(France & United States, 1930s – 1960s?)
Born in Rome, vintage jewelry designer Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) moved to Paris in the 1920s and established an haute couture house there in 1927. She soon began producing costume jewelry along with clothing, perfume and other accessories. After spending the war years in New York, Schiaparelli returned to Paris in 1945 to resume her fashion business. In 1949, she opened retail outlets in New York and returned there in 1954, after selling her business in Paris.
During the 1950s, Schiaparelli focused on writing her autobiography and producing jewelry. Some sources state that production ceased in the late 1950s, while others say it continued into the next decade. She died in Paris in 1973. In 2006, an Italian businessman acquired the Schiaparelli archives and rights. The Couture House re-opened in 2012 at Hôtel de Fontpertuis, 21 place Vendôme, the same place where Elsa left it.
Schiaparelli believed that costume jewelry was an integral part of fashion design as well as an art form in its own right. Her early work, which reflected her interest in nature and Surrealism, is often characterized as whimsical, exotic or highly stylized. Her “Shocking Pink” collection in 1936, at a time when a black cocktail dress was the height of fashion, is a reflection of Surrealist principles (i.e., “the metaphor of splashing the ‘black cocktail dress’ of society with vivid and outrageous color”, according to Judith Miller in Miller’s Costume Jewelry). Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau and Christian Bérard, Surrealist artists and friends of Schiaparelli, designed some pieces for her. Other designers with whom Schiaparelli collaborated include Lyda Coppola, Jean Schlumberger, Jean Clément and Roger Jean-Pierre. In 1949, she licensed Ralph DeRosa to make her jewelry, labeled “Designed in Paris – Created in America”. Jewelry produced in the 1950s employed unusual and often very colorful stones and glass in abstract, floral and faunal designs.
Shocking pink is Schiaparelli’s signature color, and the faux tourmaline is her signature stone. Irregularly shaped chunky stones such as the lava rocks are also prevalent in her jewelry. Chunky bracelets are her signature pieces.Shop Elsa Schiaparelli jewelry
(United States, 1932 – 1975)
Henry Schreiner (1898-1954), a jewelry worker born in Premich, Germany, immigrated to the U.S. in 1923. He opened the Schreiner Jewelry Co. in New York City, in 1932. His daughter Terry and her husband, Ambros Albert, joined the family business in 1951. After Henry died, they continued to produce Schreiner jewelry using the original molds.
The firm prospered in the 1950s-1960s, when their large, elaborate rhinestone jewelry was in style. During those decades, the company produced jeweled buckles, buttons, belts, brooches, necklaces, and earrings for all of the top American fashion houses. Clients included Pauline Trigère, Norman Norelle, Adele Simpson, and Christian Dior. Schreiner jewelry adorned models in many fashion shows as well as photo shoots for Vogue, including the covers of the June 1, 1952, and March 1, 1954, issues. Because of this exposure, the company never advertised.
Most stones came from pre-war Czechoslovakia, then from Germany (where the stones were made by Czech immigrants). Some stones were made especially for Schreiner. Their keystones (kite-shaped crystals that were Schreiner’s signature stone) were made by Czechs in post-war Germany. These stones were used in the ruffle pin Terry designed in 1957 and in Maltese crosses.
No trademark was registered for the company. Only pieces made for department stores were stamped “Schreiner” or “Schreiner New York”. Jewelry made for the fashion houses was not signed. Even without the maker’s mark, many Schreiner pieces can be identified because of their distinctive style, elaborate designs, and high-quality of materials.
Typical characteristics include the following: unfoiled and inverted (i.e., set upside-down) stones, both intended to pick up the color of the material beneath them; large, unusually-shaped crystals; dome-shaped brooches; unconventional yet imaginative color combinations; large triangular prongs; japanned settings; and hook-and-eye construction. Schreiner’s pieces were set and finished by hand, so the output was limited. Huge bib necklaces and parures are especially rare.Shop Schreiner jewelry
(United States)Shop R.F.Simmons jewelry
(United States, 1925 to the present)
Gustavo Trifari (1883-1952), a goldsmith from Naples, Italy, partnered with Leo F. Krussman (1888-1952), a sales manager, in 1918 in New York City to design and manufacture high-quality costume jewelry. Trifari created the designs and Krussman marketed them. The company became Trifari, Krussman & Fishel (TKF) when Carl M. Fishel (1878-1964), a salesman, joined the firm in 1925.
In 1930, Alfred Philippe was hired as chief designer (a position he held until 1968). TKF soon became the second largest producer of costume jewelry in the U.S., with plants in Providence, Rhode Island, and offices and design departments in New York. In 1964 ownership of the company passed to the founders’ children. In 1989 Trifari became part of the Monet Group, which was bought by Liz Claiborne in 2000.
From the early days to the present, Trifari has created exclusive designs for Broadway musicals and films (most recently, for Madonna in Evita), numerous theatre and film stars, and other illustrious clients such as First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Known for the high quality of its materials and manufacturing techniques and the sophistication and diversity of its designs, Trifari manufactured jewelry aimed at a medium-high market segment. The company’s distinguishing characteristic was its style of imitating fine jewelry. The predominance of high-quality Swarovski crystals, set using the sophisticated techniques employed with fine jewelry, earned the company the nickname “The Rhinestone Kings”.
