Although the designers at Napier were outstanding jewelers, silversmiths and artisans, they too, turned to other companies for design inspiration. This page was taken from a 1932 Cartier catalog that was part of The Napier Archive.
As discussed in the book, many catalogs from other companies were used either to examine the marketplace and current trends, or for design inspiration. The Napier archives contained catalogs with examples of the finest joaillerie to competitors such as Coro, Trifari, and Whiting and Davis.
Jewelry of this style was referred to as “Court Jewelry,” modeled after the exquisite jewels for the Monarchy. Napier surprisingly design and manufacture an extremely limited number of “Court Jewelry” pieces. An example of this type of jewelry can be found in chapter seven, Napier 1930s-1940s.
You can read more about this story in the post “Napier, Design and Inspiration” with your purchase of The Napier Book as a free member of “Exclusive Napier Club.”
In the 1950s, boutique jewelry, a version of higher-end jewelry was seen in finer department stores across the nation. Napier, mostly known for its tailored lines, decided to develop a full-couture line of fashion jewelry. In its ensuing design history, Napier for decades, created pieces that held the prestige of “Boutique” jewelry. Here are two examples of 1950 and 1960s earring designs.
Roman Influence: Napier Byzantium Jewelry Collection
Influenced by Roman traditions, the jewelry from the Byzantine Empire played an important role toward the expression of social status and wealth. With an abundance of successful trade and available wealth. In the late 520s AD, the emperor Justinian established a law whereby only the emperor could legally wear sapphires, emeralds and pearls; leaving gold and other precious stones to be worn by the public. This lead to colorful rich detail in jewelry from the extensive use of precious stones not governed by the emperor. Gold metalwork, richly colored cabochons made from other fine stones, and Christian symbolism were iconic aspects of Byzantine-era jewelry. The Napier Byzantium Jewelry Collection offered such riches in color and style.
The Napier Co. in 1990 offered the “Byzantium” collection. The Limited Edition collection embodied the rich detail of Byzantine jewelry right down to the collet-style settings known to be characteristic of jewelry from this era. The group primarily utilized high-quality stones and glass. Napier offered the jewelry to a limited number of establishments numbering between 250 to 300 stores–oppose to the standard distribution to 2400 department and high-end stores. Of the 60 million dollars in sales for 1990, the Byzantium jewelry collection was expected to generate one million dollars in sales alone.
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Wire and Metal Bending Department
The unique detail of Napier’s jewelry was often the result of designs created in Napier’s Wire and Metal Bending Department. These designs were either hand-formed, or created with the assistance of a jig to bend into the desired shape. No two pieces of jewelry were exactly alike.
Napier’s unique designs required that many of the pieces be hand-manipulated. This process of wire bending, gave Napier a unique style. Many of the findings or filigree (pierced metal) components were hand-shaped into form. Hence, no two pieces of jewelry were alike.
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First used in 1922, this hinged bangle bracelet remained a staple in the line for over 70 years. It can be found with many surface patterns, including polished, textured, basket weave, and gold or silver tapestry. The bracelet has a characteristic “lip” around the edge as seen in the bracelet above.
Or History of a Trademarked Bracelet: The Dolly Madison Bracelet
This article explains when the trademarked bracelet was first used by The Napier Co.
By Melinda Lewis – February 25, 2013
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Displaying One’s Party Affiliation is No New Fad
Political symbolism dates back to 1874 after a series of political satire cartoons were published in a number of publications, including Harper’s Weekly. Cartoonists, playing upon each others’ work, soon adapted the animal-affiliated party representation.
Women have been displaying their political party affiliation since 1920s when Mrs. Coolidge sported a necklace of seven green elephants dangling from a ribbon during a photo op. The necklace was giving to her in anticipation of a Republican presidential victory of her husband’s running mate. Later, Mrs. Harding also displayed the fashionable political jewelry, when she too, was bestowed with a similar necklace.
Soon Elephant and donkey charm necklaces were all the rage. The ivory-like-carved-bone made of celluloid came in shades of jade, coral, and white celluloid. The donkey charms, similarly carved, came in jade and white celluloid. The elephant charms were suspended from a grosgrain ribbon. Later in 1924, the first Lady Mrs. Coolidge was presented with an ivory or white coral necklace of carved elephants arranged in a half circle suspended from a chain.
In 1952, Mamie Eisenhower was known for wearing a charm bracelet. The bracelet made of a chain of four-leaf clovers suspended a tiny diamond elephant charm and a round disc with “IKE” cutout and an inscription of her name.
In 1953, The Napier Co. gave Mamie Eisenhower a sterling silver bracelet depicting an elephant coming out of the jungle. There is much folklore surrounding this piece of jewelry. The book, The Napier Co.: Defining 20th Century American Costume Jewelry, details the actual history, and back story of this legendary piece. Mamie, throughout the years, was photographed wearing this piece, and it was said to be one of her favorites. The gift now resides at the Smithsonian.
