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 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.
(A1) Double box chain, enameled in two shades of red. Enameled 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. Top of box clasp has a triple-tube motif with the central section enameled in red to match the necklace. This was my mother’s necklace and definitely dates to the early 1930s.
(A2) Triple box chain enameled in three shades of blue. The triangular shaped central station and its five dangling chains are enameled to match. The central station measures 1 3/4” top to bottom including the ‘fringe’. Same hidden box clasp as on #A1 except that the central element is enameled blue.
(A3) 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 enameling on the clasp.
(A4) Triple tubular fine-mesh chains, enameled in two shades of brown (chocolate and caramel). This time only one section of the chevron is enameled. 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 enameling on the top of the inner loops. The ring will be seen again later in other pieces.
(A5) Triple box chains enameled in dark green, light green, and bright white (but not the creamy white that was used for #A3). The nubbly-textured bow is a dark cast metal similar to that of the pendant in #A1 and is 1 ¼” x 7/8”. Same hidden box clasp as on necklace #A3 (diamond/floral design on top, no enameling).
This slightly different version of the previous green necklace has replaced the white enameled chain with a pale shade of green. Thus, this colorway uses a light, medium and dark green enamel scheme.
(A6) Identical necklace to #A5 except that only one of the three box chains is enameled. This is a brighter blue overall. The bow element is also in a brighter metal finish and matches the rest of the necklace. The enameling on the accent elements differs also: all of the semicircles are enameled, but not the central “tie”.
(A7) Bracelet to match the #A6 necklace.
(A8) Identical necklace to #A5 and #A6 except for the enameling format. Two chains are enameled green, but the third has a shiny silvertone finish instead of enamel. 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.”
(A9) Triple round snake chain necklace, fully enameled in dark brown, orange, and bright yellow. Same necklace style as #A5, #A6, and #A8 except that it has a snake chain instead of box chains. This same snake chain will reappear in other designs.
(A11) 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’ flat 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 enamel accents (see second photo) although there is no such evidence on any part of the chain. The bow itself is formed by placing two of the triangular central station elements in necklaces “point to point” – however, the bow was cast as one single piece. 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!
(A12) The identical necklace to #A2 and #A3 and using the same two shades of green enamel as the textured bow necklace #A5; however the shade of creamy white used in this necklace is not the bright white as in #A5, but instead is the creamy French white that appears on the pastel version #A3.
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.