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Couture-style Costume Jewels
The extravagant full skirts and nipped-in waists of Christian Dior’s 1947 “New Look” revolutionised women’s fashions after World War II. It could be said that his opulent accessories did the same for costume jewellery.
Dior (1905-57) took historical jewellery styles – most notably 19th century – and translated them into something modern, using unusual pastes and contemporary settings. He used the same materials to create floral and animal forms including seals, fish and unicorns. Later, in the 1960s, Henkel & Grosse, designed chunky, geometric gilt pieces decorated with abstract enamels alongside the traditional, opulent diamante jewellery.
Dior insisted that his costume jewellery should be of the same quality as his couture clothes. The jewellery became part of each season’s collection in 1948 (a year after his first, ground-breaking show) and is renowned for the quality of the stones, many of which feature unusual cuts and are set at angles which make the most of their colour and brilliance. In 1955 Dior worked with Manfred Swarovski to create the iridescent aurora borealis stone, which was used in many pieces in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Dior’s early jewellery was made by companies such as Maison Gripoix, which created a collection based on the lily of the valley – the floral signature of the fashion house – and inspired by the garden at Dior’s childhood home in Normandy, in 1954.
The jewellery was a great success and was worn by celebrities including Marilyn Monroe and Bette Davis. As demand grew Dior began to license other companies to design and produce jewellery for him. These included Henry Schreiner and Kramer in the US; Mitchell Maer in the UK (from 1952-56); and Henkel & Grosse in Germany from 1955.
When Dior died in 1957, Yves Saint Laurent was chief designer until 1960 when Marc Bohan took the helm. Gianfranco Ferré designed for the company from 1989 and John Galliano took over in 1996.
Between 1955 and the late 1960s pieces were marked Christian Dior with the year of manufacture. Later pieces are marked Christian Dior. Pieces designed by Mitchell Maer are marked Mitchell Maer for Christian Dior.
Jewellery Revolutionary
A true revolutionary, Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) changed fashion forever. With Miriam Haskell and Coco Chanel – her great rival – she proved that exceptionally designed costume jewellery could be as spectacular as the precious kind. Her clients included the Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford and the pilot Amy Johnson.
Schiaparelli was born into an aristocratic family in Rome. She fled to London to escape an arranged marriage. There she met and married a Franco-Swiss-Polish refugee but by 1920 was divorced and living in Paris with her baby daughter. She began designing clothes to support herself, opening her Maison de Couture in 1927.
Schiaparelli befriended and worked with some of the greatest names of the Surrealist movement. Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau and Man Ray were among the artists who designed accessories for her and helped to make her name as a truly avant garde designer.
She even created a colour – “shocking” pink – which she used to market her perfume of the same name.
She began making costume jewellery in 1931 and used gilt, glass, plastic, leather and other unusual materials to make themed collections. The circus and flowers were among the subjects she chose; more traditional pieces were based on Victorian originals. This jewellery was imported to the US and distributed there by the David Lisner Company.
Schiaparelli also worked with costume jewellery designers such as Henkel & Grosse in Pforzheim, Germany, and Coppola e Toppo in Milan, Italy. Jean Schlumberger designed buttons for her.
In 1940, she fled war-torn Europe for New York where she worked until her return to Paris in 1945. She was there for just four years before returning to the US to concentrate on her bijoux de couture line, leaving behind her two assistants – Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Cardin. Her couture clothes were produced in Paris until 1955.
In New York, she sold the license to produce her jewellery to an American company. They carried a label which read “Designed in Paris – Created in America”. The extravagant, prong-set pieces were set with moulded, art glass stones. The dramatic, unusual pastes were like nothing seen in nature. The range was discontinued in around 1955.
Schiaparelli’s early, Paris jewellery is exceptionally rare and unmarked. The pieces made in New York are usually signed with her name in script. Fakes, and 1980s reproductions, are known.
Costume Jewellers to the Stars
In 1968, Nicky Butler and Simon Wilson started buying and selling vintage jewellery in London’s antiques markets. As demand grew, they identified a demand for reproduction pieces based on the original Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces they specialised in. As a result they made costume jewellery desirable and fashionable again.
The pair opened their first shop on the trendy Fulham Road in 1972 and enlisted celebrities such as Faye Dunaway, Jerry Hall, Twiggy and Catherine Deneuve to promote their designs on huge billboards outside the store.
Signature styles included an articulated diamanté lizard, which was famously worn by Diana Princess of Wales on a tour of Canada; the Princess was a regular customer.
By the 1980s, Butler & Wilson was an international business, well-known for its figurative pieces, which are decorated with good-quality diamanté stones; some styles were based on the jewellery of the Duchess of Windsor.
Nicky Butler moved to the US in the mid-1980s and works as a consultant to the company, which is still run by Simon Wilson. Butler & Wilson jewellery continues to have a celebrity following, including Kate Moss, Kylie Minogue and Madonna.
Pieces are usually marked Butler & Wilson or B&W.
Unique costume jewellery
Kramer Jewelry Creations was founded by Louis Kramer in New York City in 1943. He worked with his brothers Morris and Harry to produce costume jewellery at a range of prices that would appeal to as many customers as possible.
The best pieces are set with a generous number of high-quality Austrian rhinestones and are typical of the luxurious jewellery worn to enhance the tailored fashions of the 1950s. Designs tend to be bold and became more abstract in the 1960s. Some also feature faux pearls. The company closed in the late 1970s.
Kramer jewellery may be marked “Kramer of NY”, “Kramer of NY City”, or “Kramer” on an oval or triangular plaque.
American costume jewellery
The David Lisner Company is best known for the Lucite jewellery it made in the 1950s and 60s. Founded in New York City in 1904, the company initially acted as a distributor for other manufacturers, selling a limited range of its own designs. These suppliers included Elsa Schiaparelli, whose jewellery it imported and distributed during the 1930s.
It became better known in the 1920s thanks to its “Lanvin’s Violet” range. In the mid-1930s it became the U.S. agent for Elsa Schiaparelli’s European jewellery, later being given a licence to produce her designs for the American market.
The company’s heyday arrived in the 1950s when it created jewellery with chrome or silver-plated designs set with coloured Lucite ‘gems’. The Lucite could be cut in geometric or organic shapes and was generally in exotic fantasy colours – pretty pastels or bold lava stones. The design of the more expensive pieces might be highlighted with coloured or aurora borealis rhinestones. At that time it also produced the upmarket Richelieu line.
In 1978, the company became the Lisner-Richelieu Corporation. It closed in 1979.
Pieces were marked “Lisner” in block capitals from the mid-1930s and in script from 1938. A new block capital mark, with an elongated “L”, was introduced in the 1960s.
Makers for Dior and Schiparelli
In 1907 Florentin Grosse and his brother in law Heinrich Henkel founded a jewellery firm in Pforzheim, Germany. They initially made fashionable Modernist designs for the European market, using Bakelite, copper, brass, aluminium, wood and tinted Galalith (a plastic made from milk). Many of the pieces appear to have been made by machine and then hand-finished.
By the mid-1920s Henkel & Grosse jewellery was being exported to the US and in the 1930s the company made jewellery for Elsa Schiaparelli. In 1937, one of its brooches won a medal and the Diplome d’Honneur at the Paris Exposition.
From the onset of World War II, the company became known as Grosse. In 1955 it became the principal costume jewellery manufacturer for Dior, creating four collections a year alongside its own designs.
Grosse jewellery is usually gold – or rhodium-plated base metal and set with high-quality rhinestones. After 1958, all Grosse and Dior pieces were signed with the company name and dated.
The company is still in operation today, with stores in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan.
From Mamie Eisenhower to Madonna
Trifari is the most successful, and probably the best known, of all costume jewellery manufacturers.
Its founder, Gustave Trifari (1883-1952), was born in Naples where he trained as a goldsmith. He emigrated to the US in 1904 where he began making costume jewellery with his uncle, under the name Trifari & Trifari.
In 1912 he launched Trifari to sell high-quality pieces. Leo Krussman joined as sales manager in 1917 and the firm became Trifari & Krussman a year later. In 1923 Karl Fischel joined as salesman and two years later Trifari, Krussman & Fischel was formed. The company was commonly known as Trifari.
Trifari’s success was based on the quality and range of its output. Whether a pair of earrings was destined for a dime store or top department store, the same attention to detail was invested in its design and manufacture.
In 1930 Alfred Philippe joined as head designer. The Frenchman had designed precious jewellery for the likes of Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels and brought the techniques he had used for these pieces to the creation of costume jewellery. He was particularly adept at a technique known as invisible setting, where the gems were fixed from the back of the setting, leaving no visible mount. His use of high-quality Swarovski crystals led to his bosses being known as the “Diamanté Kings”.
