This is a followup to my previous two posts about vintage Featherweights celluloid jewelry pieces; a reader discovered a pair of pierced earrings still on their original clear plastic manufacturer’s card and contacted me with some photographs which I was thrilled to receive!
As you can see, ‘Featherweights’ was a registered trademark rather than just a generic name for this type of lightweight ‘whitewashed’ celluloid. The card also notes ‘hypoallergenic surgical steel’, obviously referring to the posts. My source also advises that the only markings on the earrings themselves, other than the copyright registration ® is the word SURG which is obviously an abbreviation for surgical steel; this reassured purchasers that they need not fear an allergic reaction from nickel or other cheap plated metal findings. This is a lovely pair of earrings representing white cattleya orchids and exhibiting a marvelous level of detail in all of the petals. The flower measures 1 1/8” high x 7/8” at its widest point which is across the upper petals.
I was even more delighted when she sent me an additional photograph of the matching pieces which form a complete set: a brooch, a pair of screwback earrings, and a necklace! Examples of Featherweights jewelry are often mis-identified because they were rarely marked on the item itself; instead, the name would appear on either a plastic card (for earrings) or a paper hangtag which was usually immediately removed and discarded by the original purchaser. The lack of identifiers commonly results in pieces like this being attributed to earlier eras – I’ve seen several examples whose sellers wrongly claimed they were made in the 1930s!! – or simply being called “wedding-cake celluloid”.
The necklace is particularly interesting because the design flips two of the orchids upside-down; these are the flowers that flank the large central orchid. This is because the ends of the broad, ruffled upper petals aren’t conducive to having a link attached to them; the slimmer, thinner sepals (narrower petals) accommodate drilling and linking more easily. As a former orchid grower, I usually cringe when I see any orchid portrayed upside-down (usually it’s because the artist or designer literally didn’t know which end of the flower is “up”, probably from having seen too darn many orchid corsages worn that way, LOL) but in this case there is a logical reason, so the manufacturer is forgiven. 🙂
This is a truly lovely vintage set of Featherweights celluloid jewelry: an everblooming garden of exotic white orchids!
My sincere thanks to the lady who brought these to my attention; she is an avid orchid grower and collector of orchid ephemera as well as a member of New York’s Manhattan Orchid Society.