About My Jewelry

Jewelry Types and History

I wanted to share some information on the types of jewelry that I make, and the history behind what I make. I love history and that was what drew me to vintage jewelry designs and beads. My favorite artist is Alphonse Much, an artist that worked in the Art Nouveau style during the early 1900s. He did many jewelry designs during his lifetime, and inspired me with all of my designs as well. While I often create jewelry out of historical images, photographs, old vintage bottle caps from manufacturer storage, and old vintage lace, I also use components of actual old pieces of jewelry as well, and I try to buy products from the USA as much as I can. All of my work is done by me, locally, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri in Gladstone.

Rhode Island

Once brimming with so many jewelry companies that Rhode Island was called the Jewelry Capital of the World, the district went into a tailspin 20 years ago. Higher taxes in Providence prompted some jewelry companies to move to the suburbs. Many more either left the state or closed. I buy everything from glass beads to cameos from buyers who bought the last goods from these old factories, then make new jewelry pieces out of the old vintage beads.

Banana Bob

Banana Bob made incredible jewelry in the mid 1980s for high end department stores such as Macys and Bloomingdales. They are no longer in business and their designs are now in great demand. Their jewelry was of exceptional quality. The now closed company's designer, Ann Venditti, liked to work with high quality glass stones such as Swarovski, and metal stampings from vintage molds to create her pieces. She produced both exact reproductions of antique designs as well as original pieces that incorporated many styles, especially Victorian, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau motifs. I buy Banana Bob whenever I can find it, , even though it is getting harder and harder to find, and I attempt to incorporate it in my jewelry as much as possible.

Czech Glass

History of Czech Glass, by Beverly Fernandes

Beads have been made in Bohemia since Roman times, but it was an intermittent industry. After the collapse of the Roman empire, about 400 A.D., there was little demand for luxury items such as beads in Europe. By the 900's locally made beads were placed in some tombs and by the 1200's glass factories were turning out a variety of glass products, but these were mostly household wares with only a few beads present. Several small factories were turning out beads for rosaries, but it was not until the 1550's that a major glass industry was founded in the cities of Jablonec, Stanovsko, and Bedrichov (modern Reichenberg) in Bohemia (in the current Czech Republic). These glassmakers were mostly decentralized cottage crafters making beads for use in larger, centralized, jewelry factories.

The Napoleanic Wars of the early 19th century changed the political face of Europe, with both Bohemia and Venice added to the Austrian Empire between 1815 and 1866. Competition between these two regions had always been fierce. Becoming part of the same empire did not change a thing and competition between the two regions continued to be as fierce as ever. In the face of this competition, Czech bead makers tried something new that allowed them to expand their markets.

This was the work of Czech 'sample men' who traveled worldwide. It was a novel experiment. These men traveled from country to country asking people what kind of beads they wanted. Then, they returned to Bohemia with sketches and descriptions of these new beads. It was an astounding success. The demand for beads grew and production increased. At this point, both Czech and Venetian beadmakers were turning out similar products, but close examination has shown a variety of differences both in style and use of color. These are discussed in Peter Francis Jr.'s book The Czech Bead Story.

The 19th century was also a period of industrial innovation. New machines that could produce a vast variety of beads were developed, depending on a process of pressing molten glass into a heated mold. This meant that thousands of identical beads could be turned out quickly and inexpensively. The only limiting factor was process of manufacturing the molds, which was both difficult and precise. Cottage crafters were given several molds for each bead press and turned out beads to order for their local factory. Venice continued to concentrate on handmade glass beads, while the Czechs became masters of pressed glass. Both regions, however, remained innovative and continued to perfect and improve every form of bead making.

Political upheaval seems the normal state of affairs in Europe. In the early 20th century WW I not only disrupted, but nearly collapsed the bead making industry. After the war, Bohemia became part of the new state of Czechoslovakia and by 1928 the Czechs were the largest bead exporters in the world. Then came the 'Great Depression'. Bead production did not recover until the mid 1930's. This was soon followed by WW II and another disruption. In 1945 the communist regime in Czechoslovakia nationalized the entire glass making industry. Beads were not a part of the official party line. It went into decline as a result. This changed in 1958 when the need for hard currency caused the communists to look for goods to export in exchange for cash.

Today the Czech Republic is making and exporting large numbers beads. Once again the Czechs are in the forefront of the world bead market.