In the following decade Trifari became the second largest costume jewellery manufacturer after Corocraft, its jewellery worn by stars on Broadway and in Hollywood.
In 1942 war shortages forced the company to use silver rather than base metals as a setting for its stones. Five years later Trifari attempted to return to base metals but customers demanded silver. In response the company developed Trifarium – a special alloy that did not tarnish.
Alfred Philippe’s most successful designs include the 1930s crown pins and 1940s Lucite jelly bellies, patriotic pins and fruit salad tutti frutti pins. In the 1950s he was inspired by Moghul jewellery, and a set from this range was worn by Madonna when she appeared in the film Evita. Other 1950s styles include gilded metal jewellery decorated with diamante and pearls.
Possibly the company’s crowning moment came in 1953 when Mamie Eisenhower wore a Trifari parure of pearl choker, necklace and earrings at her husband Dwight Eisenhower’s Presidential inauguration ball – first ladies traditionally wore precious gems. She wore another parure for his 1957 ball.
Alfred Philippe retired in 1968; designers who followed him included André Boeuf and Diane Love.
The company was sold to the Hallmark corporation in 1975 and Liz Claiborne in 2000.
Marks include “Jewels by Trifari”, T.K.F. and Trifari. A crown mark was added after c.1937 and a copyright mark was used after 1954 when Trifari won a legal battle with Coro over copyright infringement. The legal ruling stated that costume jewellery should be treated as works of art and subject to copyright.
Costume Jewellery made fashionable
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel (1883-1971) revolutionised fashion: the little black dress and jersey separates were among her creations. What is more, with Miriam Haskell and Elsa Schiaparelli – her archrival – she made costume jewellery fashionable and desirable.
From humble beginnings, she rose to become the mistress of the Duke of Westminster and friends with Ivor Stravinsky, Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali.
Chanel opened a millinery shop in Paris in 1909, and by 1916 had set up couture houses in Paris, Deauville and Biarritz. In the 1920s she began selling costume jewellery, stating “Costume jewellery is not made to give women an aura of wealth, but to make them beautiful.”
Early designs included a necklace of facetted clear crystals held together by gilt frames which gave the appearance of a cascade of diamonds; long gilt chains; ropes of faux pearls; poured glass beads and brooches (made by Maison Gripoix) and enamelled and jewelled Maltese cross cuffs, designed for her by Fulcro di Verdura.
Chanel was inspired by antique art and its influence can be seen in jewels inspired by Baroque, Renaissance and Byzantine art, as well as traditional Indian and Egyptian jewellery.
While she may have despised fine jewellery, she demanded that her costume pieces were made to the same high standards, while the design still had to emphasise the fake nature of the materials.
The maison de couture was forced to close in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II and Chanel later moved to Switzerland. She returned to Paris in 1954 with a comeback collection that saw her regain her pre-war success within a year.
Karl Lagerfeld has been the chief designer since 1983. He has designed updated versions of Chanel’s jewellery using the same poured glass techniques, as well as high-quality faux pearls. In the 1980s he satisfied the desire for fashion logos by creating jewellery using the company’s double-C logo as a motif for gilt earrings and pendants.
Early jewellery may not be marked, but later pieces feature the Chanel name in script or block capitals.
Jewellery and Glass Master
Rene Lalique (1860-1945) was one of the leaders of the Art Nouveau movement and revolutionised the French jewellery market by turning jewellery into an art form. He proved there was no need to rely on large quantities of precious materials to create stunning works of art.
Lalique was apprenticed to a Parisian jeweller in 1874 and opened his own business in the city in 1885. He soon began to experiment, mixing precious materials with non-precious, believing that the artistic value of a piece was more important than that of its constituent parts. Lalique’s jewellery from this period mixed materials such as horn with diamonds, silver, gold and plique-a-jour enamel. The enamel was used to add depth and translucency to the design.
He was inspired by the natural world – and was one of the first jewellers to use motifs such as thistles, dandelions, poppies, dragonflies, sycamore seeds, butterflies and snakes. His designs could be naturalistic, mystical or symbolic.
Lalique designed dramatic stage jewellery for the actress Sarah Bernhardt – the woman who personified the Art Nouveau movement – and similarly decadent pieces for fashionable and wealthy women.
In 1897 he was awarded the Croix de la Legion d’Honneur for the jewellery he exhibited at the Brussels World Fair. However, the pinnacle of this stage of his career was the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle where he received the Grand Prix. His stand featured sculptures of naked winged women, and among his exhibit was a horn and diamond tiara in the form of a wreath of autumn leaves.
Jeweller Roger Vever recorded the shock of new visitors when they saw Lalique’s work at the exhibition: “You thought you were dreaming when you saw these beautiful things. A cockerel holding an enormous yellow diamond in its beak; a huge dragonfly with a woman’s head and diaphanous wings; enamelled country scenes sparkling with diamond dew-drops; ornaments like pine cones.”
However, a combination of frustration at the way his work was being copied and a fascination with glass led to him exhibiting his final jewellery collection in 1912.
Within two years he was working exclusively in art glass.
In 1921 he opened his own glassworks and began designing iridescent glass necklaces and bracelets, the glass set on silk cords. Soon he was also designing pendants, brooches and rings with a Japanese influence, and featuring the naturalistic and feminine motifs also seen on his vases and other glassware.
His Cabochon ring, using 14 shades of glass, continues to be a bestseller for the Lalique company.
Naturalistic and Modernist
Georg Jensen (1866-1935) created silver jewellery for the Danish middle classes that found international acclaim. He went on to employ groundbreaking designers whose work is still considered to be contemporary many decades later.
Jensen trained as a sculptor and goldsmith before working for the artist and metalworker Mogens Ballin, a leading figure in the skonvirke (“beautiful work”) movement that had ties to the Arts & Crafts movement and flourished from c.1890 until World War II. The simple, rounded shapes popular with skonvirke designers can be seen in Jensen’s jewellery.
In 1904 he opened his own workshop in Copenhagen and exhibited silver jewellery at the Danish Museum of Decorative Art. These pieces received international acclaim and, by the time he died in 1935, Jensen had showrooms in several major European cities, including London, Paris and Berlin, as well as New York.
Jensen jewellery – as well as his flatware – was relatively expensive, despite being mass-produced, and vintage pieces are relatively common.
Pieces designed by Jensen himself tend to feature naturalistic motifs, depicted in finely executed relief modelling. Pieces may be set with cabochon semi-precious stones such as moonstones, chalcedony, amber and cornelian.
Pieces were also created in the Art Deco style and Modernist style before and after World War II.
The Jensen workshop employed many designers including Henning Koppel (1918-81) whose biomorphic designs from the 1950s and 60s continue to be made today.
The company also employed Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe (1927-2004) whose designs featuring quartz and rock crystal were inspired by Viking neckbands. Her customers included Brigitte Bardot, Ingrid Bergmann and Pablo Picasso.
Other designers include Harald Nielsen, Johan Rhode, Sigvard Bernadotte, Arne Jacobsen, Jacqueline Rabun and Søren Georg Jensen.
Georg Jensen jewellery is usually marked with the company name, the initials of the designer and a design number.
Jewels to die for
For over 40 years, Kenneth Jay Lane (b.1930) has been designing costume jewellery that re-interprets both traditional styles and pieces by famous designers. His claim that, “If I haven’t copied you, then you’re not worth copying”, is true, but disingenuous – he may copy others, but he brings a humorous eye and his own design flair to every piece.
Lane was born in Detroit and moved to New York City in 1954 when he began working in the art department at Vogue magazine and was championed by Diana Vreeland. Soon, he was designing shoes for Roger Vivier and shoes and jewellery for Arnold Scaasi. In the early 1960s he decorated some cheap plastic bangles with diamanté for his female friends to wear. The trend caught on and in 1963 he founded the Kenneth Jay Lane company. In the mid-1980s Lane began designing jewellery for Avon.
Kenneth Jay Lane, jewellery uses Swarovski crystals, high-quality faux pearls and enamel to create designs inspired by Ancient Egypt, India, Art Deco, Victorian jewels and the work of Cartier and Chanel. He is a fan of Jeanne Toussant’s 1930s and 40s Big Cat jewels worn by the Duchess of Windsor. The Duchess was among his patrons, and is said to have been buried wearing Lane’s designs.
Other customers include Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Ivana Trump, Diana Princess of Wales, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.
Until the late 1970s Lane’s jewellery was marked K.J.L., since then it has been marked Kenneth Jay Lane or Kenneth Lane.
Fabulous and successful costume jewellery
In the middle of the 20th century, Corocraft was the largest manufacturer of costume jewellery in the United States. In 1946 its output made up 16% of the American costume jewellery market and by the late 1950s it had over 3,000 employees – at a time when its competitors averaged 100.
The company started as Cohn and Rosenberger, a jewellery and accessories boutique on Broadway in New York City run by Emanuel Cohn and Carl Rosenberger. The Coro mark was first used in 1919 and in 1929 a factory was opened in Providence, Rhode Island. In the 1930s factories were opened in Canada and the UK.