With his experience at William Scheer Inc. in New York, a company that collaborated with Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, Alfred Philippe was responsible for many Trifari innovations and successful lines. Most notable among them are invisible settings, enameled floral pins in the 1930s, Fruit Salads (produced in the mid-1930s and again in the early 1940s), Jelly Bellies (which first appeared in 1940) and Crown Pins (produced from the late 1930s to the 1950s).
Gustavo Trifari was also an innovator: in 1932, he patented a Clip Brooch that enabled two clips to be mounted either together on a pin bar for use as a brooch or separately on a hinged clip bar for use as a clip. In 1936, an Alfred Philippe design for a double-clip brooch was patented. This version became known as Clip-Mates and was Trifari’s answer to Coro’s extremely popular Duette. (You can see this utility patent here.) In 1947 Gustavo invented Trifanium, a metal alloy which the company used in place of sterling silver after World War II.
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Trifari produced sets in textured gilded metal set with pearls and rhinestones, which were ideal for daytime wear.
In 1955 Trifari sued Charel Co. and Charel Jewelry Co. over design copyright infringement and won. With this ruling, copyright protection for costume jewelry designs as works of art was established, and jewelry makers added the copyright symbol to their logos. As a result, we know that items marked with a copyright symbol were produced after 1955.Shop Trifari jewelry
(United States, 1905 – 1934)
Wachenheimer Bros. Inc. was located at 36 Garnet Street, Providence, Rhode Island, and had a showroom at 303 Fifth Avenue in New York City. The firm was started in 1905 by Jacob, Harry and Samuel Wachenheimer, the sons of German-born immigrants who met, married and settled in Manhattan. The company was incorporated in 1919 by the brothers and Providence attorney John R.Rosenfeld. It remained in operation until around May 1934, although the corporation had been dissolved the previous May.
Best known for their Diamonbar trademark, Wachenheimer Brothers manufactured high-quality sterling silver jewelry. The name Diamonbar first appeared in Vogue advertisements as the name given to a sterling silver and rhinestone bar pin that was first produced in 1916. Harry was granted a patent for the bar pin on October 19, 1920 (U.S. number 1,356,027), although the application was filed on May 24, 1916. He was also granted several patents that defined the ways in which the company’s flexible bracelets, perhaps their most well-known pieces today, were constructed. The first patent (U.S. number 1,219,683) was granted on March 20, 1917. Bracelets with this construction are marked 3 20 17, the patent date rather than the patent number. The second bracelet patent (U.S. number 1,344,365) was granted on June 22, 1920; the application was filed on December 26, 1919. You can see both bracelet patents here.
The Diamonbar trademark, which was registered in 1920, was stamped on Wachenheimer bar pins and bracelets until the end of that decade. Styles of the latter included one-, two-, and three-row flexible bracelets set with round- or square-cut rhinestones to imitate gemstones such as diamond, sapphire, emerald, onyx, ruby, amethyst, topaz as well as combinations. Other flexible bracelets had pierced links, with or without stones. The company’s sterling silver and rhinestone bangle bracelets – in 4mm and 8mm widths – were called Lady Gloria Hinge Bracelets.
By the end of the 1920s, the company launched an entirely different product line: Diamonbar flexible bracelets were replaced by Wachenheimer Real Stone Jewelry, which was advertised in Vogue. These pieces were marked Wachenheimer (the trademark was registered on November 2, 1926) and were made of sterling silver with semi-precious stones, including chrysoprase, carnelian, lapis lazuli, onyx and combinations. Some designs had floral motifs, while others were geometric. Sometimes marcasites were used to accent the colored stones. Matching sets (parures) often included earrings, a necklace, a bracelet, a brooch and a finger ring.
In the early 1930s, the company returned to their product line of one-, two- and three-row sterling silver flexible bracelets, perhaps in an attempt to regain their earlier success. Wachenheimer Brothers was one of many casualties among American costume jewelry manufacturers during the Great Depression.Shop Wachenheimer Brothers jewelry
(United States, 1922 – 1978)Shop Wells jewelry
WMF (Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik)
(Germany, 1927 – ?)
Founded in 1853 by Daniel Straub and the Schweizer brothers in Geislingen an der Steige, WMF began as a maker of household decorative metalware, ceramics, and glass. According to Wikipedia, by 1900 the company was the world’s largest producer and exporter of household metalware in the Art Nouveau style. Today the WMF Group of companies produce wares for food and beverage preparation, cooking, baking, and eating and drinking.
In the late 1920s, the company began to mass-produce inexpensive Bakelite, glass and metal jewelry; ceramics were added in 1939. According to Moro (p.132): “Metal was silver-plated and oxidized in stamped sections which simulated hand-hammering for IKORA Schmuck, the jewelry department of this large factory”. In 1932, IKORA-Kristal, a line of glass jewelry was introduced. It featured a rich array of colors made possible through new manufacturing techniques.Shop WMF jewelry