Arthur Rackham (Fantastical Illustrator)

By Chrissie Masters of The Design Gallery

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

Liberty & Co. Jewellery

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.

Vivienne Westwood Jewellery

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.

Weiner Werkstatte

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.

Yves Saint Laurent Jewellery

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).

Bernard Instone

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.

Jessie Marion King

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.


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.


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.

Theodor Fahrner

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.

Jakob Bengel

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.

Corocraft and Vendome

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.