In 1937 the upmarket “Coro Craft” (later “Corocraft”) range was introduced, with Vendome following in 1944. The Vendome range replaced Corocraft as the company’s most prestigious line in 1953. During the 1930s and 40s Coro made jewellery sold at prices between 50 cents and 100 dollars.
Vendome was named after the Place Vendome in Paris and aimed to bring Parisian chic to wealthy American women. The jewellery used silver and gold plated settings, facetted crystals and rhinestones from Austria and Czechoslovakia, and high-quality faux pearls.
Coro’s success was due to the volume and diversity of its output, as well as its many talented designers – most of them unknown today. The best known is Adolph Katz who joined in 1924 and became head designer. Others included Gene Verecchio, Lester Gaba, Victor di Mezza and Albert Weiss.
Pieces marked Coro were from the lower and mid-priced ranges and are usually of good quality. The more expensive Corocraft pieces might be silver or gold plated and used European crystals and rhinestones.
In 1933 Coro bought the patent for a double-clip system it called “Duette” from its French creator Gaston Candas. The Duettes featured a brooch frame with two dress clips attached to it. It could be worn as one large brooch or two clips. Katz designed many of the best Duettes, as well as Jelly Belly brooches and en tremblant flower pins.
The company was bought by the Richton International Corporation in 1957 and production ceased in 1979 (although a plant in Canada continued production into the mid 1990s).
Coro used more than 50 trademarks. They include Coro and Corocraft in script, Vendome, and a pegasus mark.
Remarkable Art Deco Jewellery
In 1873 locksmith Jakob Bengel began making watch chains at his factory in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. The chains, made from brass, silver and alloys known as tombac and Double Americaine, proved to be a success and by the 1920s the firm was also producing geometric costume jewellery in the latest Art Deco style.
Most of the jewellery was made from chrome and decorated with Galalith (a form of early plastic and often coloured white, black, red or green), crystals and rhinestones. Features such as brickwork chains enhanced the Machine Age style of Bengel’s output.
By the 1930s the majority of the factory’s output was being exported to the rest of Europe and the US. However, such was Germany’s unpopularity, few pieces were marked with the country or origin (in fact, those destined for French retailers may have been marked “Made in France”). The company’s mark, a cannon and a pyramid of cannon balls, was also rarely used on export items.
The factory closed at the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 and was unknown until 2001 when collectors discovered the factory and its catalogues.
The Jakob Bengel factory is now a museum and produces 12 limited edition jewellery – as well as chains – using the original tools and working methods. Rare, original Art Deco pieces have come onto the market since then. Two books have been published featuring the original drawings and pieces and it is believed that one of the Bauhaus designers – possibly Wilhelm Wagenfeld – created jewellery for the company.
The beauty of stones
A type of quartz, the regal, purple colour of amethyst varies from location to location. Pale stones used to be foiled to enhance the colour, and deep colours are considered the most valuable. The colour is due to the presence of iron.
Amethyst also occurs with other crystals – when it is juxtaposed with a colourless crystal it is called ‘amethyst quartz’ and when it is banded with citrine, it is known as ‘ametrine.’
The word derives from the Greek word amethustos, which means sober, and it has the reputation of protecting the wearer from becoming drunk.
Beads can be tumbled, which gives them a lovely tactile quality, or cut to enhance the colour. Brilliant, baguette and mixed cuts are all popular.
Sources range from the amethyst of Jalgaon, Maharashtra in western India, which is considered to produce some of the best examples. Southern Brazil, Sri Lanka and Uruguay also produce lovely amethyst.CITRINE
This is another variety of quartz, rarer than amethyst – which can be heat-treated to produce the yellow colour of natural citrine. In fact, most citrine today is artificially created from amethyst and it is difficult to tell the difference between the two, although heat treatment is said to produce a faint red tint. It takes its name from the French word for lemon, ‘citrin’.
Valued for its rarity, citrine was used by the Romans and Victorians especially. The darker the stone, the more valuable – the colour is due to the presence of ferrous oxide.
Citrine can be mistaken for topaz, which is much more expensive. Beware – stones called ‘topaz quartz’ or ‘citrine topaz’ are citrine that is being deliberately confused with the more valuable topaz!
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Fine quality costume jewels
The Eisenberg Originals clothing company was founded in 1914, in Chicago, Illinois, by Austrian emigé Jonas Eisenberg.
The company began making brooches to complement its fashionable outfits in the 1920s. There is a myth that the pieces were so desirable customers stole them from the clothes. Whatever the truth, the brooches were so popular the company began to make jewellery, and other accessories, in the 1930s.
In the 1930s and 40s, it created some of the best costume jewellery in the United States. As a result of this success, Eisenberg stopped producing clothes in 1958.
From 1940 to 1972, the company’s head designer was Ruth M. Kamke, who was responsible for the majority of the Eisenberg Originals and Eisenberg Ice ranges.
Early designs tend to be large, bold, asymmetrical designs, featuring white metal settings and large, clear, Swarovski crystals. During World War II, when base metals were needed for the war effort, lighter, more detailed designs using silver were made. Designs from the 1950s onwards tend to be daintier and more colourful; they include the popular Eisenberg Ice Christmas tree pins.
The most frequently seen marks are Eisenberg Originals, mainly used 1930-45, and Eisenberg Ice, generally used after c1945.
Production of new designs ended in 1977 but in 2009 the company stated to reproduce earlier pieces under the Eisenberg Ice mark.
Couture costume jewellery
For many, Christian Lacroix’s haute couture clothing defined the look of the 1980s. Brightly coloured, extravagant and embellished, it was enhanced by his distinctive costume jewellery.
Lacroix (b.1951) studied History of Art and began his fashion career at Hermes. He launched his own fashion house in Paris in 1987 and started designing jewellery two years later. His substantial designs featured elaborate gilt hearts, crucifixes, and charm bracelets, which are lavishly set with poured glass and generous paste stones. Designs often have Lacroix’s interlaced initials. These may be repeated on the back, as well as Christian Lacroix Paris.
The company was put into administration in 2009. In 2010, Sacha Walckhoff created a men’s ready-to-wear clothing line under the Christian Lacroix brand. Actress Jennifer Saunders ‘worshipped’ at Monsieur Lacroix’s feet in an episode of Absolutely Fabulous. A pink heart brooch from The Design Gallery is featured in Judith Miller’s latest book Costume Jewellery (published November 2010).
Exquisite vintage jewellery
Costume jewellery by Marcel Boucher (1898-1965) is said to be the closest to precious pieces in style and quality available. Consequently, he is considered to be among the finest designers of the 20th century.
Born in France, Boucher was apprenticed to Cartier in Paris, and transferred to its New York City branch in 1922. As a result of the 1929 Wall Street Crash, demand for “real” jewellery plummeted and – like many of his colleagues – Boucher was forced to look for work elsewhere. He designed shoe buckles for Mazer Bros before setting up his own company, Marcel Boucher et Cie, in 1937.
Success was assured in 1939 with the extraordinary commercial success of a collection of brooches he had been sold to Saks Fifth Avenue.
Boucher’s jewellery has a classic, French style. The elegant forms feature high-quality materials and settings and are the result of great attention to detail.
Birds of paradise, extraordinary blowfish and delicate flowers are typical of Boucher’s output. The naturalistic floral and foliate designs have a sense of movement while some of the bird, fish and animal pins are extravagant, fantasy pieces. The classic night and day flower pins can be opened and closed. By contrast, his geometric forms are designed to set off the quality of the stones.
Marks include Marboux, MB, Marcel Boucher and Boucher with the copyright symbol.
The company was run by Boucher’s second wife, Sandra, until 1972, when it was sold to American watchmaker Dovorn Industries.
Costume Jewellers
The House of Givenchy is renowned for its pared down, elegant jewellery which echoes the simple lines of its clothes.
Hubert de Givenchy (b. 1927) trained with Elsa Schiaparelli, and founded his company in Paris in 1952. He went on to dress Jacqueline Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. During the 1950s and 1960s some of his jewellery was supplied by bijoux de couture manufacturers Societé Madeleine Riviere and Roger Jeanpierre in Paris, and Borbonese in Turin. During the 1950s, pieces often featured sparkling diamantés and Venetian glass beads. In 1960, Givenchy bought plastic jewellery and buttons from Paco Rabanne, and the company’s jewellery continued to use Lucite and other plastics into the 1980s. Later pieces tend to be substantial, and feature silver- and gold-plating, faux pearls and pastes. Most jewellery is marked with the company’s name.
Hubert de Givenchy retired in 1995 and several designers have headed up the label, including John Galliano. Ricard Tisci became the label’s designer in 2005.
A gilt and paste collar sold by The Design Gallery features in Judith Miller’s new book Costume Jewellery.
Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewellers
Tiffany & Co is indelibly associated with providing jewels for famous people. Audrey Hepburn, of course, starred in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the Sixties. And since the launch of the company in 1837 personalities from Queen Victoria and Elizabeth Taylor have been on the roster of clients.

