In the course of my ongoing research into the Mystery Jewelry Maker, I sometimes come across items that fall into the category of “it could be, but I’m not sure.” Those photos and accompanying information get shunted into my ‘MJM maybe’ folder, there to await the possible later discovery of other examples that may either bolster or discredit their standing as actual MJM pieces. The tally has grown to more than a dozen and so I’ve decided to give them their own post, showing the pros and cons of each having been made by my 1930s mystery jewelry-maker.
This 15” choker has a buckle-shaped center station that is about 1” square. The flat mesh is 5/8” wide.
Pro: The mesh band and ribbed box clasp are definitely MJM elements.
Con: The somewhat garish goldtone finish on the first example creates ambiguity when compared to most confirmed MJM items (however, the photography may be making it look brighter than it actually is.) Although I have seen a few in this finish, there’s no way to know whether such pieces are “late MJM products” or are the output of a company that may have acquired castings and findings from the MJM when they ultimately went out of business.
Neutral: I’ve only seen this buckle on this particular necklace. The finish of the silvertone version is very similar to known MJM items.
Conclusion: This is a Strong Maybe, and if I ever find it in the normal brass (not bright goldtone) finish it will become a Yes.
This similar necklace is even shorter (only 14.5”!), uses their narrower 3/8” wide mesh, and has an round(ish) buckle station.
Pro: As with the other buckle necklace, the box clasp and mesh band are MJM elements.
Con: This is a really bright goldtone finish! The flash photograph does emphasize that, but still….
Neutral: The buckle element.
Conclusion: If the square-buckle choker eventually proves to be a MJM item, then this one is too. I have never seen this necklace in silvertone.
This 16” long necklace is really interesting because of the pink glass stone. Although MJM pieces incorporating a glass stone are rare, they definitely did exist; there are six confirmed examples in my blog series so far. The center station is 1 ¼” wide, on a 3/8” wide mesh.
Pro: The mesh chain and silvertone finish are typical MJM.
Con: The center station mounting/finding has not been seen before on anything; all the other glass-stone examples have utilized known, popular MJM mountings.
Neutral: The presence of a glass stone.
Conclusion: I was really only waiting/hoping to find a second example of a necklace using this center station/mounting before deciding, but it’s really only a half-step away from being a Yes.
The mesh itself is what raises questions for me, because it’s totally different from any other MJM flat-mesh necklaces. I’d describe this as being a “square-link mesh”, I guess! It is 16” long and 5/8” wide. I have only seen two of these, and they may even have been the exact same necklace being offered by a subsequent seller.
Pro: The ribbed box clasp.
Con: The blindingly-bright goldtone finish, and the mesh itself.
Conclusion: Totally on the fence. The finish color does mesh (sorry!) with the round buckle choker above, and so again this could either be a “late MJM” or “MJM successor” item.
Here’s the same 5/8” ‘mystery mesh’ but in a silvertone bracelet and with an eye-popping-ly big semi-stylized flower right in the center! I’ve never seen this flower on any other item, MJM or otherwise. It is 7.5” long which is a typical bracelet length.
Pro: The ribbed box clasp.
Con: The mesh itself and the bright chrome-like finish, and the flower which doesn’t resemble any known MJM piece except, perhaps, this smooth bow:
Conclusion: I’m leaning towards No, but the existence of the goldtone choker in the same mesh and clasp means that both of these either are or are not MJM items.
Examples like this definitely inspire a *headdesk* moment because half of this necklace says MJM and the other half says “WTH??”! This is the MJM’s 3/8” wide flat mesh chain with their smooth-top box clasp, but the front part of the necklace is totally unfamiliar. It is at least 16” long (the seller did not specify whether the measurement was taken at the shortest or longest front chain) and has a bright goldtone finish. The leaf pairs are about ¾” wide and a bit more than an inch long.
Pro: The mesh and clasp.
Con: I’ve never seen this bugle-bead chain on anything the MJM did, or these heavily-embossed leaves either.
Conclusion: I confess that I hope this wasn’t actually made by them, but that may be because I am just not attracted to the bright, over-the-top “statement” pieces.
Let’s give our eyes a rest and examine this choker next. I suspect this probably spent a long time being scrunched up in a small box or dresser drawer somewhere, because the 5/8” woven-mesh chain is rather “rippled.” Under better storage conditions it would lie flatter than this; the flat woven mesh chain, having such tiny links, is very susceptible to rippling if not stored carefully.
