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Vintage Jewelry Designers & Makers

  • Brighten your mood with this dazzling brooch.

    Brighten Your Mood with this Glittering Jewel

    As the months of near-quarantine drag on, the idea of dressing up to stay at home may seem like an oxymoron. You may be surprised to learn that psychologists are encouraging us to do just that. Studies have shown that how we dress affects how we feel about ourselves. So whether you’re dressing for another work-from-home day, a Zoom conference meeting, or an intimate get-together, consider putting aside your sweats and tees. Instead, why not brighten your mood with an outfit that expresses your personality and accessorize with a sparkly jewel? I have just the piece for you.

    Have you ever seen a starfish as dazzling as this one? The “star of the sea” is a popular theme in jewelry and has many meanings associated with it. My favorite is its symbolism of renewal and rejuvenation, which is just what jewelry is expected to do – bring new life to an outfit. From the New York company Alice Caviness, this whimsical, yet sophisticated 1950s starfish brooch can be worn in many ways. Let me describe the piece, offer some styling tips, and tell you a bit about the maker.

    The Brooch

    This bold and glittering jewel is three inches in diameter. Five “arms” with raised edges and a cluster of stones in the center make this piece three-dimensional. The shimmer results from the iridescent coating of the round diamantés. Known as Aurora Borealis, this treatment of the surface of faceted glass beads and stones was invented in 1955 by Manfred Swarovski, the grandson of the founder of the Swarovski Company. Costume jewelry designers everywhere immediately began to use this finish, which reflects light and adds movement to jewelry. As a result, stones appear to change color under different lighting. Dior was among the first to feature Aurora Borealis stones in his winter 1956 collection.

    This brooch comes with matching ear clips, each shaped like an arm of a starfish. Although women in the 1950s typically wore matching sets of jewelry, you don’t have to do that. If you wear earrings, I would suggest simple gold studs or hoops.

    Styling Tips

    If you associate brooches with your grandmother or Queen Elizabeth II, think again. Runway models, red carpet stars, and members of Instagram’s #bringbackthebrooch movement have embraced this forgotten accessory and infused it with a contemporary spirit. Let me show you how to wear this shimmering jewel, to inspire you to express your personal style with vintage jewelry.

    The first example in this group is my favorite. This luxurious brown silk blouse has an intricately-detailed stand-up collar. You could simply pin the brooch at your throat. Or for even more glamour, use the jewel to attach a faux fur scarf around your neck on a blouse like this or another garment. The brooch really stands out against the deep, warm tones of the fabrics and their contrasting textures.

     

    In these two outfits, the placement of the brooch is more traditional. The simple blue, boiled-wool jacket on the left needs some oomph. The covered buttons provide a single-tone background for the sparkling pin instead of competing with it. Because this jacket has no lapels, the brooch sits well on the shoulder. The lapel of a jacket or coat is an excellent alternative as a backdrop for this glorious piece. And imagine it on the pocket of a denim jacket – it’s big enough to cover the button on the flap. On the right, the brooch is pinned to the shoulder of a sleeveless hot-pink dress. The gold setting compliments the gold-metal trim on the dress. Notice how the stones reflect the color of the fabric.

     

    I’ll bet you’ve never thought of wearing jewelry in your hair. All you need is a few bobby pins to secure it to an elegant or casual hairdo that’s styled up, as seen on the left. Did you know that hair accessories have become a popular alternative to bridal veils? On the right is another idea – embellish a hat band with a scarf and this glitzy brooch.

    For more tips on how to wear brooches, see this article by Beth Bernstein, jewelry historian, collector and writer.

    The Maker

    Details about American costume jewelry makers long out-of-business are often hard to document, and Alice Caviness’ company is no exception. Both the opening and closing dates are difficult to determine. What I can tell you is that by 1949 she was established as a designer, manufacturer, and importer of costume jewelry in New York City. Operations continued until at least 1980, when Caviness retired.

    The company created bold and imaginative pieces, such as this amazing starfish brooch and earrings, using high-quality materials in often unexpected combinations. For more examples, see the Alice Caviness Jewelry collection.

    Read more about the company here.

  • Dating jewelry can be challenging

    Jewelry Sleuthing: A Philadelphia Story

    I knew the answer wasn’t 1943. When dating jewelry for my website, as a first step I look for a maker’s mark. The line bracelets I was examining bore the Otis trademark, but that was the challenge. Every readily-available source I checked stated that this Providence, Rhode Island, firm commenced…

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  • Maison Schiaparelli spring 2020 jewelry

    The Jewels of Maison Schiaparelli: Yesterday & Today

    As a long-time fan of Schiaparelli jewelry, I was delighted to see photos of the Maison’s haute couture show for spring 2020. And as one who first chooses the jewelry to wear when putting together an outfit, I was smitten when I read about artistic director Daniel Roseberry’s approach to…

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  • Verdura brooch worn by Joan Fontaine in 'Suspicion'

    Jewelry in the Movies: Verdura Brooch

    As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved black-and-white films from the 1930s-1950s. More recently, though, I’ve realized that their one drawback is that we can’t usually see the splendour of the jewelry often worn by female characters. Here’s a case in point: In the photo above from…

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  • Bauhaus inspired architecture

    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…

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  • Unique wedding jewelry by Hattie Carnegie

    Happily Ever After: Unique Wedding Jewelry by Hattie Carnegie

    If you were walking along East 49th Street in New York City in the 1950s, at number 42 you might have seen this diamanté-studded gold-tone mesh necklace with dangling pearls and crystal beads (shown above) in the window. That address was home to Hattie Carnegie Inc., a well-known fashion house…

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  • Vintage Pearls for Modern Brides

    Pearls have been called the gem of queens and the queen of gems. For centuries, they have been associated with love, marriage, seductiveness and femininity. Not surprisingly, pearls have been a popular choice for wedding jewelry for generations. High-quality imitations have been fashionable since Coco Chanel started wearing them herself…

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  • Hobe brooches add romance to an outfit

    Find Romance with Hobé Brooches

    With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, romance is in the air. Everyone is thinking about roses and the color red. But I’ve decided to offer a different take on romance, with Hobé brooches. Pieces from the late 1930s through the 1940s by the incredible jewelry designer William Hobé…

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  • Paul Flato jewelry

    Paul Flato Jewelry in ‘Holiday’

    Before I even knew his name, I was a fan of Paul Flato jewelry. I was introduced to his talent when I first saw Holiday, a 1938 film starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. During that viewing many years ago, I remember wondering if the fabulous three-strand diamond necklace Hepburn…

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

    Jewelry in the Movies: Harry Winston, ‘Notorious’

    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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  • Who Made Those Art Deco Bracelets?

    Have you ever wondered about the maker of a favorite piece of vintage costume jewelry? Many collectors who favor the Art Deco style (as I do) are undoubtedly familiar with the trademark Diamonbar, which appears on sterling silver and imitation gemstone bracelets produced in a wide range of styles in…

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