Charles Lewis Tiffany and John Burnett Young were behind Tiffany’s early days as a stationary and fancy goods shop in New York City. In 1845, the company decided to create fine quality pieces rather than imitation jewels. That same year the company launched the Blue Book – the first mail order catalogue in the United States.

At the end of the 19th century it bedazzled clients with pendants, gold-enamelled brooches and jewelled watches designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in the Art Nouveau style. Such was the inspiration the company drew from the style that the phrase Tiffany Style was coined.

Tiffany continued to embrace new design movements, creating stunning Art Deco designs in the 1920s. This continued after World War Two. In 1956 the French designer Jean Schlumberger joined the company. Richard Burton bought his dolphin clip as a gift for Elizabeth Taylor. Another customer was Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore a Schlumberger two-fruit clip.

In 1974 Elsa Peretti began designing for the company. She was joined in 1980 by Paloma Picasso, and in 2006 by architect Frank Gehry.

Tiffany’s celebrity clientele continues to grow. In 2010 stars including Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson were among those photographed wearing the company’s jewels.

Art Deco Jeweller
Best known for its Art Deco designs, Theodor Fahrner was one of the most successful European costume jewellery manufacturers of the early 20th century.
Founded in 1855 in Pforzheim, Germany, by Theodor Fahrner and Georg Seeger, it became renowned for its Art Nouveau, Jungendstil, Arts & Crafts and Celtic Revival fashion jewels. Fahrner’s son, also named Theodor, took over in 1883 and by 1895 was the sole proprietor. The company rose to prominence in the late 19th century, and in 1900 won a silver medal at the Paris Exposition for its simple steel pieces.
Between 1900 and 1919 the company enhanced its reputation further, working with prominent artists such as Georg Kleeman and Joseph Maria Olbrich, on a range of jewellery that was subsidised by mass-produced pieces.
Fahrner’s over-riding principle was that the artistry of the jewellery was more valuable than its materials. A result of this philosophy was that the company’s designs used silver, enamel, pearls and semi-precious stones, including marcasite, agate, amazonite, amethyst, malachite, onyx, rock crystal, chalcedony, quartz and citrine.
When Theodor Fahrner junior died in 1919 the company was bought by Gustav Braendle and became known as Gustav Braendle – Theodor Fahrner Nachfolger and used the trademark Fahrner Schmuck.
The company’s first Art Deco collection, incorporating geometric designs that epitomised the style of the era, was launched in 1922. Today these pieces are highly collectable.
The 1932 filigree collection, which featured granulated and filigree decoration, characterised the firm’s later output.
In the 1960s, Fahrner made modern jewellery. The company closed in 1979.
Marks usually combine the TF monogram in a circle, or include TF Germany. Unmarked pieces can be worth 75% less than signed ones.
Glamorous vintage jewellery
The Weiss Company is renowned for well-designed costume jewellery featuring high quality Austrian crystal rhinestones with an exceptional sparkle.
Its founder, Albert Weiss, began his career at Coro in the 1930s. He left the firm in 1942 to set up his own business in New York City. By the 1950s, and into the 1960s, Weiss was so successful it contracted out some of its manufacturing to Hollycraft and DeLizza & Elster.
As well as using the best rhinestones, Weiss jewels used good quality settings; the stones were prong set and might be used upside down or at an angle to enhance the colour and cut. Weiss became famous for its use of “black diamonds”, copies of smoky quartz crystals, and the “aurora borealis” rhinestones Dior had created with Swarovski.
Settings were often silver- or gold-plated; in the 1960s black, japanned, settings were used to good effect. Other stones included faux rubies, diamonds, citrine and emeralds, as well as fantasy art glass pastes.
Styles included floral, foliate, fruit and some figural designs. In the 1940s and 50s Weiss’ butterfly, insect and flower pins were fashionable, as were its Christmas tree pins in the 1950s and 60s.
Albert retired in the 1960s and his son Michael took over the running of the company. A decline in the market for costume jewellery brought about the closure of the company in 1971.
Pieces are usually marked Weiss in script or block capitals, Albert Weiss, or AW Co with the W larger and shaped like a crown.
Glasgow School jewellery designer
Jessie Marion King (1875-1949) was a member of the Glasgow School of artists and designers, who worked as an illustrator, notably for an edition of William Morris’ The Defence of Guenevere). She was also a painter, designer and writer.

King studied at Glasgow School of Art and went on to teach book decoration there from 1899 to 1908, the year she married the designer and painter Ernest Archibald Taylor. She illustrated over 130 books and designed jewellery, silverware and textiles for Liberty & Co, wallpapers for Glasgow furnishers Wylie & Lochhead and textiles for the Edinburgh firm of Alexander Morton & Co.

In 1899, together with Bernard Cuzner and Rex Silver, she designed the first range of Cymric jewellery for Liberty & Co. [ref. Dictionary of Australian Artists Online au] Her best-known jewels are geometric silver belt buckles, decorated with enamels, reminiscent of the designs of Glaswegian architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. She also designed pendants and brooches in silver and gold decorated with pearls and turquoise cabochons.

Arts & Crafts Jeweller
Bernard Instone (1891-1987) combined an eye for exceptional design with a desire to create jewellery to suit every client while also remaining affordable.
Instone was born in Birmingham and, inspired by his older brother Lewis, won a scholarship to the city’s Central School of Art aged just 12 years old. He went on to work in Birmingham’s jewellery district before working in Berlin with Emile Lettré and in Westerham, Kent, with John Paul Cooper (from 1911-12).
After serving in World War One, Instone returned to Birmingham and established the Langston Silver Works in 1919. There he made silver jewellery, and some tablewares.
His designs were in the Arts & Crafts idiom, set with semi-precious stones such as lapis, cornelian, chrysophase, amethyst, citrine, peridot and smoky quartz. Other pieces were decorated with pastel-toned enamel, featuring small, pretty flowers. The wide range of stones and colours allowed him to make jewellery that suited the wearer’s skin tone. A few pieces were made from gold. Most of the decoration was inspired by the English countryside, and motifs include leaves and berries.
As well as creating pieces for commissions, Instone supplied Liberty & Co and Sybil Dunlop’s shop in London and his own shop in Salcombe, Devon. Celebrity clients included members of the royal family: King George VI, Queen Mary, Edward VIII, Princess Margaret, the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II.
Instone’s sons took over the running of the business after World War Two, and the company moved to Solihull in 1953.
Pieces are usually marked with the initials BI.
Vintage collectable jewellery
Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008) designed his first costume jewellery in 1958 as chief designer at Christian Dior. He continued Dior’s taste for opulent designs set with the finest crystals.
Three years later he opened his own couture house. His 1962 runway show featured chain necklaces decorated with glass cabochons and faux pearls. But, by the end of the 1960s, his costume jewellery was becoming less traditional in taste. The 1967 Africa collection saw pearls and beaded jewellery joined by fantasy flowers which were created from poured glass by the Paris maker Gripoix. At around that time, Saint Laurent also worked with Roger Scemama to create bold, geometric pieces from wood and plastic featuring a daisy motif, naïve fishes, or cubes like a child’s building blocks.
During the 1970s he worked with companies such as Monet to create classic jewellery designs. Exaggerated examples of these were seen in the 1980s with gilt and faux emerald, amethyst, and topaz necklaces were teamed with his signature cuff bracelets, which were decorated with red and green, or fuchsia pink and persimmon.
In the late 1980s, Loulou de la Falaise began designing for Saint Laurent. She is known for unusual combinations of colour and texture. Her earlier Op-Art style pieces were followed by carved wood designs decorated with gold leaf.
The Design Gallery stocks vintage YSL pieces. A pair of abstract flower earrings (c1980s to early 1990s) were photographed for Judith Miller’s Costume Jewellery book (published November 2010).
Jewellery of the Vienna Workshop
The Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) was founded in 1903 by designers Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. They had been inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the British Arts & Crafts movement and its aim to restore traditional handicrafts in an increasingly industrialized world.
They wished to supply the growing middle classes with well-designed items which were “gesamtkunstwerk” – total works of art – where art, design and craft came together in a single object. The workshop was based on Charles Robert Ashbee’s Guild of Handicrafts.
Initially, Werkstätte-designed pieces tended to be rectilinear in style. After about 1915, until the workshop closed in 1932, designs tended to be more organic.
Members of the Werkstätte, principally Hoffmann and Dagobert Peche, designed jerwellery from c.1904 to c.1920. Each piece was handmade by an expert craftsman and, as the design was seen as superior to the materials used, pieces could be made from fabric, beads, wood, ivory or bone. Metal jewellery – settings might be gold, silver or silver gilt – were usually decorated with multi-coloured enamels or semi-precious stones, coral or pearls.
The movement’s jewellery has no unified style. Hoffman designed symmetrical pieces, often featuring openwork and stylized plants set with semi-precious stones, mother of pearl or coral. Peche decorated his pieces with motifs, including whiplash vines and stylized trees.
Wiener Werkstätte jewellery was described by one commentator as having “an angular, geometric and square beauty”.
Other Werkstätte jewellery designers included Felice Rix, Max Suischek and Jacqueline Lillie. They designed sautoirs featuring a beaded tube decorated with “Vienna beads” – papier mâché balls covered with yet more beads.
From Punk Rebel to Global Icon
Vivienne Westwood’s (b.1941) name will always be synonymous with the startling clothes she designed during the Punk rock era in the 1970s. From bondage trousers to outfits based on 18th century pirate garb, she has continued to shock the fashion world.
However, Westwood’s designs have always been based on thorough historical research and her collections from the 1980s onwards have featured witty reinterpretations of traditional British symbols – from tartan and tweed to corsets and tailoring.
These themes can be seen in much of her costume jewellery. She uses exaggerated faux pearls, Swarovski crystals and coloured enamels on silver or gold-plated pewter settings. The crowned orb motif seen on many of her designs for clothes is used frequently in her jewellery, as are hearts and bows.
The combination of tradition and rebellion within Westwood’s designs make them popular with celebrities including Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Eva Mendes, Gwen Stefani, Hilary Duff, Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Sandra Bullock, Sienna Miller and Thandie Newton.
Arts & Crafts Jewellery
When Arthur Lasenby Liberty (1843-1917) founded Liberty & Co on London’s Regent Street in 1875 his aim was to change the look of fashion in dress and decoration. He initially did this by importing Oriental carpets, ceramics and works of art. Then, in the 1890s, he built relationships with the leading lights of the British Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. As a result he was instrumental in encouraging both movements to create furnishings and jewellery.Liberty’s art jewellery, which was sold as part of the Cymric range, complemented the fashionable furnishings and clothes the store sold. It was often decorated with enamels and cabochon semi-precious stones including moonstones, opals and turquoise, as well as mother of pearl. Pieces were mass-produced yet designed to look handmade, with hammer marks added to the die from which the metal was stamped. The majority of the jewellery was made from silver, although gold was also used.

