(Germany, 1924? – 1940s)
Until recently unknown as a costume jewelry designer, Jakob Bengel founded a watch chain and metal wares factory in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, in 1873. His was one of several such factories in the area. In the 1920s, the company abandoned the production of mass-produced wares of little or no aesthetic value in favor of creating costume jewelry. Bengel’s work was greatly influenced by the Bauhaus School, which promoted and taught the skills for the making of jewelry from stainless steel, chrome, nickel, and glass, and the use of geometric shapes in design. Bengel’s designers included well-known artists such as Wilhelm Wagenfeld, a Bauhaus graduate, who worked free-lance for the company. Bengel’s distinctive Art Deco pieces were so popular in the 1930s that they were exported all over the world. However, the jewelry made for export did not bear the Bengel factory mark or even the country of origin.
At the start of World War II, the Galalith Bengel used was no longer available for non-war use, and, consequently, production ceased. The Bengel name and its connection to the distinctive Art Deco pieces made of metal and colored Galalith remained unknown until the late 1990s. Because of renewed interest, the factory has re-opened as a museum and has produced limited-edition Art Deco jewelry, using the old pattern books, original tools and same production methods.Shop Jakob Bengel jewelry
(United States, 1946 – 1970)
Henry Bogoff, a Polish immigrant, and his wife, Yvette, founded the Spear Novelty Company in Chicago. The company produced accessories, including rhinestone buttons. Henry began to design and manufacture rhinestone jewelry under his name in 1946. Yvette handled the sales and marketing. The company supplied Sears & Roebuck, J.C. Penny, Zales, Marshall Fields, and Saks 5th Avenue, reaching sales just below those of Coro and Trifari. After Henry’s death in 1958, Yvette moved the business to New York. Production ceased in 1970.
Bogoff’s designs were delicate and feminine imitations of fine jewelry and were made of good-quality materials. He typically used small to medium-sized rhinestones, molded art glass, faux pearls and silver-tone metal, often rhodium plated. Small pavé leaf designs were a common motif. Pieces were marked “BOGOFF” (in block letters) or “Jewels by BOGOFF”.Shop Bogoff jewelry
(United States, 1937 – 1972)
Marcel Boucher (1898–1965) started his career as an apprentice model-maker at Cartier in the late 1910s. He transferred to the New York workshops in 1922 and continued working there until the Stock Market crash in 1929. The economy forced Boucher to transfer his skills to the costume jewelry business. From 1930 to 1937, he worked for Mazer Brothers; while there, Boucher patented several mechanisms that permitted two clips to be joined as a single brooch. In 1937, he established his own company, Marcel Boucher et Cie. He was able to expand operations in 1939 after receiving an order from Saks Fifth Avenue. French designer Sandra Semensohn joined the firm in 1949 and later married Boucher. After his death and until the early 1970s, she controlled the company. Boucher et Cie was sold to Dovorn Industries, an American watch manufacturer, in 1972.
Boucher jewelry is known for its innovative designs and exceptional quality. His pieces typically feature intricate metalwork, rhinestones that resemble real gemstones, top quality faux pearls and colorful enamel work. Boucher jewelry was in the medium- to high-price range and was sold in the finest department stores and boutiques. Boucher’s first collection featured bow-shaped brooches and clips with fabric-like folds. Other early work reflected nature motifs such as animals, flowers and vegetables. His exotic bird pins with rhinestones and enameling from that era are especially famous. In the years before World War II, pieces were made of rhodium- or gold-plated metal with enamel and rhinestone pavés. Jewelry produced during World War II and through 1947 was made of sterling silver, because base metal supplies were restricted to war use. The ballerinas and animals with large central stones from this period are especially well known. Designs in the 1950s followed the trend for elegant, classic-looking pieces that resembled fine jewelry; necklaces, bracelets and earrings were more popular than brooches during that period. In the 1960s, Boucher combined cabochon pastes with small faceted rhinestones to create very intricate designs.
Starting in 1945, Boucher pieces were marked with an in-house design catalog number. These numbers can be used to date the design of a piece.Shop Marcel Boucher jewelry
(United States, 1939 – 1976)
Hattie Carnegie (1886-1956) was born Henrietta Kanengeiser in Vienna, Austria, the second of seven children. She immigrated to the U.S. around 1900, to join her father on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. After he died, she had to leave school to work, first as a messenger girl at Macy’s, and later in their millinery workroom and dress house. In 1909, after changing her name to Hattie Carnegie, she opened her first shop on East Tenth Street with Rose Roth, a seamstress who made the garments while Carnegie designed the hats. The shop was a success, and the women incorporated in 1913 and moved to West Eighty-sixth Street. By the end of World War I, Carnegie bought out her partner, established Hattie Carnegie, Inc., and shifted the business from original creations to the sale and restyling of French couture.