Swarovski Crystal

During the opening decades of the 20th century, Swarovski crystals became an essential ingredient in the heady world of high fashion. They are essentially a specific type of Czech Glass bead. The company worked with iconic figures like Chanel, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga and later, Christian Dior. The glittering, light filled crystals were irresistible to artists like jazz singer Josephine Baker, then to Hollywood icons like Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. The success of the company today is directly related to the fact that the fourth and fifth generation family management still respect the principles of the Daniel Swarovski I: excellence in business practice and product quality, constant innovation, a desire to create products of great beauty, and the observance of meaningful humanistic values in all its dealings with its employees, business partners, the community and the environment.

Cameos

The most popular cameos today are carved in sea shells, a tradition that began in the fifteenth or sixteenth century and was popularized by Queen Victoria of England. Since that time, cameos have predominately showcased women's profiles, and been worn by women who enjoy the beauty and craftsmanship of hand-carved cameos. Yet cameos have not always been decorative jewelry for women. In fact, at different points in history they have been worn as frequently by men. While the birthplace of the cameo was nearly 300 years before the birth of Christ in Alexandria, Egypt, cameos owe their origins to ancient carving traditions. As far back as 15,000 BC, petroglyphs - figures carved into rock - were used to record significant events and communicate information. In ancient times people used cameos to depict an ethic or moral, or to make a statement about their faith or loyalties. In the centuries since, cameos have been used for various purposes and decorated with a wide range of carvings: Early Greek and Roman carvings featured images of gods and goddesses, themes from mythology, beautiful women and biblical events.

Many cameos through history depict living heroes or rulers.

In the Hellenistic era young women used cameos as charms to express desire. A woman could wear a cameo depicting a dancing Eros as a seductive invitation to love.

During the Renaissance, Pope Paul II was an avid cameo collector. According to history, this love ultimately led to his death. His excessive display of carved gems and stones on his fingers kept his hands so cold that he caught the chill that meant his death.

Cameos have been used on helmets and military accessories like breastplates and sword handles, on rings and other jewelry, and on vases, cups and dishes.

Women began collecting cameos to prove cultural status during the Elizabethan period. At the same time, tourist travels to the ruins of Pompeii were on the rise and women began collecting shell and lava cameos as souvenirs to remember their travel.

During the 18th century, men purchased carved gems to mark their prestige and culture.

Cameos enchanted Napoleon, who wore a cameo to his own wedding and founded a school in Paris to teach the art of cameo carving to young apprentices.

Not until the nineteenth century, when the popularity of shell cameos grew - reducing the use of hardstones or agate - did profiles become as popular a subject matter as they are today.

Thanks to Anna M. Miller's book Cameos Old & New for these bits of cameo history.

Whiting & Davis have some of the best cameos out there, and I collect their pieces. The story began in 1876 when three men - William H. Wade, Edward P. Davis and Louis Heckman - shook hands and founded a silversmith company known at the time as Wade, Davis & Co. They opened doors in August of that year and debuted with a collection of sterling silver jewelry and popular designs of the Late Victorian era, including stickpins, bracelets, earrings and bar pins....Learn more about them here: Whiting & Davis



Victorian Buttons

In the year 1802 Abel Porter established a company in the Northeastern United States that began making metal buttons.  He saw an opportunity for big business as the imported ones were scarce and expensive.  There were also challenges with the types of metals used but when Porter created them he used brass loops cast in the back of the button, and solved those previous problems. This company became the famous Scovill Manufacturing Co. whose name we still see on the backs of many old buttons today.


The most popular button of the 19th Century was the black glass button.  These were made for the masses in replication of Queen Victoria's fashioning of black jet buttons.  These were also referred to as mourning buttons, following the death of Prince Albert.


Victorian steel cut buttons are a favorite of many button collectors today. They were dyed, engraved and embellished with metals and sometimes even jewels.  They have pictures of beautiful flowers, scenes, and animals, and are all very unique and beautiful.

Perfume Buttons

Perfume Buttons were designed and manufactured in the States in the early 1800s, incorporating fabric as part of their design - usually velvet. The ladies of the day wore these buttons on their dresses, putting their fragrance on them rather than running the risk of staining their clothing.

The story goes that during the Civil War, the ladies would take a perfumed button off their dress and give it to their loved one, sending him into war with a romantic memento. Many stories are told of a soldier who died with a button in his pocket, or stories that recount how this memento kept them alive during those stressful times.

Perfume Buttons were also used earlier in history in France and England.

I use many mourning buttons and steel cut buttons in my jewelry.  I seek out the most unique designs to create my pieces with!  I also have several new pieces available with perfume buttons.  Perfume buttons had a velvet area where perfume could be placed on them for a weary traveler or soldier to remember home and his sweetheart - a very poignant memorial!  These are very rare as well and definitely a piece to be treasured.




Credits

Content © Ivory Isis and Tania Rose Marg

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