Liberty employed designers including Archibald Knox, Jessie M King and Oliver Baker but their work was to remain anonymous. However it is possible to see the Celtic inspiration favoured by Knox on some pieces, and the Glasgow School aesthetic in King’s belt buckles.


When we look at a piece of period jewellery we may admire the workmanship and creativity, however the lives of the people who manufactured are often obscured by the mists of time. I was fascinated by the memories from the former employees of Charles Horner of Halifax, recounted in Tom J. Lawson’s fascinating book of the same name. For instance:

  • In the 1920s and 1930s teenage girls started working at the company at the age of 13, their hours from 8.30am to 6.30pm
  • Disabled employees in the 1930s had a “green card” and were (apparently) paid less
  • “Pay was low but it was a job for life and a gift of £50 was received after fifty years with the firm” (1930s)
  • Edward VIII’s abdication was a dramatic event and all work on the coronation medal had to stop
  • Tiny scraps of gold had to be searched for at the end of the day, for example in girls’ hair (1940s)
  • “If we were more than two minutes late, our pay was reduced by quarter of an hour” (1940s)

The complexity of the business are revealed by the list of departments in the new factory at Mile Cross, Halifax. As well as the production aspects, there are 15 service departments mentioned:

Production Departments: Annealing ovens; Burnishing and Plating; Box and Pad-making; Casein (“Dorcasine”); Chain Room; Die sinking and press tools – ie. Tool-making; Enamelling; Engraving; Melting Room; Plating; Polishing and Lapping; Rolling and Wire Drawing; Stamping and Press Room

Finishing Departments: Bangle; Brooch; Hatpins and Bright Cut Bundle; Thimble

Although much of the Charles Horner output in the early 20th Century involved Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau jewellery, the author can find no connection between Liberty and Charles Horner Ltd., although he points out that this is not conclusive proof as evidence may not have been retained in the archives.

By Chrissie Masters of The Design Gallery
* Art Deco furniture is great value for money and often beautifully constructed with rare veneers such as Bird’s Eye Maple and Burr Walnut. “This was the last great age of cabinet making” says John Masters. The original furniture from the 1920s and 1930s is often much cheaper than modern reproductions.

* Look out for skyscraper-style cocktail cabinets which light up when you open them, console tables with contrasting woods, and ‘Cloud’ dining and lounge suites which have curvaceous backs and sides. ‘Tank’ suites are also highly sought-after for their geometric shapes. Manufacturers to invest in include Epstein, Hille, Maurice Adams and Betty Joel.

* Bronze, spelter, ceramic and terracotta sculpture makes a striking focal point in any contemporary interior scheme. Flapper girls, exotic dancers and leaping gazelles were just some of the subjects explored by Art Deco sculptors.

* Art Deco was design for a modern world. The streamlined shapes were inspired by speed and travel and the styling was linear and graphic. Ceramics of the Jazz Age embody the Art Deco spirit perfectly, from Clarice Cliff’s vividly coloured tea services to Carlton Ware and Wedgwood’s gleaming glazes. Seek out John Skeaping’s animal sculptures, and the floral patterns of the Carter, Stabler & Adams factory which later became Poole Pottery.

* Rene Lalique is hailed as the greatest glassmaker of the 20th century. His glowing, white and blue opalescent pieces were made with a secret recipe. Prices range from several hundred pounds to many thousands of pounds.

* Art Deco clocks exemplify the look of the period, with Mayan temple shapes in a mixture of exquisite marbles. Egyptian Revival was a major influence following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. Leading names include Cartier, Boucheron and Dunhill, while many affordable clocks by makes such as Elliott and Atto can still be found. French clocks often incorporate female or animal sculpture, with onyx or marble bases.

* Women were enjoying their new-found freedom and danced the Charleston wearing long necklaces called ‘sautoirs’, armfuls of bracelets and bangles, and glittering headbands on their bobbed hair. Art Deco paste brooches and dress clips can be found for as little as £20, while glass necklaces range from £30 to £100. Bakelite and Galalith jewellery with modernist chrome elements was made in France, Germany and the USA and pieces by the German factory Jakob Bengal are highly collected.

The Arts and Crafts Movement was a social and moral campaign against the Industrial Revolution and a response to the lack of direction in much of Victorian design. Its founding father, back in the 1860s, was William Morris, and his influence is still with us today.

The movement was born when British designers and architects reacted vehemently against the mass produced factory goods, in a mishmash of revived styles, shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. The result was a return to honest craftsmanship, meaningful design and a purity of line and form.

Simple and practical oak furniture, brass, pewter, silver and copper metalwork with motifs inspired by nature, hand-blown glass and hand-thrown ceramics are the hallmarks of the time. These are pieces with soul, imbued with the individual aesthetic tastes and philosophical ideals of both the artists and the craftsmen.

Arts and Crafts furniture and home accessories are some of the best value items of progressive design available. While prices for furniture by Morris & Co and ceramics by William De Morgan and Ruskin can fetch many thousands of pounds, you can find dining suites, sideboards, bookcases and bureaux by Liberty & Co, Shapland & Petter of Barnstaple and London makers Harris Lebus at prices that are often considerably less than the modern copies. Copper and brass work still sits, unrecognised, in charity shops and boot sales and if you are lucky, can be bought for as little as £10. Demand for British Arts and Crafts is growing worldwide.

William Morris decreed that you should have nothing in your home that you did not consider to be useful or beautiful and it was a belief that he lived by. The Red House in Red House Lane, Bexleyheath was commissioned by Morris as the new home for himself and his bride, Jane Burden, and was designed by his close friend Philip Webb in 1858-9. Morris and his artistic friends including the pre-Raphelite painter Edward Burne-Jones threw themselves into designing the furniture, stained glass and fabrics for the interior. The house itself is medieval in influence, but without the gothic detailing, while the interior is an ordered and harmonious example of the early days of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Over in West Hoathly Road, East Grinstead, Standen was also designed by Webb, for the Beale family in 1891. It was built between 1892 and 1894. Inside you will find lighting by WAS Benson – this was one of the first homes to pioneer electric light – copper work by the maestro of Arts & Crafts metal John Pearson, and ceramics by the great potter William De Morgan, amongst other designers. Go to for further details of Standen and The Red House.

William Morris’s childhood home is now the centre for the William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, London E17 which holds collections by important followers of the Morris style.

ARTHUR RACKHAM Fantastical Illustrator
Sitting in the studio in his beautiful garden in Limpsfield, the famous artist Arthur Rackham envisaged a very different world to everyone else. It was a dreamlike, enchanted realm populated with witches and gnomes and filled with trees that were transmogrified with human faces and limbs. The pear tree and apple orchard behind the studio and herb garden near the elegant house that he commissioned in 1929, were a rich source of inspiration. Dragons still adorn the studio walls today.Born in Lewisham in 1867, Rackham was one of 12 children. His first job was as an insurance clerk at the Westminster Fire Office, which he combined with studies at the Lambeth School of Art. In 1892 he left the position and began working for The Westminster Budget. His first book illustrations were published the following year in To The Other Side by Thomas Rhodes, a travelogue about America.

Arthur Rackham lived at a time when society was preoccupied with exploring spiritualism and occultism. The complex, increasingly industrialised landscape prompted a desire to escape and literature and art expressed these interests and concerns. Two Yorkshire girls, for instance, produced photographs of themselves apparently playing with fairies in 1917, and the author Arthur Conan Doyle believed them to be proof that fairies truly existed.

During the course of his career, Rackham produced over 3,300 illustrations for fairy, folktale and fantasy books which included The Ingoldsby Legends of Richard Barham (1898), Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907) and Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods (1911).

