This is the second of two brooches by my elusive 1930s Mystery Jewelry Maker discovered to date. Like the other brooch, this is also a bow but an entirely different design and was also used by them in necklaces as well. I’ve also discovered later (post-MJM) alternate stampings of this bow’s “blank” casting.
This bow stamping is the one I’d previously dubbed their “nouveau” pattern because the curves remind me of Art Nouveau designs. This same bow (though with a different center element) has been found on four different necklaces thus far. It is 1 1/4” wide and 3/4” high. The material is brass with a silvertone plating which has over time in turn become oxidized.
Although it may appear at first glance to be constructed from multiple stamped pieces, as was their Large Bow brooch, this is not the case. This smaller bow was made from one single piece of metal whose sections were then manipulated into the proper positions to give a 3-dimensional result.
Apologies for the amateurish diagram (I am soo not any kind of artist whatsover!) but this is how the brooch would have looked “fresh off the presses” as a single piece of brass.
There is an open space (gap/cut) between the central and the outer edges of the bow that allows the outer (striped) sections to be bent backwards. The plain unstamped side pieces were bent around to the center back, and then the small tabs above and below the front circle were bent down snugly over those side-piece ends.
This brooch shares the very unusual clasp construction seen in the Large Bow brooch, identifying it as without doubt from the same maker. I had never seen this exact clasp construction before and so I reached out to one of the experts in the vintage jewelry field, Roseann Ettinger who is the author of numerous books on vintage costume jewelry and accessories, to ask if if she recognized it. I assumed that at some point in her decades of experience in collecting as well as selling at her brick and mortar stores and her Etsy shop, she must surely have seen others. She replied “I can honestly say I have never seen a clasp like that! Very unusual!” So these Mystery Jewelry Maker brooches are truly something unique constructionwise.
When this maker used one of these small bows in a necklace, instead of as a brooch, the side pieces were either shortened, as shown in the first photo, or simply left solid (without the cutout tabs for a clasp) as seen in the second. One might wonder “On the necklaces, why were the side pieces needed at all? Why not eliminate them entirely?”
Good question. However, the side pieces were definitely needed when any of these small bows were used on one of their flat mesh choker necklaces. This is the back of the bow used on the necklace that they made for the 1933/34 Chicago Worlds Fair. On this type of necklace the side pieces have an opening large enough for the choker to pass through, whereas on the non-choker necklaces the side pieces of the bow are solid. I have never found any of the small Mystery Jewelry Maker bows that do not have the “wraparound” side pieces; regardless of the stamping design (or lack thereof) or usage they all have them.
Although I discovered their Large Bow brooch in three metal finishes (brass, silvertone-plated brass, and later in sterling by Forstner) I have only found this brooch in the silvertone-plated brass so far. The first example (my own) is heavily oxidized which to my mind only enhances its vintage look. The example below, currently offered by an Etsy seller, is how the brooch must have looked in the 1930s when new:
I would be very surprised indeed if the MJM did not also produce this brooch in unplated brass as well. The question is, did they also produce any of their other stampings of this small bow as a brooch? Looking for them led me to discover….
The Later /Non-Mystery-Maker Versions
The verified early-to-mid 1930s bow stampings used by the MJM are the ones shown above, which I arbitrarily call (from left to right) the Tailored, Nouveau, and Nubbly designs. There was also a completely plain version which I call the “Blank”. To date I have only found the Nouveau design as a brooch and with the construction method shown above; but I did find quite a number of brooches having one of two entirely different stampings. However, there are enough differences to make me fairly sure that none of them were produced by my elusive 1930s Mystery Jewelry Maker.
The fact that all of the verified MJM small bow jewelry pieces have the identical wraparound construction method as these Large and Nouveau bow brooches, whereas the non-MJM stampings do not, draws a clear distinction between the sources.
Although I found at least a dozen examples of these later/alternate versions, only a few are shown below for comparison purposes vis-a-vis the original brooch. There are only two stamping designs: a floral, and a much plainer one.
Most of the floral-stamped not-Mystery-Maker brooches were produced as locket brooches. This stamping has an allover design of flowers and swirls. Notice how these are just flat findings with no “wraparounds” or cutouts, and with some form of typical clasp. Most of them have a plain smooth back as shown in four of the examples below, but a few were apparantly made from a different metal and all of the front stamping details carry through. The photos in two of the lockets do appear to match some late 1930s fashion/hair styles but it’s always dicey to guess a locket’s age based on the photographs within; we can’t know if the photos were ‘new’ when placed into the locket, or were older ones (photos from younger days, or even of the locket-purchaser’s parents.)