In 1939, the company started marketing high-quality costume jewelry to accessorize their clothing. By the time of Carnegie’s death in 1956, she had brought a unique American interpretation of French couture to the fashion scene. The production of clothing and jewelry under her name continued until 1976.
Instead of copying fine jewelry, a common practice at the time, Carnegie’s designs were innovative and distinctive. Under her direction, some pieces were designed in-house, while others were designed, produced and stamped with the Carnegie logo by various manufacturers whose work was commissioned. Designers included Kenneth Jay Lane, Norman Norell, Peggy Moonan, Pauline Trigère and Claire McCardell, some of whom also designed for other companies. Themes included flowers, leaves and fruits; Oriental figures; and stylized animals. Materials included poured glass, faux pearls, glass beads, rhinestones used as accents, and enameled and gold-plated finishes.
Carnegie’s bold and distinctive jewelry was often in sharp contrast to her chic but conventional clothing and her favorite: the little black dress. Her jewelry was worn by Hollywood elite such as Joan Fontaine, Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. Carnegie may be best known for her tremblers – flowers or butterflies on springs that trembled or vibrated as the wearer moved. Other popular work includes Egyptian Revival and stylized animal pieces.Shop Hattie Carnegie jewelry
(United States, 1942? – 1981)
Founded circa 1942 by Christopher and Phyllis Catanzaro in East Providence, Rhode Island, Catamore Jewelry Company, Inc., produced gold and costume jewelry until 1981. Their trademark was “CATAMORE”.Shop Catamore jewelry
(United States & Germany, 1945 – 1997)
A former fashion model, Alice Caviness was a fashion designer who began designing costume jewelry in Long Island, New York, to compliment her clothing line. In the mid-1950s, designer Millie Petronzio joined her firm and continued there until 1982, when she left to become head designer at Miriam Haskell. Caviness died in 1983, but Lois Steever, another designer and her business partner, continued production until 1997.
Caviness and her designers created bold and imaginative parures, demi-parures, earrings and single brooches, always using high-quality materials and techniques such as sterling and vermeil sterling filigrees and cloisonné enamels, expensive art glass, hand-set stones and hand-strung beads. Many of the sterling filigree pieces were produced in Germany. Alice Caviness jewelry was sold only in exclusive boutiques.Shop Alice Caviness jewelry
(England, 1917 to the present)
In 1917, Ciro started as a mail-order seller of costume jewelry. With the popularity of imitation pearls in the 1920s, the company became a successful purveyor to both flappers and early movie stars. Today it is still well-known for its high-quality sterling silver costume jewelry, imitation pearls, and clip-back earrings. Ciro’s flagship store is located in London’s prestigious Burlington Arcade.Shop Ciro jewelry
(United States, 1901 – 1979)
Emanuel Cohn (1859-1911) and Carl Rosenberger (1872-1957) founded the firm of Cohn andRosenberger in 1903 as an accessories boutique in New York City. The company outsourced most of its jewelry design and manufacture until it opened a factory in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1929. They soon became the largest costume jewelry manufacturer in the United States. By the mid-1930s, Coro jewelry was sold in retail stores in most U.S. cities, and the company had manufacturing plants in Great Britain and Canada. In 1943, the partnership incorporated as Coro, Inc. Richton purchased Coro in 1957. In 1979, production ceased except for the Canadian operations, which continued until the mid-1990s.
Coro’s success was based on a number of factors, including the quality of the company’s designs and their appeal to a wide range of consumers. Design director Adolph Katz and talented designers, such as Gene Verecchio, François, Oscar Placco and Albert Weiss, produced several product lines that differed in quality, price and target market. The Coro line, aimed at the middle- and lower-income consumer, produced good quality pieces in a broad range of motifs, including floral, figural and patriotic. Coro Craft, the best-known higher-end brand, also employed a range of subjects, but these pieces were made of more expensive materials such as sterling silver, vermeil and European crystals. The most expensive brand, Vendôme, was introduced in 1944, but most of the line was produced after 1953. Although the Vendôme mark was used on Coro’s charm bracelets, faux pearl necklaces and other well-crafted pieces made from the finest quality materials, sales were low until Helen Marion became chief designer and revitalized the line in the 1960s.