Rackham’s images can be charming and gentle or haunting and frightening. His watercolours employ spider-like trailing lines and faces that are full of character. “In imagination, draftsmanship and colour-blending, his work stands alone. His deep understanding of the spirit of myth, fable and folklore affords him a transcendent range of expression” commented Sarah Briggs Latimore and Grace Clark Haskell in Arthur Rackam, A Bibliography (1936).

Studying his prolific output, one can see in every image the passion that possessed Rackham. “The most fascinating form of illustration consists of the expression by the artist of an individual sense of delight or emotion aroused by the accompanying passage of literature” Rackham revealed.

In 1903, Rackham married Edyth Starkie and they had one daughter called Barbara. He died in 1939 in Limpsfield. The Wind in the Willows that he illustrated was published posthumously in 1940.

Deluxe limited editions of books illustrated by Arthur now sell for as much as £27,000, and his watercolour illustrations fetch similar sums. Prints of his works are widely available for just a few pounds, however.

If he was alive today, one feels certain that JK Rowling would have commissioned Rackham to illustrate the Harry Potter series. Further information can be found at
Copyright 2009 Chrissie Masters/The Design Gallery

MALCOLM APPLEBY Britain’s Leading Silversmith Engraver

Mischievous, satirical and full of humour, Malcolm Appleby is one of the most important and influential craftsmen of his time. He is also one of the most entertaining. The renowned engraver, silversmith and designer was born in Beckenham in 1946 and studied at Beckenham School of Art and Ravensbourne College of Art and Design before graduating to other leading London institutions including the Royal College of Art.

He came to prominence at the age of 23 when we was called upon to engrave the orb for the Prince of Wales’ Investiture coronet. The rising sun wears Dame Edna glasses and Malcolm told the Palace that the featured creatures included harvest mice – he has since revealed that they are, in fact, rats.

It was while working as an unofficial apprentice with John Wilkes, a traditional firm of gun makers, that he became besotted with gun engraving. His magnificent skill at engraving has brought him many commissions including the official seal of the Victoria & Albert Museum and a condiment set that sits on the dining table at 10 Downing Street. The allegorical scene shows Eve handing Adam an apple as it becomes a nuclear mushroom. Malcolm, you see, is not scared of making political statements or of raising a few high-powered eyebrows.

The quality and inventiveness of the Appleby engravings are simply breathtaking. He loves to mix silver and gold, and will take a humble piece of iron or wood and turn it into an item of outstanding beauty with rare and precious stones. While his commissioned work can cost thousands and even hundreds of thousands of pounds, his tumbling bowls start at under £1000 and his limited edition range of cufflinks, love token pendants and earrings cost from £55.

Ever inventive, Malcolm’s exquisite “kinetic” rings have loose diamonds, emeralds or opals behind a central stone, creating a kaleidoscope of colour as the wearer moves their hands.

Today, Malcolm lives in Perthshire with his wife Philippa Swann, a highly respected journalist and photographer. The landscape and nature that surrounds them is a rich source of inspiration. Swans, cats, bees, salmon, Scots pine and wild flowers find their way into many of his pieces. Often they are quirky and characterful and are drawn with humour. Malcolm calls them his “beasties”.
The National Museums of Scotland, the Goldsmiths’ Company, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and the Silver Trust have all commissioned and purchased Malcolm’s work. The Design Gallery in Westerham is the exclusive representative of Malcolm Appleby collections in the South East. “I used to park my bike outside your shop,” Malcolm told me when we first met. He is delighted to know that his jewellery now adorns hundreds of local residents who have become ardent collectors and that his bowls grace their mantelpieces.

One thing we know for sure about Malcolm the maverick – the best is yet to come.
Copyright 2009 Chrissie Masters/The Design Gallery

Diana the huntress, ballerinas, flapper girls and Moulin Rouge dancers are just some of the subjects that were explored by Art Deco sculptors. This is one of the most exciting and dynamic areas for today’s collectors and prices for the top artists are rising rapidly.
Bronze, spelter, terracotta, ceramic and glass were all used to depict the glamour of the 1920s and 1930s, but it is bronze Art Deco sculpture that is considered to be the pinnacle of the craft.
“Sculpture is a 360 degree work of art and because it was expensive to cast, with pieces produced only by specialist foundries, there is a rarity factor that appeals to collectors,” explains John Masters, specialist at The Design Gallery.
France was the main centre of production, followed by Germany and Austria. The leading designers include the Romanian-born Demetre Chiparus who worked in Paris and whose early figures were made by the Etling factory. His “Les Girls” model of five catsuit-wearing Ballet Russes dancers sold last year in New York for just under $1 million. Chiparus worked in chryselephantine – a combination of ivory and bronze and some pieces were cast only in bronze and in more than one size.
Ferdinand Preiss also worked in chryselephantine and the quality of his carving is exquisite, with anatomically-correct shapes. He showed the emancipated woman of the time playing golf or competing in Olympic sports, as well as classical figures. He formed the Preiss-Kassler Foundry in Berlin in 1906 and produced works by other designers including Professor Otto Poertzel, Paul Philippe and Richard Lange. Preiss’s figures start at about £7000.
Bronze works by Pierre Le Faguays, Marcel Bouraine and M.Guiraud Riviere are all powerfully delineated and scarce, while Bruno Zach’s exotic and erotic Berlin demi-monde dames are still shocking today. Expect to pay £10,000 and higher for the most highly-prized examples by these names.For collectors without deep pockets, beautiful bronze figurines can still be found at £2000 to £5000. Joseph Lorenzl’s slim, idealized women tend to be nude or wearing mini dresses and have bobbed hair. They are usually silver or gilt patinated bronze. Plaster and ceramic versions were produced by Friedrich Goldscheider in Austria. Seek out, too, Carl Hagenauer’s modernist, athletic forms.
It is difficult but important to be able to distinguish bronze from spelter, which is made from zinc and is a great deal cheaper. When you scratch bronze it shows as yellow, while spelter shows silver-grey.
Condition and quality is everything in this market. Buy the best you can and check the quality of the casting, chasing and carving and look especially at the extremities such as the fingers. Reproductions do exist and you are advised only to buy bronze sculpture from an expert.
Copyright 2009 Chrissie Masters/The Design Gallery
The 1920s and 1930s saw an explosion in the market for ceramic figurines. The middle classes were becoming increasingly affluent and sought ornaments for their homes which expressed the spirit of the times.
Female figures were produced on a vast array of themes. The newly-liberated woman was portrayed as a dancing flapper girl, playing tennis and golf, dressed in driving and bathing costume or posing in elegant evening wear. Some figures wore nothing at all.
Many of the sculptors modelled their fantasy women on the androgynous, super-thin body shape that was fashionable at the time. These figures often had impossibly long limbs and blonde hair.
Exotic figures dressed in national costume, pierrots, children and nursery figurines were also popular.
Goldscheider of Vienna produced many thousands of figures – many are still believed to be unrecorded. Famous sculptors such as Josef Lorenzl and Stefan Dakon were commissioned by Goldscheider, their fluid lines and fabulous, highly decorated costumes creating an unmistakeable look for the firm.
The German company of Katzhutte, based in Hertwig, also produced colourful Art Deco ladies that were beautifully painted and which expressed the sense of joie de vivre that society felt in the 1920s. Stefan Dakon also worked for Katzhutte, amongst many others.
In Britain, Royal Doulton employed Leslie Harradine for over 40 years. His sensual women and his Bather series, which included the cheerful Sunshine Girl, were especially collected. Crown Devon introduced Art Deco figurines in 1931.
Lenci of Turin first produced ceramics in 1928 and they immediately received critical approval. The nude, white glazed women wore jaunty accessories which contributed to the saucy air. Sandro Vacchetti, who designed for Lenci, went onto form a partnership in 1934 with Nello Franchini of Essevi. The company went on to produce glazed terracotta figures in Georges Barbier-style dresses, or exotic female-animal combinations.
Ceramics manufacturers far and wide rushed to take their share of the lucrative figures market, from the Weiner Werkstatte to Robj of Paris who commissioned a jazz band and Noritake of Japan who produced a pierrot. Rosenthal of Germany, Royal Copenhagen in Denmark and Royal Dux in Czechoslovakia created an array of figurines from snake dancers to Rudolph Valentino. Elly Strobach’s busts and figurines for Royal Dux are sought-after for their strong colouring and attractive features.
Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Rita Hayworth, Gracie Fields, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby were just some of the subjects portrayed as wall masks of the 1920s and 1930s. Goldscheider made around 1000 masks and busts of women, the majority with the distinctive tightly curled hair.
‘Google-eyed’ mask are rare, with makers including Royal Dux. Clarice Cliff made a small number of masks in extraordinary head-dresses. Beswick and Cope & Company of Staffordshire modelled pretty women, while Leonardi earthenware masks by Leonardene of London featured mysterious Latin-looking females.
Ceramics provided the perfect medium for artists to express the zeitgeist of the 1920s and 1930s. Modern customers wanted dynamic designs and manufacturers worldwide provided them with stimulating and sensational ornaments and tableware.
The innovations that had taken place during the late 19th and early 20th century, through the efforts of pioneers such as the Martin Brothers and William Howson Taylor of the Ruskin Pottery, now benefitted the other ceramics factories, many of which had been set up at that time. Experimentation in glaze techniques, in particular, led to the wide range of finishes available to the Art Deco designer. Craquelure – a crackled glaze created on faience (earthenware) – became especially popular. While some ceramics were designed with mass production in mind, others such as Carlton Ware and Wedgwood’s gleaming lustres had to be fired up to six times.
British ceramics, however, were not well received at the 1925 Paris Exhibition. Not wishing to be seen as the ‘poor cousins’ of the more exciting European designers, the Staffordshire based factories focussed on employing designers who could capture the spirit of the times.
At Wedgwood, John Rattenbury Skeaping was commissioned in 1926 to produce highly stylized animal sculptures, which were made in earthenware or basalt and decorated in Norman Wilson’s monochrome glazes. They bore resemblance to Jan and Joel Martel’s work for the Sevres factory. Exotic creatures included bison, sea lions and kangaroos.
The natural world was a constant source of inspiration in the world of Art Deco design. Another highly successful animal sculpture was Percy Metcalfe’s official souvenir of the British Empire Exhibition, held in 1924. It was a Cubist-style modelling, called The Wembley Lion, and it was produced by Ashtead Potters Ltd of Ashtead, Surrey, England.
Carter, Stabler & Adams, of Poole, Dorset, had been established as a division of Carter & Co. when John and Truda Adams joined Harold and Phoebe Stabler at the company. Working in earthenware, Phoebe was a figure modeller and Truda created quintessentially Art Deco floral designs that became a hallmark of Poole Pottery (the name that was in use from 1914 or earlier, but was not officially adopted until 1963). The leaping Springbok, widely associated with the 1925 Paris Exhibition, was adopted by the company.
Charlotte Rhead was a designer who took Arts & Crafts-style floral decoration and with richly-coloured enamels, made it look perfectly right for the 1920s. She was the daughter of Frederick Alfred Rhead who had worked at Mintons and her elder brother was Frederick Hurten Rhead, who became a well-known potter in the U.S.A.
She worked for Keeling & Co at Burslem and then for T & R Boote, a successful tile-makers, and learnt the art of tube-lining where a raised impression is created on the surface. She moved to Wood and Sons, where she took charged of the tube-liners, and later began her association with Burgess and Leigh of Middleport – known as the Burleigh Pottery – where she worked from 1926 – 1931. She joined A.G. Richardson in Tunstall in the 1930s, whose brand name was Crown Ducal, where she created patterns such as the highly collected Persian Rose.
Less well known are the ceramics of Vanessa Bell of The Bloomsbury Group. Bell designed stylized floral and abstract pieces for the Omega Workshops, based on French post-Impressionism. Later, Clarice Cliff commissioned Bell to decorate tableware for A.J. Wilkinson. Two of her patterns were later changed and diluted down for mass production.
A collaboration between the Foley Pottery (E. Brain & Co) and A.J. Wilkinson led to other leading artists of the day being commissioned to produce ceramics, including Dame Laura Knight who devised tableware with a circus theme, Frank Brangwyn and the teacher and writer Gordon Forsyth.
In France, Jacques Adnet caught the sense of movement and controlled power so associated with Art Deco with his perfectly formed dove of 1930. In white glazed faience on a stepped plinth, it is an iconic ceramic of the time. Joel and Jan Martel were twin brothers who were strongly influenced by Cubism. They executed small and large sculptures in a range of materials including some powerful figurines, a sleek cat and a series of pigeons. Edouard-Marcel Sandoz, who specialized in animalier sculture, designed boxes and tea and coffee sets in the shapes of birds and animals. These were executed in polychrome porcelain by Haviland at Limoges.
The Boch Freres Keramis factory in Belgium produced some of the most important ceramics of the period. They employed Charles Catteau from 1905, appointing him as artistic director a year later. He had studied at Sevres and worked at the Nymphenburg porcelain works in Bavaria. He encouraged hand-thrown pottery production and created sophisticated, layered effects with glazes that imitated cloisonné enamel. He drew flora and fauna in the ‘style moderne’, frequently decorating them in a brilliant turquoise glaze on a crackled ivory ground. A series of vases exhibited at the 1925 Paris Exposition brought him international acclaim.
Advertising was an essential tool in bringing the new wares to the attention of the public. Publicity gained from international fairs and exhibitions and widespread advertising in newspapers and lifestyle magazines created markets for the new novelty products and modern designs.
As the 1920s progressed into the 1930s, French furniture designers increasingly left behind the historical references of the early 1920s and looked towards a more modern idiom.

