trifari moved from New York City to Providence, RI, he decided to stay in New York and simply switch employers to work for the jewelry maker Pennino Brothers. He founded the costume jewelry company bearing his name in New York City in November 1945.
There was a slogan associated with Panetta jewelry that “if it didn’t look ‘real’, it went back to the drawing board,” and it’s true that the company certainly went to great lengths to craft very exact replicas of the best fine jewelry. They used very fine materials and limited production, so their prices were high even in their original sale. Panetta was able to apply many of his skills working with platinum to working with white metal forming the base metalwork in costume jewelry to create incredibly realistic effects. They made a wide variety of styles, ranging from figural pins and accessories to their most avidly collected rhinestone pieces produced during the Art Deco period.
Pell: Four brothers, Joseph, Anthony, Alfred, and William Gaita founded The Pell Jewelry Company in 1941. The company makes a wide variety of rhinestone earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and brooches, and they have done specialized commissions for many firms such as Disney for use in their multimedia productions and the tiaras for the winner of the Miss America beauty contest.
Pennino: Orest Pennino founded the Pennino Jewelry Company in 1927 in New York City, making high-end watchcases and fine costume jewelry using Austrian crystals mounted in 14k gold plate or in sterling silver. Pennino jewelry is usually marked “Pennino” in script. The company was also known for fine workmanship, employing many of the new Italian émigrés to the United States, and they continued in operation and deftly navigated the many style changes in the consumer market all the way until 1961.
Polcini: Master goldsmith Ralph Polcin founded the company bearing his name in 1911, operating the company until his death. After his death, his children took over the company and renamed it Polcini. Polcini designs were both traditional and conservative and have very good quality, and they produced a popular line made with reconstituted opal.
Reja: What later became known as the Reja Jewelry Co. was founded by Sol Finkelstein in 1939, largely a boutique manufacturer of costume jewelry who sold through smaller gift shops and jewelry stores. While this company was founded as Deja Costume Jewelry Inc., they soon changed their name to Reja as a result of a legal dispute with DuJay, Inc. over trademark infringement. Reja jewelry is usually marked with an impressed “Reja” but is quite scarce relative to many of the other early- and mid-20th century American costume jewelry manufacturers. Reja ceased ongoing operations in 1962.
Renoir: Renoir was best known for their uniquely shaped solid copper jewelry. Growing out of the American Arts & Crafts movement, copper was a popular choice for early 20th century metalworkers active in the Arts & Crafts design. Jerry Fels founded Renoir in Los Angeles, California in 1946, and from the outset he took the company in the direction of contemporary abstract designs evocative of modern art just coming on the scene.
Recreating the look of hand-hammered copper as their material of choice, Renoir has always made a nice change from the more typical costume jewelry using rhinestones as the key material. The Fels family also founded another important name in 20th century costume jewelry; Matisse, Ltd. Matisse also created fine copper jewelry but added enamel decoration to the surface and taking the jewelry in new directions. Both Renoir and Matisse ceased ongoing operations in 1964.
Richards, W.E. Company: Still in business today, the W. E. Richards Company was founded in the 1902 in North Attleboro, MA. Their jewelry is usually marked “wRe” and since 1936 has been marketed under the registered trademark name Symmetalic. Symmetalic jewelry is usually made of sterling silver with 14k gold overlay, and most of their pieces reflect period Art Deco design as well as some accessories harking back to the Edwardian and Victorian eras. Richards’ sterling silver vermeil jewelry includes fine quality materials like cultured pearls and Austrian aurora borealis crystals, and they also made 10k gold accessories like brooches, rings, scarf and hat pens, and pendants.
Robert: This trademark is the property of the Fashioncraft Jewelry Company founded in New York City by partners Robert Levey, David Jaffe, and Irving Landsman in 1942. The first of the original founders Irving Landsman left the company in 1951, and soon thereafter the company formally changed its name to Robert Originals, Inc. in 1960.
Robert jewelry is similar in design to Miriam Haskell jewelry, using a lot of nature motifs evocative of the Art Nouveau movement and incorporating Austrian crystal beads, glass, and faux pearls set into elaborate gilded filigree metalwork. It is usually marked, but trademarks varied over the years and including “Robert”, “Original by Robert” used from 1942 to 1979, as well as other variations “Fashioncraft”, :Fashioncraft Robert”, and “Pinless Pin”. Like Hobé and a few other manufacturers, Robert also served the needs of the movie industry as well as the fast evolving television networks. The company ceased ongoing operations in 1979.
Rosenstein, Nettie: Nettie Rosencrans was born in Austria, changing her name to Rosenstein following her 1927 emigration with her family to New York City. She soon found work in the New York garment industry, but her imagination and drive led her into the world of couture fashion and subsequently into high quality women’s fashion accessories. Many of her most popular and avidly collected designs were produced during the 1930s Art Deco period, usually combinations of sterling silver and intricate enameling. She stopped doing couture fashion in 1961 to focus exclusively on the jewelry and accessories business, but the company ceased ongoing operations in 1964.