Almost all of the various locket examples were found in both brass and silvertone-plated versions. Coro made something very similar to the round locket during the 1940s but theirs had a “pocket-watch type” latch at the top and was a different stamping; those, of course, were all signed.
Here is the floral stamping produced as a brooch with a glass-stone mounting added on top of the bow finding’s center. This is another characteristic that differentiates these later versions from the 1930s Mystery Maker pieces: the MJM small bows’ center elements were always part of the casting. With the one exception of the 1933 Worlds Fair pieces, which needed to have the official “Century of Progress” medallion on it, the MJM never applied a separate center element on top of their small bows.
Plain/Edge Trim Stamping
This stamping retains only the “edge trim” design from the floral version above and leaves the rest of the bow plain.
These two locket brooches were probably made by the same company. The woman’s hair and Peter Pan collar dress are styles that date from the late 1930s/early 1940s but it’s impossible to know if the photos and locket are contemporaneous. Notice the awkwardly large hole drilled into the finding for the attachment, which was not a typical Mystery Jewelry Maker technique.
At least one company produced this stamping in sterling silver but without any other identifying signature it’s impossible to know when or by whom (other than that it definitely wasn’t Forstner.) The seller of this brooch advises that it weighs 5.8 grams.
And just like in the floral stamping, someone also produced a lower-end version (Mercedes-Benz logo ripoff? LOL)
This brooch most likely dates from the 1960s; it’s still the same bow casting but with the addition of overlays and drops.
My best dating guess for this one is late 1950s/1960s or later.
Clearly, whichever company was producing these latter-day findings also made them in a size suitable for earrings! Many thanks to the Etsy seller who provided me with the size of the bow portion as being 9/10” wide and 1/2” high, which is approximately 25% smaller than the brooch-size casting. I think that these too probably are circa 1960s.
This version even survived well into the 1970s which is interesting because we saw the same thing happen with the “alternate stamping” version of the 1930s MJM’s large-bow brooch! This is the only small-bow alternate that can be precisely identified and dated, because it was produced by the Piddidly Links company. I contacted Elise Pittelman who was the owner/designer of Piddidly; she verified that the brooch was indeed produced by them during the first half of the 1970s. Unfortunately she could not recall the name of the New England-based company from whom she purchased the bow finding.
A variant of this stamping was also made in what can only be described as a “topless” casting – although why, I have no idea! I found as many examples of this version as of the full-bow ones above. All of the “topless bows” were locket brooches, and none of them had the smooth plain back.
Although the second example looks like plain brass, the seller’s description noted that “top is rose colored enamel or paint, most of which has flaked off.” This is another clue pointing to these not having been produced by the MJM because their enamel paint was definitely more durable; also, neither the pink nor the blue shade shown above have been found (to date) in their “lineup.”
I discovered the same lily-of-the-valley locket on its own without a brooch and with a pair of photos in it that showed a late-1930s-model car. This may lend strength to an approximate dating of these alternate design and/or thinner bows from the late 30s/early 40s.
And finally to complete this small bow finding’s 40-year journey away from its “ancestral” early/mid-1930s form shown in the first photos, its latest iteration was this Victorian Revival/taille d’epargne/steampunk brooch and earrings set!
This is similar to the 1960s version incorporating repeating overlaid and dangling elements atop and attached to the basic bow finding. In this case the earrings are not bows but instead were made by combining the same dangle, hexagon, and crescent that were added to the bow. These are probably 1970s (or later) as well.
Identification and Dating Challenges
Of course none of the later iterations of the original 1930s brooch were cast in the same manner and certainly do not have the unique clasp construction as their ‘ancestor’ did. Without the original casting method it became a typical one-piece flat(ish) bow finding. The question is why the Nouveau design – or indeed any of the other 1930s-era stampings of these bow blanks – was apparantly never used again even on the “flattened” findings. There’s no technical reason why they couldn’t have been used. And at the same time I’ve never yet found a Mystery Maker piece using either of the two alternate (floral and edge-trim) stampings either. It seems that the floral stamping ‘died out’ sometime in the 1950s but the plainer one obviously survived through successive findings companies all the way into the 1970s. Over the post WWII-decades as one findings company went out of business, others would buy up their machinery and/or designs…. but the three designs shown below have never been found on any jewelry other than my 1930s Mystery Jewelry Maker’s wares. Why was that?
For example, one of the large jewelry findings companies from turn of the century onward was Fulford Findings in Providence, RI. That company was purchased by Salvadore Tool Co. in 1986, as was a circa-1940s findings company named Sage Manufacturing in 1995. Salvadore now produces many of the vintage design castings from both companies, but unfortunately none of them correspond to any of the bows found on the 1930s Mystery Jewelry Maker pieces. And so, whoever originally designed and produced these bows is still shrouded in mystery!