The “Ruhlmann Style” became increasingly important, and carved decoration was largely abandoned and inlays became more discreet. Angles were sharper, forms were often geometric and curves almost disappeared. In the modernist camp, Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier were amongst those experimenting with exciting, tubular steel furniture.

Jean-Michel Frank was an important interior decorator who dressed elegant, modern apartments and houses for clients such as the Rockefellers, the San Francisco millionaire Templeton Crocker and the surrealist fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. His austere, creamy leather sofas were set against high-sided chairs decorated with panels of shagreen and screens dressed in mica.

The furniture designer, architect and sculptor Andre Arbus enjoyed a long and illustrious career. He made the transition from the traditional 18th century styles of his father’s cabinet making firm to the light, angular forms of later Art Deco and then back to the highly decorative forms of the 1940s.

La Maitrise, based at Galeries Lafayette, had taken over the company founded by Louis Sue and Andre Mare in 1928. Jacques Adnet was appointed as director of La Maitrise at Galeries Lafayette in 1928, promptly rejecting the classicist approach to Art Deco of his predecessors and introducing Modernist-influenced furniture and metalware.

Luxury materials and exotic woods separated the Art Deco furniture designers from the Modernists. Companies such as Decoration Interieure Moderne – known as D.I.M. – which was directed by the cabinetmaker Rene Joubert, and Dominique, founded by Andre Domin and Marcel Genevriere, worked in woods such as purpleheart (amaranth) and palisander, sometimes combining them with shagreen.

It was the cross-fertilisation of Modernist and Art Deco convictions about design that led to some of the most interesting furniture of the late 1920s and the 1930s. One designer who tested the boundaries of furniture design was Michel Dufet. His glossy, palisander dining table sported legs of aerodynamic aluminium, for instance, while a Cubist dining suite was executed in ebony and sycamore. These pieces still looking shockingly radical today. Paul Dupre-Lafon’s distinctive, modern furniture combined limed oak, parchment surfaces, leather handles and bronze feet.

Eric Bagge, architect and interior decorator, also designed furniture, fabrics and wallpapers. He designed pavilions at the 1925 Exposition and was a member of the Groupe des Architectes Modernes and a member of the French Exhibitions committee of the Societe d’Encouragement a l’Art et l’Industrie and was therefore influential. He opened his own retail outlet in Paris in 1930. He favoured a clean, streamlined look in his work that forms the basis of many furniture designs now.

In Belgium, companies such as Rosel were inspired by the leading French designers, using the same dark, highly figured woods, while frequently adding their own trademarks features to the pieces.

American Art Deco furniture was a sparkling cocktail of design influences. From the luxurious French taste via European modernism and the glamour of Hollywood movie sets, American designers assimilated many elements to create a new ‘moderne’ style.

Two of the defining features of American Art Deco furniture are the resemblance to architecture of the time and the impact of newly-patented materials. T

Furniture was predominantly linear with pieces stacked, skyscraper-style, one section upon another. The machine aesthetic was also key with products such as mirrored glass, steel, Bakelite and aluminium, appearing on traditional, luxurious wood carcasses. Paul Frankl’s highly original skyscraper bookcases and desks were based on the New York skyline and he subsequently named his company Skyscraper Furniture.

A number of the most progressive furniture inventors were industrial designers, creating products that ranged from cars and airplanes to cocktail sets. Norman Bel Geddes’s furniture and radio cabinets were metropolitan and futuristic, while Kem Weber – chief architect of Walt Disney’s studios at Burbank, California – dreamt up chairs that were aggressively streamlined and aeronautical. Meanwhile, Russel Wright’s blonde wood Art Deco furniture was stark yet innovative.

One of the most successful Stateside designers was Donald Deskey. He had visited the all-important Paris Exposition in 1925 and formed Deskey Vollmer Inc., in 1927 with the designer Phillip Vollmer. Their interior of the Radio City Music Hall in New York’s Rockefeller Centre, completed 1932, was awe-inspiring. During the Depression years of 1930-1934, Deskey produced 100s of economical designs in a wide range of materials including Bakelite and chromium-plated steel tubing, with items bearing the labels of several furniture companies.

Gilbert Rohde founded his design studio in 1927, having discovered the avant-garde concepts of Walter Gropius and The Bauhaus when he visited Germany. He used chromed metal and black enamel on mahogany and American maple, with his work was produced by Herman Miller, amongst others. Similarly, Eugene Schoen had met both Josef Hoffman and Otto Wagner in Europe and went onto create modern pieces in luxurious woods. Hoffman’s own son Wolfgang also became a success in America, becoming the resident designer at Howell Co., Illinois from 1934 to 1942, where they offered ranges of modernist, chromed steel furniture.