“Pick your Party”
“Pick Your Party” was Napier’s contribution toward political awareness in 1964—“Show your sentiments with a beautifully sculptured golden donkey or an elephant on a key chain or bracelet.” A second jeweled version of this collection was available during the 1960s continuing to 1971.
In 1968, both fine jewelry and fashion jewelry were sold to represent fashionable political statements. Even college girls who were unable to vote would display their political affiliation. From a luxurious item in gold, sapphire, ruby and diamonds, sold in New York for political candidate Eugene McCarthy, to fashion jewelry donkey figural pins designed by Kenneth J. Lane, political jewelry was all the rage.
In Washington, both Nixon and Humphrey sold jewelry at their own Washington D.C. boutiques. The jewelry included bracelets, earrings and pins representing their parties. Donkey bracelets for the Democrats and the selection included rhinestone pins with “N” or “N68” for Nixon.
If the sale of one particular party’s jewelry outsold the other, then the statistics from one company certainly foretold the election outcome. In 1972, Nixon jewelry from one supplier outsold Ford jewelry by 3:1. This election winning corollary to jewelry sales would again be seen in 1976.
During this bicentennial year, not only was political party jewelry popular, but patriotic jewelry held the rein. Flag or USA pins were popular. Eagle breast-plate necklaces were in vogue. Napier’s perennial jeweled elephant and donkey pins and charm bracelets were still being sold. Pins saying “GOP” or “DEM” in red, white and blue rhinestones were popular.
Patriotism was especially important during 1976; it was both an election year and the country’s bi-centennial. Almost every form of political symbolism was made into pins, brooches, necklaces and bracelets. On the party front, according to The Franklin Mint, Jimmy Carter campaign pendants outsold Gerald Ford’s jewelry by a margin of 2:1.
In 1992, companies like Napier had elephant and donkey pins in their collections. The pins offered by Napier were re-introduced from molds held in the company’s archives. These were not the jeweled elephant and donkey pins sold in the late-1960s and early 1970s, but a cast gold-plated pin.
No matter what the political party preference is, red, white and blue, donkeys and elephants will always play a part in the expression of politics and patriotism.
Displaying One’s Party Affiliation is No New Fad
This article discusses the history of jewelry being worn as a political statement.
By Melinda Lewis -November 14, 2014
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Eloxal (electrolytic oxidation of aluminum) jewelry was made mostly from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s. Eloxal jewelry can be found marked Germany or W. Germany and is among the collectible genre of aluminum jewelry.
Jewelry made of aluminum is sleek, sturdy, highly reflective and lightweight. It was a metal of choice for some couture designers because of these properties and it fit nicely into the Space-age, geometric shapes and designs that were relevant to the pop culture of the time. Sant’ Angelo also used this metal and juxtaposed dangling fruit as an additional adornment to his sleek jewelry to compliment the rich colors of his fashions.
Designing complementing pieces for a collection were not uncommon for jewelry designers. Generally, one “museum piece” would be designed, and other pieces were designed around the piece of center focus.
Body jewelry was very popular during the 1960s and the pieces shown speak to that fashion phenomenon. Jewelry was worn like it was a piece of clothing and many fashion designers were also in the business of jewelry design. The jewelry shown most likely was commissioned by Diana Vreeland the editor-in-chief of Vogue or Sant’ Angelo could have fashioned it “on the spot” as he was noted for doing during the infamous Sedona, Arizona fashion shoot later that year for Vogue that launch his career into fashion and jewelry design.
Article re posted from The Jewelry Stylist. Sellers of fine vintage costume jewelry. From signed pieces to unsigned beauties, they provide a wonderful resource of vintage jewels for the collector, covering 110 years of fashion adornment.
Choosing the right piece of jewelry for your sweetheart can be a fun and rewarding experience, both for you choosing that special piece and for your sweetheart to receive it. There are 5 things to keep in mind when looking for that special piece.
Choose a Gift She will Feel Confident to Wear Often
Selecting a piece that piece that represents her style isn’t as difficult as you may think when it comes to vintage jewelry. Most dealers have an inventory which spans about 110 of years fashion adornment. Dealers often offer a wide variety of basic-style considerations with even more sub-genres within style groups from which to choose.
Buy a Piece in Her Favorite Color
Vintage jewelry offers the biggest selection of color and texture ever imaginable. Stones, crystals, cabochons and beads were often imported from Europe using sophisticated manufacturing and cutting techniques. Today’s jewelry is frequently adorned with plastic and hard resin stones simulating the old rhinestones and more expensive glass used in vintage jewelry. However, the durability and sparkle cannot match the old-world components. Note: many sophisticated couture designers with a connection to vintage jewelry do understand this and use only vintage components in their designs.
