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Please note that I am not acquiring additional inventory at this time. I do not provide appraisals or identification services, nor do I answer specific questions about your jewelry. I invite you to learn about vintage costume jewelry by visiting these pages.

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Jewelry History

  • 1930s Bauhaus Inspired Jewelry: A Celebration

    I cannot let this year end without telling you about the centenary of an important influence on one style of 1930s jewelry – the Bauhaus, a school of design founded in 1919 in Germany. You may be familiar with the modernist buildings and decorative arts that flowed from its philosophy – for example, the Seagram Building in New York City and the Barcelona chair. Both were designed by German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He also designed the first tower of the Toronto-Dominion Centre, a complex of office buildings shown above.

    1930s Jewelry

    What does the Bauhaus have to do with 1930s jewelry? The style that emerged from the school’s teachings inspired jewelry designers to use stainless steel, chrome, and nickel, either alone or with embellishments in glass, plastic, and/or enamel. Designs were austere and geometric in form. Pieces reflected the new emphasis on mass production with symbols of the machine and its movement. Here are some of my favorite pieces in this style.

    Jakob Bengel

    One of the most significant costume jewelry makers in this era was Jakob Bengel. Established in 1873, this German firm changed its focus from watch chains and metal wares to costume jewelry in the 1920s. Greatly influenced by the Bauhaus metal shop and French avant-garde jewelry designers, Bengel’s pieces are highly-coveted today.

    Front of chrome brickwork necklaceA popular motif – known as Mauerwerk can be seen in this Chrome Brickwork Collar. This pattern was fashioned from flat metal links held together with invisible rods that make the rigid-looking piece extremely flexible. The necklace feels very slinky when worn. You can see a simpler, lighter variation of this piece with black and red enamel accents here. Bengel made many variations on this pattern in necklaces and bracelets.

    This Chrome & Glass Link Necklace & Bracelet was initially attributed to a Belgian maker but has since been thought to be a Bengel creation. The mystery persists because that firm and most of their contemporaries never signed their jewelry. Nonetheless, this set is a knockout! The necklace has inter-locking chrome links with accents of molded-glass; the bracelet is formed from glass links joined with chrome.

    Other Makers

    Here are three Bauhaus-inspired bracelets.

    Full view of blue bead & chrome bracelet
    Chrome bracelet with curved & textured links

    On the left, the Blue Bead & Chrome Knot Bracelet illustrates another popular motif – spiral knots formed from wire – used by Bengel and others. In this piece, most likely made by another firm, the knots alternate with blue-glass beads and tiny chrome balls.

    The Black & White Bakelite Vintage Charm Bracelet in the center may have been made in France. Its silver-tone links in a tank-track pattern are another popular Machine Age motif. The dangling black-and-white plastic cubes that look like licorice Allsorts candy add physical movement to the theme. A truly fun piece!

    I like the Chrome Link Machine Age Bracelet on the right because it has a combination of smooth and textured links. The trios of curved, polished-chrome were inspired by a machine symbol: car or radio grills. Because the piece is metal only, you can wear it with virtually anything! Although the bracelet is unsigned, I am certain it was made in Europe.

    A fine accompaniment to the chrome link bracelet above is this Blue Bead & Chrome 1930s Necklace, on the left. It combines cobalt-blue glass beads and plastic rings along with pierced chrome beads as embellishments to the decorative chrome-link chain.

    This Red Bakelite Brooch with Chrome is a cylinder of plastic wrapped in chrome wire. It’s a fun example of a bar brooch, which looks great on a jacket lapel or shoulder.

    For More 1930s Jewelry

    The characteristics of the Machine Age style of the 1930s were not limited to the Bauhaus influence. Many pieces with this motif were made without metal (e.g., only plastic), and many were embellished with diamanté and/or colored stones. You can see a fine selection of this jewelry in the boutique’s Machine Age collection.

    More About the School

    From 1919 – 1933, the school focused on the designer’s relationship with industry, by emphasizing the unity of the fine arts and applied arts. Its aim was to design functional and aesthetically-pleasing items for everyday use through mass production, so they were affordable to all.