The great Finnish designer Eliel Saarinen moved to the United States in 1923. He produced Art Deco designs of restrained elegance and fluidity, such as his dining suite for his Cranbrook home and the grey-blue lacquered Blue Suite originally fashioned for his wife’s studio. These pieces, like many items of Art Deco furniture, are still produced today.

French Art Deco design exerted its influence on American furniture of the 1920s, particularly in the use of rare wood veneers. The architect, interior designer and furniture designer Pierre Chareau, who was born in Bordeaux, New York, worked for a British firm of architects in Paris. His work was modernist in outlook but incorporated exotic woods and fine materials. With the fall of France in the war, he returned to the United States. His celebrated minimalist desk, a study in angles and planes that prevented the surface from becoming cluttered, is still reproduced today.

Art Deco was born into a changing society, and it went on to change the world.

This was the first truly international design movement, encircling the globe from North and South America to New Zealand, from China, Japan and India to Czechoslovakia, Italy, France and Great Britain.

Daring, dramatic and totally different to the Art Nouveau era that preceded it, Art Deco was a phrase that derived from the name of the 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris – yet it was not popularly described as Art Deco until 1966 when the writer Bevis Hillier coined the term.

The 1920s and the 1930s were a period that saw seismic shifts in the political and economic landscapes. World War I had brought not only hardship and shortages but a desire for progress – and it was progress that ultimately drove Art Deco design.

During the war years, industries around the world had had to develop innovative mass-production techniques in the fields of manufacturing, medicine and transportation. The new materials – plywood, reinforced concrete, Perspex, Bakelite, Galalith to name a few – that evolved from this experimentation led to new products for the mass markets that were opening up globally. During the 1930s, refrigerators, Hoovers and other electrical goods, for instance, started to become available for worldwide consumption.

Women were enjoying their first taste of real freedom and manufacturers wanted to cater for their new lifestyles. The Great War had brought emancipation, liberation and independence and women were now used to being employed out of the home, and were even able to smoke and powder their noses in public.

Flapper girls wore sleeveless dresses and plunging necklines, bobbed ‘garconne’ haircuts and armfuls of exotic bangles. This was the Jazz Age and men and women wanted to enjoy life – they read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, published in 1925, danced to the Charleston and drank cocktails until dawn.

Modernity was the watchword of the day and Art Nouveau’s sinuous curves were rapidly replaced by geometric shapes and simplified styling. In fact, it was speed and movement that were the crucial driving forces behind Art Deco’s sensational motifs. Sleek, streamlined shapes appeared on every conceivable object – from a complete town in the case of Napier, New Zealand to individual items that ranged from cars to clocks, locomotives to dress clips.

Aeronautical designers had discovered that streamlining meant less drag, which in turn equaled greater speed, and it was this understanding of the mechanics of flight that inspired Art Deco design concepts throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

Charles Lindberg flew solo across the Atlantic in 1927. This remarkable achievement was followed by the take off of the Douglas DC3 airliner, which was in operation by 1935 and flew under the TWA banner. Over 11,000 of this aeroplane were subsequently made.

The Chrysler Airflow automobile was introduced in 1934. This super-modern car, with its long thrusting bonnet, was the first full-size production car to use streamlining to reduce air resistance. However, in hindsight, the shape was ahead of its time and the public – struggling under the weight of the worldwide depression that had begun with the Wall Street Crash of October 24, 1929 – did not respond to it as fully as had been anticipated and it was taken out of production in 1939.

The Cord Company’s Cord 810 elliptical car, with its wraparound radiator grille, teardrop shaped mudguards and chrome ‘speed lines’ made its powerful entrance in 1937 but had also disappeared by 1939, squeezed out of the marketplace by the big boys of the automobile industry.

It was in 1924 that an English racing enthusiast and journalist, Malcolm Campbell, broke the Land Speed Record for the first time at 146.16 mph (235.22 km/h) at Pendine Sands, near Carmarthen Bay, Wales in a 350HP V12 Sunbeam which he called Blue Bird. He set his final land speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in 1935, becoming the first person to drive a car over 300 miles an hour (301.337 mph or 484.955 km/h).

Trains, too, were travelling at ever higher speeds and in 1938 Sir Nigel Gresley, the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) designed the ‘4468 Mallard’ locomotive which reached a speed of 126 mph. The Mallard still holds the record for being the fastest steam locomotive in the world today.

Travel by ocean liner epitomized Art Deco luxury at its finest. The largest of the ocean-going ships, the Normandie, completed her maiden voyage in 1935 and she spoke of opulence from bow to stern. Longer than the height of the Eiffel Tower, the Normandie was a sailing temple to the leading French designers of the time. Rene Lalique’s 38 glass wall panels and enormous chandeliers graced a glittering dining room that seated 700 passengers. Jean Dunand’s lacquer relief panels hung in the smoking room and Jean Dupas’ in the main lounge.

Art Deco designers drew on a wide visual vocabulary and applied it across every aspect of daily life, whether they were creating interiors of an ocean liner, the exterior of a factory or cinema or tableware for a domestic home.

The focus lay firmly on flat, two-dimensional decoration and ornamentation was embraced by Art Deco, unlike the Modernist movement which rejected it.

One of the most widely employed devices was the distinctive, geometric rose that was the signature of The Glasgow School’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the turn of the 20th Century. This had subsequently been taken up by the Weiner Werkstatte, where the early roots of Art Deco are to be found.

Nature, which had so influenced and suited the requirements of the Art Nouveau elite, was now given the highly stylized treatment that the modern world demanded. The French used baskets and garlands of flowers, fountains and clouds (borrowed from Japanese art) – the latter two sources of inspiration offering the opportunity for graphic repetition of an image.

The sunburst motif was particularly important and had a worldwide impact. This optimistic symbol represented both the dawn of a bright new future and the preoccupation with health and fitness. It is to be seen in the stained glass panels of suburban front doors, on the wrought iron of garden gates and decorating Clarice Cliff and Shelley tea services.

Sporting pastimes were now available to the new middle classes that were emerging in this brave new world. Jewellery, desk accessories and sculpture featured horseracing, especially the circle of the winning post, motor racing, tennis and golf.

The talking pictures had by this time become a global phenomenon and it was the Hollywood directors who brought Art Deco iconography into the lives of millions of movie-goers every week. Busby Berkeley’s synchronized and geometrical casts of dancers in Footlight Parade of 1933 and Dames of 1934, for example, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in musicals such as the Gay Divorcee of 1934 and Top Hat of 1935, and many others, used over-the-top glamorous Art Deco film sets as part of their package of escapism from the Great Depression.

Exoticism was to become one of the most powerful influences on Art Deco design and the movie industry was quick to recognize and promote it. Fans swooned to Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik of 1921, and marveled at Claudette Colbert in Cecil B De Mille’s Cleopatra in 1934 and Great Garbo in Mata Hari of 1932.

This fascination with history, and with foreign countries and cultures, was the underlying reason for many of the symbols given the Art Deco ‘treatment’ throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Public taste for the exotic meant that one of the most famous women of the time was Josephine Baker, an African American dancer and singer who became an instant success in Paris for her erotic dancing. Known as the “Black Pearl”, she performed the ‘Danse Sauvage’ wearing a costume of artificial bananas.

Back in 1911, Serge Diaghilev’s Scherherazade was performed in Paris by the Ballet Russes, with sets and costumes designed by the Russian painter Leon Bakst. The audience was wowed by the exotic costumes and the vivid colours and fashion dictated that interiors and wardrobes, henceforth, should have a touch of the outlandish, romantic and unusual about them.

Historical finds through high profile excavations were another form of artist’s muse. In 1922 Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun and its treasures caught the public’s imagination. Jewels, compacts, cigarette cases and furniture were receptacles for the Egyptomania that ensued, using its pharaohs, sphinx, scarabs, hieroglyphs and lotus flowers freely.

The geometric patterns of Aztec and Mayan temples, pagodas and ziggurats – a pyramidal tower found among the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians – also played their part in Art Deco design.

It was the artists of the avant-garde art movements who wielded most effectively the emotional and spiritual pulling power of ‘primitive’ cultures. Their works promulgated exotic imagery in a progressive way and subsequently influenced the appearance of myriad products.

These naïve and primitive cultures – from African tribal art to American Indian handicrafts – were plundered for their savage, naïve imagery by the radical artists.
Within Art Deco we therefore find the aggressive shapes and punchy shades of Cubism, the wild beasts and natural hues of Fauvism, the abstract explorations beloved by the Constructivists, the emotional journey of the Expressionists and the frightening, shadow-y world of the Surrealists.

In Germany, the Bauhaus exerted its influence on Art Deco through its application of colour and rectilinear forms and in Holland, De Stijl was an art movement that promoted a philosophy of spiritual harmony and a sense of order.