One of Coro’s successful innovations was the Coro Duette, which uses a Coro-patented mechanism to lock two dress clips together so they could be worn as one brooch or separately, without the mechanism. This mechanism was granted patent number 1,798,867 on March 31, 1931. These Duettes were popular in the 1930s, when women wore dress clips on either side of a square neckline, and remain popular today. Another Coro success was their Jelly Belly pins, which were originally created by Trifari in the 1940s, then copied by Coro and others. Coro Craft’s extra-large sterling silver pins are good examples of jewelry popular in the 1940s. In the 1950s and 1960s, Coro produced jewelry with carved, molded and ribbed stones.Shop Coro jewelry
(United States, 1934 – 1970)
Ralph DeRosa Co. was founded in New York City in 1934 by Ralph DeRosa (1884-1942), an Italian immigrant from a renowned family of jewelers. He had studied design in Naples. After Ralph’s death, the company was run by his wife Elvira, who was also a designer, and daughters Virginia and Theresa. Production ceased by 1970.
DeRosa’s signature style was large-sized costume jewelry produced with techniques typically used in the manufacture of precious jewelry. Floral motifs, the lace theme and retro designs such as exaggerated bows were common; figurals were seldom produced. Pieces typically featured gold-plated metal set with richly-colored rhinestones and translucent enameling. Sterling silver was used from 1942 until the end of 1949. DeRosa jewelry was expensive. Until at least 1955, the trademark “R. DE ROSA” in block letters was used.Shop Ralph DeRosa jewelry
(France, United States, England & Germany, 1946 to the present)
Born in Normandy, France, Christian Dior (1905-1957) began his fashion career in the mid-1930s, selling sketches of his designs to Parisian couturiers before working for designer Lucien Lelong. In 1946 he opened his own fashion house and turned the fashion world upside down the following year with his first haute couture collection – the New Look. In juxtaposition to the austerity of the war years, Dior’s fashions were extravagant, feminine and formal. Accessories such as hats, gloves and costume jewelry enhanced the glamorous look. While some did not embrace this change in style, many North American and European elite, including Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Bette Davis, and the Duchess of Windsor, wore Dior clothing and jewelry.
Dior believed his jewelry was an integral part of his collections, and that its quality should mirror the quality of his clothing designs. Consequently, only individual designers and companies with the highest reputations were commissioned to produce Dior pieces. Designers include Henry Schreiner (in the late 1940s and early 1950s) and Kramer (in the early 1950s) in the U.S.; Mitchell Maer in England (1952-1956); Henkel & Grosse in Germany (from 1955 to the present); and Josette Gripoix (in the 1940s) and Robert Goossens (who also worked for Chanel) in France. Jewelry produced under license for Dior was (and still is) sold only in exclusive stores.
Dior jewelry is characterized by aurora borealis rhinestones, which he developed with Swarovski in 1955, stones in a variety of cuts and shapes in the same piece, historically-inspired styles and extensive use of floral motifs. Figurals, including circus animals, unicorns and fish, were also made.Shop Christian Dior jewelry
(United States, 1914 to the present)
Eisenberg & Sons started in Chicago as a designer and manufacturer of women’s fashions, which were labeled “Eisenberg Originals”. When they began accessorizing their dresses with brooches, these pieces became very popular, and the company established a jewelry division. By 1958, the jewelry business proved to be more profitable, so the company abandoned its clothing line. Eisenberg continues to manufacture high-quality rhinestone jewelry today.
Eisenberg sold mostly brooches, although they also had some necklaces, bracelets and rings. Their jewelry was expensive. It was characterized by the high quality of the materials, particularly the white and colored crystals imported from Austria and Czechoslovakia, which were hand set. Early pieces were large and bold asymmetrical bows and flowing designs with ribbons of pavé rhinestones. During World War II, sterling silver was used instead of base metals, which were needed for the war effort. Jewelry was designed and manufactured by suppliers, such as Fallon &Kappel (who also made jewelry for Hattie Carnegie, Chanel and Schiaparelli until 1943, when they became exclusive to Eisenberg). Fallon & Kappel’s designers included Florence Nathan and Ruth M.Kamke. In the 1950s, colored rhinestones in dainty pieces replaced the large pins and clips. In the 1970s, the company made enameled pieces designed by artists such as Calder, Picasso, Chagall and Miro. Today Eisenberg continues to manufacture high-quality rhinestone jewelry, but the largest part of the business involves the design and manufacture of Christmas jewelry.
Collectors prize Eisenberg pieces because of their craftsmanship and their bold designs featuring Swarovski’s highly-leaded crystals, which have exceptional sparkle. Figurals from the early 1940s, which are more rare, are particularly admired.Shop Eisenberg jewelry
(United States, 1931? – 1965?)
Located in New York City, Engel Brothers, Inc. manufactured rhinestone bracelets, brooches, necklaces and other types of costume jewelry. The company was listed in trade directories from 1931 through 1965. Their trademark was “EB” within a diamond shape.Shop Engel Brothers jewelry