Collecting vintage jewelry can often present quite a mystery when it comes to unsigned pieces. Not only are there unsigned pieces by known makers but there are often entire lines of jewelry that were never signed at all. Often they have a distinctive style which makes the mystery of their maker all the more intriguing and challenging to solve.
My own detective work on a ‘“mystery jewelry maker” came about in a rather special way. My mother owned hardly any jewelry but two pieces of hers fascinated me all through my childhood. One was the reverse carved Lucite bracelet that is pictured in my blog post Not Your Daughter’s Plastic Jewelry and the other was a red necklace: an enameled pendant on three enameled box chains. The chains reminded me of my favorite craft project as a youngster at summer camp. After my mom passed away I inherited both pieces of jewelry. Because the necklace is unsigned I had no idea where or by whom it was made, or anything other than my mom telling me it was the first piece of jewelry that she bought for herself when she moved to New York as a young woman of just about twenty. This fact dated the necklace as being from the early 1930s.
Several years ago it occurred to me to see if I could find other examples of necklaces like this. Not having a maker’s name or mark to search for, my only recourse was to look for necklaces fitting the search terms “vintage enamel Art Deco box chain necklace”. Slowly but surely I began to find examples which were clearly made by this same Mystery Maker. Not only that, but I began to discover that whoever they were, they produced items in fascinating alternate versions both of enamel color and style elements.
(Just FYI: Although most sellers describe this type of costume jewelry as being “enamel”, as if it was fired in the traditional way, the color was actually applied via enamel paints.)
Double box chain in two shades of red. The pendant is 2 1/2” long from bail to bottom, and 1 1/2” wide at the widest point. Although the pendant is a dark silvertone with a faux-marcasite effect, the bail and the hidden box clasp are a brighter silvertone metal. The top of the box clasp has a triple-tube motif in reds to match the necklace. This was my mother’s necklace and definitely dates to the early 1930s.
Triple box chain in three shades of blue. The triangular shaped central station and its five dangling chains are painted to match. The central station measures 1 3/4” top to bottom including the ‘fringe’. Same box clasp except that the central element is blue.
The identical necklace in creamy French-vanilla white, light blue, and pale dusky pink. This use of pastel in an Art Deco era design was quite a surprise because every other piece I have seen of theirs has used darker colors! Silvertone hidden box clasp; the design on top is a diamond shape with a small flower in each outer corner. No color on the clasp.
Triple tubular fine-mesh chains in two shades of brown (chocolate and caramel). This time only one section of the chevron has color. It still has a fringe but because it is made of a narrower chain there are seven lengths of fringe chain (3 caramel, 4 chocolate) rather than five as in the previous examples. Has a J-hook-and-flat-ring closure in shiny silvertone metal except for chocolate brown on the top of the inner loops. This ring will be seen again later in other pieces.
Triple box chains in dark green, light green, and bright white (but not the creamy white that was used in the pastel version). The nubbly-textured bow has a dark metal finish and is 1 ¼” x 7/8”.
This slightly different version of the previous green necklace has replaced the white chain with a pale shade of green. Thus, this colorway uses a light, medium and dark green scheme.
Here only one of the three box chains is painted. This is a brighter blue overall. The bow element is also in a brighter metal finish and matches the rest of the necklace.
A bracelet to match the previous necklace.
In this colorway two chains are green but the third has a shiny silvertone finish instead. The central bow also appears to be in the darker metal which seems odd considering that bright metal was used for the middle chain. This necklace is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and identified simply as “1930s Art Deco Necklace, American.”
Triple round snake chain necklace in dark brown, orange, and bright yellow. Same necklace style as the others except that it has a snake chain instead of box chains. This same snake chain will reappear in other designs.
Flat mesh chain choker necklace with a central bow motif. This is the fourth chain style that I discovered from this maker and because of its appearance I’ve dubbed it their ‘watchband style’ chain. This is the first true choker (14”) length that I have found. Although it appears now to be plain metal, the central bow originally had black accents although there is no such evidence on any part of the chain. It looks as if the bow must have originally had a ‘drop’, because there is a small triangular loop cast into it. It is visible in the second photo and also in the first although the necklace is “upside down”.
October 2015 addendum: The silvertone version of this necklace can be seen in More Mystery Maker Discoveries; it too has the small loop but no drop!
Another necklace using the same two shades of green as the textured bow necklace shown earlier; however the shade of creamy white used in this necklace is not bright white but instead is the creamy French white that appears on the pastel colorway.
If you have information about this jewelry or photographs of any examples that do not yet appear in this blog series, I would be delighted to include them in a future post! Please use the Contact Form on the About the Chatsworth Lady page.