Purchase a Glitzy Rhinestone Stone Suite
With a gift of a glitzy rhinestone suite, your lover will always be ready for an evening out wearing her “little black dress.” Besides making her feel sexy, a well-designed glitzy rhinestone set is an instant conversation piece—a perfect segue for unexpected introductions.
Decide on a Vintage Novelty Piece if She’s Playful
If your lover isn’t the glitzy type or isn’t into bold jewelry, a playful “novelty” piece can be a fun gift. Vintage jewelry from the 1930s and 1940s offers many fun and wacky pieces from silly figural pieces to “motto” jewelry from the war. Pieces are often constructed in unusual or unexpected materials, such as wood, nuts, plastic, cork, raffia and more. Jewelry selected from this era offers great insight into America during some of its most challenging industrial times. The cleverness of manufacturers to fulfill a woman’s need for adornment and expression have never been as ingenious as this period of time.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
To impress a lover, one can also share about organizations that study vintage jewelry and its history. Everything from the period of manufacture, to the designer and components used in manufacturing is studied by jewelry enthusiasts, jewelry historians, collectors, and dealers. Since the gift can represent a favorite decade or era, theme, or color, collectors groups can provide a continued meaning and history to the special gift. Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l (CJCI) is one such group.
By Melinda Lewis -July 30, 2014
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In the 1920s, American women were enthralled by the sophisticated designs that emerged from Europe. Europe, and in particular Paris, France, was the epicenter of all that represented fashion. Consumers were hungry for the latest styles both in clothing and jewelry. It was a time when American fashion industries, including jewelry manufacturers, all bustled to be the first to bring the designs back home to the American public. Women’s stores in New York were quick to advertise their new wares to feature the designs sponsored by, Patou, Chanel, Premet, and Schiaparelli.
The Madame of Fashion Visit American Coco Chanel
Chanel made her first visit to the American shores in March, 1931. Her travels were to take her from New York, America’s fashion center, to the spotlight of Hollywood to produce fashion designs for a Samuel Goldwyn motion picture. The offer was unmistakeably seductive for any person—a sum of one million dollars a year to come to Hollywood twice yearly to create fashions designs for his films. The cast of celebrity stars who were to benefit from Chanel’s keen fashion insights included Ina Claire, Gloria Swanson and Norma Talmage. But surprisingly, her intention was not to promote the elegant style of Coco Chanel with movie stars draped in silk satin evening gowns, her intention was to design clothes that fit the scene and the personality of each actress. She came to the states, without sketches, pins, or even a pair of scissors. “She was here to work on an idea and not a costume.”*
At her first reception, she entered in the style and fashion that she had come to be known: jersey, pearls and a bedazzling cuff of multi-color semi-precious stones. True to her European aesthetic, she was charming and bold, and contrary to today’s daytime jewelry fashion, she felt one should wear plenty of jewelry for daytime, and very little for formal evening wear.
Ms. Chanel never strayed from speaking her mind, and was full of opinions she shared with the eager media audience who wrote down her every word—some which she is now quite famous for saying.
• She did not think any one group set the fashion, neither was fashion confined to any one class.
• She believed, “Fashion is for the rich, the poor, the young, the old—it is universally adopted, or it is not fashion.”
• “Real chic means being well-dressed, but not conspicuously dress.”
As progressive as MME Chanel was in the twenties, she displayed a bit of conservatism when she addressed the recent state of fashion in 1931. Surprisingly, she detested fashion “revolutions” and preferred the gradual evolution of design, further commenting that the recent state of skirts (lengths) were too high.
Unfortunately Hollywood would not prove to be Chanel’s muse, nor she that for the actresses. Her designs did not stand up to the glamorous desires of the Hollywood’s film stars.
As we ponder the brilliance of this iconic fashion designer, do you think the 40-year-old Chanel would have bristled if she knew her brand would be promoting mini-skirts down the runways more than 70 years later? What would she think of the fashion today associated with her name? Would she have considered it evolutionary or revolutionary? Could it really stand up to her own words defining “chic?”
Early Jewelry Design Styles of Chanel
• 1928: Colored Jewelry: Diamond-like 45 inch amethyst-colored crystal necklace set in sterling silver.
• 1928: Silver-tone metals chains surmounted with large square-shaped stones in aquamarine, topaz, crystal, and emerald. (Bracelet and choker)
• 1928: Silver-tone metal, “Nailhead” crystal jewelry in “Lelong blue,” “Patou rose emerald and topaz.”
• 1931: Jewelry with matching bag clasps made of galalith in shade of white, light pink and light blue.
*Note: Costume was a common term to refer to a particular outfit or garment.
Or Chanel Visits Hollywood
This article tells the story of Coco Chanel and her first visit to America.
By Melinda Lewis -September 17, 2014
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