Category Archives: History

Building a Library of Jewelry Books: Modernist Jewelry

Modernist jewelry“Modernist Jewelry” refers to jewelry produced by studio jewelers of the mid-20th century who were influenced by modern art movements; these jewelers were consciously breaking away from prevailing notions of “fine” and “costume” jewelry, intent on creating pieces that were miniature works of art.   The books below focus  mostly, but not exclusively, on work produced by studio jewelers in the United States.  However, it is important to remember that modernist jewelry was also produced in Scandinavia, Mexico, and other parts of the world and that manufacturers of both costume and fine jewelry were influenced by the studio jewelry movement and created pieces in the modernist style.

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Links from Around the Web: Mourning Jewelry

With the opening of “Death Becomes Her”, an exhibit of mourning attire at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, mourning jewelry is in the news.  Here is a round-up of some articles and exhibits across the country:

I love Lynn Yaeger’s writing and she just published an article on loaning mourning jewelry to the exhibit at the Met:  http://www.vogue.com/3296237/lynn-yaeger-jewelry-met-museum-death-becomes-her/

And here’s a link to the exhibit:  http://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-museum/press-room/exhibitions/2014/death-becomes-her

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Building a Library of Jewelry Books: Hallmarks and Maker’s Marks

One of the biggest challenges in identifying a piece of jewelry is deciphering the marks that you find on the back.  You’d think that a mark would, literally, spell out what you have but many marks are symbols, initials, pictures, and sometimes fakes.  There is no single book that will identify hallmarks and maker’s marks throughout the world in a comprehensive way but, depending on your needs, there are several excellent books each with its own area of specialization.  If you are looking for books that provide some information about marks, but not the level of detail addressed below, see my post on Building a Library of Jewelry Books:  the Basics.

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Jewelry Exhibits: the Newark Museum and “Gilded New York” at the Museum of the City of New York

Jewelry exhibits
Newark Museum Jewelry Gallery

One of only four museums in the United States with a gallery space dedicated to its permanent jewelry collections, the Newark Museum is a little-known gem that deserves better recognition by jewelry lovers.  To people unfamiliar with jewelry history the crime-plagued city of Newark may seem like an odd place for a museum committed to the display of jewelry, however from about 1850-1950 Newark was the fine jewelry manufacturing capital of the United States.  According to Ulysses Grant Dietz, curator of decorative arts at the Newark Museum and author of “The Glitter and the Gold, Fashioning  America’s Jewelry”, it is estimated that in 1929 approximately ninety percent of solid-gold jewelry made in the U.S. came from Newark factories.

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Building a Library of Jewelry Books: the Basics

I have an extensive collection of jewelry books and over the years I’ve developed favorites that I turn to again-and-again when I’m researching a piece of jewelry.  For someone who is starting out collecting or selling vintage and antique jewelry there are several books that are indespensible.  I wouldn’t necessarily describe these books as “beginner” books; each is very serious in its coverage of its subject, but they cover a broad range of periods and styles.

While these books contain information about prices, I don’t recommend using them as price guides because most were written several years ago.  In fact, I don’t think books are a particularly good source of pricing these days; much better information can be found by doing research on the internet.  The best way to research prices is by using these books to help you figure out what you have acquired.  Then you can search for pricing of comparable items on sites like Ruby Lane, Etsy, and 1st Dibs; through a general Google search; and from auction sales results.

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Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco Paste Jewelry

I love fine paste jewelry from all eras and in my Ruby Lane shop I have pieces dating from the Georgian era through the mid-20th century.  Paste is glass that is meant to look like gemstones and when I refer to “paste”, as opposed to rhinestone, jewelry I distinguish it by the quality of its construction:  paste jewelry is constructed just like fine jewelry using glass stones instead of gemstones in settings of gold or silver.  However, not everyone uses the term in this manner; some people throw around the terms “paste” and “rhinestone” interchangeably.

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Georgian Paste Jewelry

I love fine paste jewelry from all eras but Georgian paste is the finest ever produced.

Paste is glass that is meant to look like gemstones and in my Ruby Lane shop I have pieces dating from the Georgian era through the mid-20th century.  When I refer to “paste”, as opposed to rhinestone, jewelry I distinguish it by the quality of its construction:  paste jewelry is constructed just like fine jewelry using glass stones instead of gemstones in settings of gold or silver.  However, not everyone uses the term in this manner; some people throw around the terms “paste” and “rhinestone” interchangeably.

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The New York Antique Jewelry and Watch Show

The New York Antique Jewelry and Watch Show is one of the top shows in the United States for lovers of antique jewelry. Produced by US Antique Shows – the company that also produces the Pier Show in New York, the Miami Beach Antique Show, and the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry and Watch Show – this show attracts many of the finest dealers in the country and from around the world. I recently attended the show, which was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street from July 25-28, and it was terrific. Although most of the jewelry was high end, and some VERY high end, I’d still strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in vintage and antique jewelry attend shows of this caliber because there is so much to be learned.

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Report from Jewelry Camp

Last week I attended “Jewelry Camp” – the nickname for the annual Antique Jewelry and Art Conference – for the first time.  Held from July 30-August 1st, Jewelry Camp began with tours of the Macklowe Gallery and Van Cleef and Arpels in New York City and continued in Westchester, about an hour north of the City, with two days of seminars on a variety of topics about antique jewelry.

I was lucky enough to attend the optional tour of the Macklowe Gallery where Ben Macklowe showed us around his gallery.  The Macklowe Gallery specializes in decorative arts of the Art Nouveau period and, among their riches, they have the largest collection of Tiffany light fixtures for sale in the world.  But our focus was on the jewelry, and Ben let us choose pieces and examine them while he answered our questions about the pieces.  Among my favorites were a large Marcus and Company boulder opal brooch/pendant and an Art Nouveau horn necklace.

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Vintage and Antiques 101 – Definitions

The terms “Vintage”, “Antique”, and “Estate” are frequently used describe second-hand merchandise. These terms are often used incorrectly, or with intent to deceive. Here are the definitions of these terms and a few caveats:

Antiques – Antiques are items that are 100 years old, and older. This definition is accepted in the trade, but also has important legal and financial implications.

In the United States (and some other countries) no import duty is paid on antiques so you can save a lot of money if you know that your purchases are antique. This applies to items acquired on a buying trip, vacation, or online purchase so get a receipt from the seller stating that it’s an antique or, if you buy an antique online from a foreign seller, make sure they describe it as an antique on the customs form. More information can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 19 Part 10, Section 10.53.

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