    The one-year foundation course immersed students in color theory, material studies and basic principles of design. For the next two years, students entered specialized workshops, each led by both an artist and master craftsman. Courses included metal-working, cabinet-making, weaving, pottery, photography, typography and painting. The school’s signet, shown here, was designed by Oskar Schlemmer, one of the instructors.

    To celebrate the centenary of the school’s founding, festivals, exhibitions, and other special events have been held around the world throughout this year. On April 12, even Google issued a commemorative Doodle.

    Dezeen, the online architecture and design magazine, calls the Bauhaus “the most influential art and design school in history … a place that despite the economic turmoil and cultural conservatism of the world around it, offered a truly radical, international and optimistic vision of the future”.  Although the school lasted little more than a decade, its teachers and graduates applied its modern design ideals worldwide. Fortunately, we are left with a wonderful legacy in all fields of the arts.

    For Additional Information

    Follow the Bauhaus story (and me) on Instagram or Facebook.

    Check out Dezeen’s website for an extensive body of work on specific Bauhaus-related topics in addition to its excellent overview article.

    Watch the informative online documentaries on My Modern Met.

  • Cartier bracelets worn by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

    Jewelry in the Movies: Cartier Bracelets

    In June last year, I wrote about “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s”, an exhibition I saw in New York City. Among the magnificent jewels on display was a pair of Cartier bracelets bought by Gloria Swanson in 1930 and now part of the maker’s collection. Those bracelets…

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  • History of costume jewelry -- researcher's story

    The History of Costume Jewelry: A Researcher’s Story

    Years ago when I was a consultant, one of my favorite clients told me that I was like a terrier. He wasn’t trying to insult me – he was just acknowledging the fact that I am a tenacious investigator. I don’t stop until I have all of the answers to…

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  • Introducing the Double Clip Brooch

    For me, September always marks a new beginning. Maybe I’m still grounded in the “first day of school” mentality. Or maybe it’s the changing colors of the leaves. Either way, I’m always looking for new ideas for jeweled accessories. And I’m sure you are, too. So here’s an exciting new…

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  • Flexible choker worn by Ann Sheridan in The Unfaithful

    Jewelry in the Movies: A 1940s Flexible Choker

    Movies produced in the 1930s-1940s rarely credited jewelry. In fact, in many cases, the names of the costume designers weren’t even disclosed on-screen. For this reason, I always look closely at what the female characters are wearing in these films, hoping to recognize a jewel. Last night while watching The…

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  • The Jazz Age

    If you love Art Deco as much as I do, you never tire of seeing jewelry created in this decorative style. I’ve just returned from a research trip to New York City, where I was fortunate to see the exhibition The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, currently on…

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  • Movie jewelry by Harry Winston and worn by Ingrid Bergman in Notorious

    Jewelry in the Movies: Winston

    As we eagerly anticipate this year’s Academy Awards ceremony on February 26, many of us are as interested in what the stars will be wearing as who will win. And the dazzling jewels worn on the red carpet will get as much press as the gowns they adorn. So with…

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  • ‘Downton Abbey’ Style Finale

    As North Americans eagerly await tonight’s broadcast of the first episode of Season 6 of Downton Abbey, many do so with some regret – this season will be the last. Viewers are anticipating the answers to last season’s cliff-hangers. For example, will Lady Mary marry again? Will Anna and Bates…

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  • Mellow Yellows for Spring

    Yellow, the color of sunshine, is associated with positive feelings such as joy, happiness, cheerfulness, intellect and energy. Not surprisingly, a tone of yellow is usually included in Pantone’s top 10 women’s spring/summer colors. This year’s shade is called Custard, which is defined as “Sweet and sunny … a cheering…

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  • Aquamarine for Spring

    Even though the weather outside may not feel like spring (at least where I live!), we can still look at colors for the upcoming season.  Based on their survey of fashion designers, Pantone has named the palette for women’s clothing in spring 2015:  En Plein Air, a French expression which…

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