Pro: The mesh, clasp, color, and dark silvertone finish.
Con: This is a central station that I haven’t seen before and a more ‘old fashioned’ style than they typically used.
Neutral: Its 14.5” length is a bit shorter than their usual, but not unknown.
Conclusion: This is probably a Mystery Jewelry Maker piece. The only reason I’ve hesitated to put it into a “regular” post is because I was hoping to come across a second example (but haven’t yet.)
This 16” silvertone necklace presents a conundrum on two fronts: the chain and the central station. This is the casting for the 5/8” watchband style mesh chain, but unlike any other MJM piece I’ve seen, this one has a textured surface.
Pro: The ribbed box clasp.
Con: The textured-finish chain, and the central station (both the design and the black glass stone element.) Although a few examples of definitely MJM pieces containing a glass stone have surfaced, none look like this in design. Compare the third necklace above with this one in terms of stone-center-station style; this one looks more 1970s-80s than 1930s-40s.
Conclusion: I’m leaning away from this being a late-MJM necklace and more toward it having been made by someone else (wishful thinking again, it’s true.)
Believe it or not, this deserves further consideration/scrutiny. Other than the pointed drop finding, which has been seen numerous times below their large bow, we’ve seen other parts of this necklace before. Length is unknown, and the seller erroneously described it as having been made in Czechoslovakia although it is completely unmarked (and definitely not Czech.)
Pro: The drop element, of course, but also (surprise!) the chain itself. It has been found in not one but two unquestionably-MJM examples – the only difference being that in those, the domed element was smooth instead of being textured like a drop cookie:
Con: The MJM simply did not appear to go in for “festooning” almost an entire length of chain with attached elements. Even their ‘lotus flower’ necklace has only five of them along the front. And those heavily-textured domes simply don’t seem to go with the tailored look of the D-link chain and drops.
Neutral: The foldover clasp is almost certainly a replacement for what was probably a spring ring such as on the blue MJM example shown above (the clasp on the yellow one was a replacement.)
Conclusion: This “drops and glops” (there’s no way I can describe it as anything else, lol) necklace is a real stumper. If the domes were smooth and the drops only half the quantity they are, I’d probably overlook the somewhat-bright goldtone finish and add it to the MJM tally. But as it is, the design doesn’t make any sense.
This isn’t the typical MJM snake-head lariat necklace, although it’s close enough to qualify as a wannabe because it contains a yes, a no, and a maybe.
Pro: The snake heads are indeed the ones the MJM used. There were a couple of very similar castings being used by other manufacturers at that same time, but these were the MJM’s choice.
Con: The “slider” element’s design isn’t anything that anyone would expect from a snake-head necklace; it’s incongruous. Of course, it could be a later replacement for the original embossed circle that the MJM did use, so that in itself wouldn’t disqualify it. However, the chain also is not the MJM snake chain; it’s more of a ‘box tube.’ I have not seen this (yet) on any actual MJM piece and can’t imagine why they would have needed or wanted it.
Neutral: The metal finish; it’s sufficiently middle-of-the-road in brightness to not suggest that the MJM either did or didn’t make this.
Conclusion: This is probably not theirs. Either the chain and ‘slider’ began life together and then had a pair of MJM snake heads added later (my hunch), or the MJM experimented with this chain (but why?) and then a later owner replaced their lost circle-slider with this one.
This choker is interesting, because although there is nothing that specifically suggests that the MJM made this, I still can picture them possibly doing so. It is 15” long but no width was given. My hunch is based on style and workmanship.
Pro: The red and white paint colors, and the application method, are what I would pretty much expect from an MJM piece. So is the dark silvertone finish, and the ‘laddered’ Art Deco feel of the design which reminds me very much of this piece which the MJM made in four known colorways including this black and white version:
Con: The clasp is a puzzler; it’s not one that I’ve ever seen the MJM use although that doesn’t mean they never ever did. The black-and-white necklace above has a hidden clasp but that’s because the link/stations are different from this one; these stations don’t accommodate such a clasp, nor would they work with the box clasp that the MJM used with their mesh chains. It does work perfectly with these links, though.
Conclusion: If this isn’t actually a MJM item, then it’s definitely a ‘wannabe.’ A point in favor of that is the question of why the MJM would bother making a necklace so similar to a style they already had … assuming that the other one did come first. But what if this one was an earlier version that they later discontinued in favor of the other? The discovery of an additional example painted in colors that correspond to a known MJM combo would tip the scales in favor of a Yes.