S.A.L.: Always a top supplier of rhinestones and crystals to the American costume jewelry manufacturers, Swarovski also established their own line and American subsidiary Swarovski America, Ltd. The “S.A.L”. Mark was used on their jewelry until 1989 when the company switched to a new swan logo and changed their name to Swarovski Consumer Goods, Ltd. when the company’s jewelry and gift shop businesses were merged.
Saint Laurent, Yves: Designer Yves Saint Laurent was born in Algeria in 1936, the child of French expatriates. Drawn to design and the arts at a very early age, he apprenticed with the House of Dior in 1954 when only 18 years old. Following the death of Christian Dior in 1957, the young Yves Saint Laurent took over one of the most prestigious of the French fashion houses. His early collections were noted for their extreme, maverick quality. He opened his own Paris house in 1961 after leaving Christian Dior, and first YSL couture clothing collection was introduced in 1962 in Paris, France featuring the “chic beatnik” look.
In 1965, YSL Enterprises was purchased by Lanvin-Charles, and Saint Laurent turned his attention to ready-to-wear fashion and accessories by opening the first YSL / Rive Gauche boutique store in Paris in 1966. YSL and Rive Gauche expanded rapidly in many different parts of the world, introducing jewelry to the line in the early 1970’s. By 1974, his design empire included jewelry, sweaters, neckties, eyeglass cases, linens, children’s clothes, and fragrances. Over the years, Yves Saint Laurent referred to a number of other designers he claimed as influences of his own style, most frequently Schiaparelli in jewelry design and the House of Chanel and Christian Dior for his clothing lines.
Sandor: Founded by Sandor Goldberger in 1938, Sandor jewelry was best known for his floral designs done in sterling silver and enamel, but they also produced figural pieces that are actively collected. For the most part, Sandor jewelry was marked “Sandor” although in the years 1939 and 1940 it was marked “Sandor Goldberger”. The company ceased ongoing operations in 1972.
Schiaparelli: Elsa Schiaparelli was born in Rome, Italy in 1890, drawn to the arts and design at an early age and establishing her first couture fashion house in Paris where she was both a contemporary and competitor to Coco Chanel. With the coming onset of World War II, Schiaperelli left France in 1940 and sailed for the U. S. where she immediately put in place her own fashion operation based in 1949 in New York.
A daring, flamboyant fashion innovator, she popularized brilliant colors, especially shocking pink. She was the first to use synthetic fabrics and zipper fastenings and the first to open a boutique offering ready-to-wear clothing. Schiaparelli closed the French fashion house in 1954, and focused on the U. S. operation and her fine costume jewelry. Schiaparelli was well known inside the industry for her talent and innovation as a designer, but she was also a very astute businesswoman in the same vein as Miriam Haskell and Hattie Carnegie. Some of her best known and most avidly collected designs are whimsical pieces she designed with circus themes, signs of the zodiac, and surrealistic jewelry inspired by the surrealist art of Salvador Dali. Schiaparelli costume jewelry is usually quite colorful, using multi-colored rhinestones in often striking designs.
Schreiner: German émigré Henry Schreiner sailed to the United States in 1923 from Bavaria, where he had worked as a blacksmith. Upon his arrival in New York City, Henry got a job at the Con Edison electric utility and later worked at a bakery and in 1927 at the Better Shoe Buckle Company. Henry gravitated to the arts from an early age, and he combined a strong artistic sense with the technique of a craftsman.
The Schreiner Company was established in 1951 to make fine costume jewelry, with Henry joined in the business by his daughter Terry and her husband, Ambros Albert. Schreiner jewelry was very colorful, with multicolored Czechoslovakian rhinestones used in a variety of ways, sometimes inverted and set upside down and sometimes unfoiled. Their production was always rather small, and all of it was hand made. Henry Schreiner died in 1954, but the business continued to operate under the direction of Terry and Ambros until 1975 making designs from the original molds.
Staret: Founded in 1941 in Chicago, IL, Staret costume jewelry is typically colorful and elaborate in design, what collectors sometimes refer to as “fun” jewelry. The quality is typically very high and reminiscent of Eisenberg in design and materials. Staret jewelry is usually marked “Staret” impressed in the metal.
Trifari: Luigi Trifari was a top goldsmith in the mid-1800s in his native Naples, Italy where he had a small but successful workshop. Gustavo Trifari, Luigi’s grandson, was born in Naple sin 1883 and learned the goldsmith’s craft from his grandfather. In 1904, Gustavo immigrated to America and found work as jewelry designer in New York City. In 1910, he partnered with his uncle and founded his first firm Trifari & Trifari to produce high quality costume jewelry.