Grab your sunglasses again, because we’ve got another blindingly-bright goldtone “maybe”! This definitely belongs in the same “statement” category as the bugle-bead/leaves example above. The seller described the length as 17.5” which, if true, would make this the longest flat mesh necklace I’ve ever seen (if indeed an MJM.) The triple-scrolls (??) center station is a whopping 8.5” high.
Pro: The ribbed box clasp, and the flat mesh chain (except for the unusually long length but with a center station that large, I could understand why.)
Con: Aside from the garishness of the goldtone? That center station. Yikes!
Conclusion: This is so outside the realm of what one would expect from the MJM that in order to go any farther, it’d have to incorporate beads and/or rhinestones (which, thank goodness, the MJM absolutely positively never ever did.) Still, the clasp and the flat mesh chain do prevent me from giving it an unequivocal No.
This is a surprising large-bow necklace because it is so similar to the ones that the MJM made, but it still raises questions:
(a) The bow is the same as the MJM’s large bow [at left] except for the stamping on the bow; the drop is identical. But even so, both bow stampings incorporate milgrain into the design and so they are not 100 per cent different either. The paint colors (green and black) are classic MJM, as is the paint technique.
(b) Although the lozenge (bar) chain is similar to the one used by the MJM, it is not the same. This chain has a recessed ladderback center and smooth edges; the known MJM bar chain has an embossed convex top with a milgrained edge.
(c) The two findings closest to the bow (the elongated flower and the panel with cutouts) have never been seen on any known MJM piece.
Conclusion: I am of two minds about this necklace. My gut feeling is that it’s an assemblage from all or part of other vintage necklaces, but that still doesn’t explain the bow. I have never seen this stamping on this bow casting before, and I have looked at a ton of vintage bow necklace photos during the past decade! I do think that the bow, at least, is a 1930s-era piece. (The seller described it as being “silverplate”, but it is not; it is definitely a heavily oxidized brass.) The drop is identical to the MJM’s; at first, I thought it is unpainted but after zooming the photo I can see small traces of black paint (as one would expect with this color combo) on parts of it. So, I do think the bow and drop have been together from the beginning. What I’m not sure of it whether the rest of the necklace was also, or whether the MJM produced the bow. If this was an adaptation of the actual MJM large bow, it is an interesting one.
This final example (a bracelet) is a real oddity and I don’t even pretend to be able to explain it! I do wish the photographs were better, because they are all over the place as regards color. At first glance this looks exactly like a MJM bracelet made from their 3/8” flat mesh chain and secured with their ribbed box clasp. I was happy to see this, because I didn’t yet have a photo of this bracelet in plain (unpainted) metal; in this photo it looked like their “coppertone” finish that was photographed using a flash.
Well, okay, maybe not coppertone because this detail shot of the clasp end makes it look like something between brass and silvertone. But it was the third photo that utterly gobsmacked me:
This is the back of part of the ribbed box clasp. Even after sharpening the photo it’s somewhat hard to read, but the seller’s description said:
1/20 12kt gold filled, length: just under 7.5 inches, weight: 21.3 grams
Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather – as the old saying goes. I have only twice seen an MJM-related item produced in a precious metal, and in both cases it was by an identifiable Someone Else: their large bow in sterling by Forstner, and their nouveau bow in sterling by Lucy Isaacs. Both were produced decades after the Mystery Jewelry Maker ceased to exist. (Likewise, the only marking I have ever found on an actual MJM piece or finding is the Pat.Pending stamp on the unusual front clasps that they sometimes used.) So, seeing this stamped on the typical ribbed box clasp of what appeared (at first look) to be a typical MJM mesh bracelet was a total shocker.
Unfortunately, I was unable to connect with the seller. I just cannot envision any scenario in which the Mystery Jewelry Maker would have produced any of their designs in anything else but brass (in whatever finish, if not natural.) Neither would it have made sense for anyone to put a gold-filled clasp onto a brass bracelet – well, not this style of bracelet, anyway. (I have occasionally seen gold-filled clasps on necklaces or bracelets that aren’t, though.)
Conclusion: I have absolutely no idea who made this, and probably never will. If it was indeed the MJM, I have no idea when or why. If it was someone else, I have no idea who, when, or why. It’s a mystery, for sure!
[Subsequent MJM “maybes” and “wannabes” will be added to this post on an ongoing basis and, likewise, any that are later found to be a definite Yes or No will be either relocated or discarded.]
If you have any information about this jewelry or photographs of 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.