Two year hence, Gustavo went on his own and formed Trifari which he operated as owner and designer until 1917 when Leo Krussman joined the company as sales manager. The company Trifari and Krussman was incorporated in 1918, and after top salesman Carl Fishel joins the company in 1923 the name is changed to Trifari, Krussman, and Fishel.
The 1930s were a period of outstanding production for Trifari with Alfred Phillipe as their lead designer, formerly of Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Under his imaginative leadership and with runaway successes such as the 1941 “crown” pin, Trifari grew to become the second largest U. S. manufacturer of costume jewelry behind only Coro.
Trifari leveraged the services of many popular designers including Jean Paris (1958-1965), Andre Boeut (1967-1979), and Diane Love (1971-1974), and Alfred Phillipe stayed with the company until 1968. With these diverse design contributions, Trifari produced an incredibly wide array of styles at all different price levels, but they all enjoy the excellent craftsmanship, which Gustavo learned from his grandfather. Most Trifari pieces are marked with a crown above the “T”, or in variations “TKF” or “Trifari.
Van Dell: The Van Dell company was founded in Providence, RI in 1943 during the years of World Wr II. Van Dell manufactured finer quality sterling silver and gold plated costume jewelry incorporating beads, Austrian crystals, cultured and some of the industry’s most realistic copies of fine gemstones and pearls. The company is still in operation today.
Vendome: Building upon the success of Corocraft as their high quality line of costume jewelry, Coro first introduced the Vendome mark in 1944 and introduced the full Vendome line in 1953 as its successor to the high end market for more expensive reproduction jewelry. Vendome branded jewelry is made of the finest Austrian and Czechoslovakian rhinestones, faceted crystal beads, and pearls, and decorative enameling and ornamentation, some even designed with moving parts. In the 1960s, Vendome was particularly popular at least in part due to the innovative designs of Vendome lead designer Helen Marion.
Vogue: The “Vogue” trademark first originated with the Park Importing Company of New York City, first used in 1915 on their beaded and faux pearl costume jewelry. However, Harold Shapiro and two partners Jack Gilbert and George Grant founded the company Vogue Jewelry in 1936. One of Harold’s sons, Bernard Shapiro, went on to found Les Bernard in 1963 along with master craftsman Lester Joy, thus creating the name Les Bernard. After Harold Shapiro’s departure from Vogue in 1961, the company continued to operate until ceasing operations in 1973.
Warner: Joseph Warner founded the company by his name in 1953 and continued production until 1971. Warner was particularly known for their japanned costume jewelry, wherein the metalwork was blackened through the process. Higher quality rhinestones and other materials were individually set into this metal backing, giving Warner jewelry a unique design contrasting with the other more polished pieces on the market during the period.
Weiss: Albert Weiss, a former employee of the Coro Jewelry Company, founded Weiss in New York City in 1942. Weiss was known for the very high quality and clarity of their costume jewelry, manufactured with Austrian rhinestones. They produced mainly traditional designs including some figural, floral, and animal jewelry, and among the most avidly collected are the Weiss butterfly and insect pins of the 1950s. They also produced a reproduction of German smoky quartz crystals that they called “black diamond jewelry.”
After Albert Weiss died, his son Michael assumed the leadership of the company and continued to operate it until finally ceasing operations in 1971. Some Weiss jewelry was outsourced to the Hollywood Jewelry Company and marketed under the Weiss name and trademark. Most Weiss jewelry is marked with “Weiss” in either block letters or script, and they also used “Albert Weiss” and “AW Co.” with the “W” in the shape of a crown, which was often found on tags and used after 1950.
Whiting & Davis: The Whiting & Davis Company is best known for making mesh chains and mesh purses, but they also introduced a popular and successful jewelry line. Founder C. W. Whiting worked for a local chain manufacturing company, which had been founded in 1876 by William Wade and Edward P. Davis. The company began making fashion accessories to complement their other offerings, and they became quite well known for their silver and gold mesh handbags and purse accessories.
As Whiting’s talents and expertise grew, he soon became a partner and owner in the business in 1907. When the company introduced their jewelry line, they utilized their technical expertise making mesh to create typically sterling silver or silver plated metalwork as the foundation for their pieces. In contrast to most costume jewelry of the day, Whiting & Davis introduced applied transfer porcelain jewelry and cameos as well as a line of iridescent glass jewelry.
Whiting and Davis created many original designs, but they also did reproduction copies of museum pieces in the 1950s that also proved popular with the public and now with collectors. Whiting & Davis still produces mesh purses and accessories in Attleboro, Massachusetts, but they stopped making jewelry in 1983. Whiting & Davis jewelry is typically impressed “Whiting & Davis” in the metal, sometimes within a cartouche.