Vintage Weiss Jewelry is costume jewellery created by Weiss, a New York-based company which specialised in costume jewellery and ceased trading in 1971.
History and Description
Weiss was founded in 1942 by Albert Weiss, formerly of Coro Jewelers. They produced a wide range of costume jewelry, targeted at both the higher and lower ends of the market. They also incorporated a wide range of designs embracing many of the popular art styles of the time, most noticeably Art Deco. Weiss jewelry favours Austrian crystal and used gold and silver metal as alloys.
As well as producing their own costume jewelry they also subcontracted to the Hollywood Jewellery Co, purchasing pieces from there and applying the Weiss name to them.
Guide for collectors
Much of Weiss' jewelry is unmarked but items that are marked can be dated accordingly. The earliest pieces bore the 'WEISS' signature (block capitals) which was then followed by 'Weiss' (in script). Later pieces, from the late 1940s onwards are often marked 'Albert Weiss' or A W Co. In the latter the W is portrayed with a crown symbol.
Weiss incorporated many styles and designs that were subsequently copied by other jewelers. It is therefore important to know that you are buying genuine Weiss. Fake Weiss brooches and pins, for example are prevalent on sites such as eBay. Fakes can often be recognised by their high gloss finishes and textured backs, designed to look antique.
Amongst the more desirable collector pieces are the 'black diamond' series which featured a unique smoky-coloured rhinestone. Other popular pieces include those made with inverted rhinestones and series using a Christmas tree design.
Weiss had very high production figures in their heyday; meaning many of its pieces are both affordable and easy-to-find. It is also a popular choice with collectors due to many of the earlier pieces being undervalued – recognition of this has meant an increase in the prices Weiss jewelry now fetches at auction.
Typically small items such as earrings, brooches, bracelets and pins can be found for anywhere between $25-$50 with some of the smaller pins and clip earrings selling for as little as $10.1 Jewelry sets can reach much higher prices and a necklace and earrings set featuring the much-desired 'Black diamonds' typically sells for much more.
Eisenberg & Sons were renowned for their outstanding craftsmanship and attention to detail. Many of the fine works that they produced used coloured stones and Swarovski crystals.Highly regarded too are their 18th century jewellery replicas which were so authentic looking that it’s difficult to distinguish them from the pieces that they were copied from. The company also made a number of striking figurals, many of which utilized sterling silver.
Eisenberg & Sons was established by Jonas Eisenberg in 1914 and was originally a women’s clothing company. They initially used jewellery to make their clothing products more attractive. However, these pieces were often stolen due to their beauty and appeal.
Some Eisenberg collectible jewellery pieces can be distinguished by their mark. Pieces that had the words "Eisenberg Original" stamped on them were manufactured from 1935 to 1945, while those that only had the "Eisenberg" or "Eisenberg Ice" wordings were made from 1945 to 1950. The company placed the "Eisenberg Sterling" mark on silver jewellery that was made from 1943 to 1948. There are products made by the company that did not have any distinguishing marks or labels on them. It should be noted though that pieces that have labels in them generally command a better price than those that don’t.
There are many Eisenberg pieces that have abstract forms while there are others that have more definite shapes such as ones that appear like ballerinas, mermaids, queens, and kings.
Another favourite inspiration of Eisenberg was animals. The company made a number of pieces that resembled butterflies, birds, zebras and horses. They also made ones that had more intricate designs showcasing animal stories, such as the Piggy Goes to Market clip, which the company made for the Eaves Costume Company.
Art Deco rhinestone clips, cabochon brooches, and rhinestone-studded bows are examples of pieces made by Eisenberg that had simple yet classic designs. The company also produced clips that were designed to be sewn into garments.
Highly collectible pieces include medallion like clips and pins that were adorned with crystal stones, ruby and aqua. Sterling silver jewellery that featured special quartz called citrine is also highly sought after by collectors.
During the mid-1940s, the company hired Mexican artisans to produce a limited number of gold and turquoise pieces that today are very popular among collectors. Enamelled pieces made in the 1970s including gold earrings and pins in the Artists Series, flower and tree inspired brooches also command a good price in today’s market. Another favourite among collectors are Christmas tree pins.
Popularity among collectors
Regarded as one of the premier costume jewellery manufacturers during its time, Eisenberg costume jewellery is highly popular among many collectors. Price range varies from a couple of hundred to a thousand dollars per piece.
Highly valuable ones include sterling silver cups, while basic brooch and earring sets are known to be less expensive. There are many Eisenberg jewellery fakes around. Many times, it would take the skill of an experienced collector to distinguish between an original and a fake Eisenberg piece.
Miriam Haskell (July 1, 1899-July 14, 1981) was an American designer of costume jewelry. With creative partner Frank Hess, she designed affordable pieces from 1920 through the 1950s. Her vintage items are eagerly collected and her namesake company continues.
Born in Tell City, Indiana, a small town across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. After high school in nearby New Albany, where her Russian Jewish immigrant parents ran a dry-goods store, she studied for three years at Chicago University. Moving to New York City in 1924 with $500 in her pocket, she opened a jewelry boutique in 1926 in the old McAlpin Hotel, and a second outlet within the year at West 57th Street. Frank Hess joined her business the same year. Despite some controversy concerning the extent to which the jewelry designs are Haskell's or Hess's (Ellman quotes Haskell's nephew's claim that she designed a great deal; Pamfiloff and others give the lion's share of credit to Hess), the two worked together until Miriam left the company; Hess continued to design for many years afterwards. In the 1930s, the company relocated to 392 Fifth Avenue; their affordable art glass, strass, and gold-plate parures were popular throughout the Great Depression, and the company went on to open boutiques at Saks Fifth Avenue and Burdine's, as well as stores in Miami and London. The Saks shop also offered pieces by Chanel.
Miriam Haskell jewelry was worn for publicity shots, films, and personal use by movies stars Joan Crawford and Lucille Ball, as well as by Gloria Vanderbilt and the Duchess of Windsor. Crawford owned a set of almost every Haskell ever produced, from the 1920s through the 1960s.
Watercolors used for advertising, by Larry Austin and others, showing models wearing large Haskell pieces are also collected and a Florida dealer found many in a set of steamer trunks around 1978; Haskell's family sold her archives and samples to defray the costs of her nursing home.
Her vintage pieces can command high prices from collectors. However, her jewellery was seldom signed before 1950, it was her brother Joseph Haskell who introduced the first regularly signed Miriam Haskell jewellery. For a very short time during the 1940s, a shop in New England did request all pieces they received be signed by Miriam - this signature being a horseshoe-shaped plaque with Miriam Haskell embossed on it. Pieces with this signature are rare.
Haskell's clients included Florenz Ziegfeld, who decorated the chorines of his Follies with her designs; Bernard Gimbel of the department store chain; and John D. Hertz, Jr., scion of the car-rental company. With Hess, she traveled in search of materials to Paris, Gablonz, Venice, and Wattens, home of Daniel Swarovski's crystal factory. She built a mansion that she called Sainte Claire Cottage on the Hudson River near Ossining. When the Ohio flooded in 1937, Haskell sent boxcars full of relief materials to New Albany, and traveled home to assist during the disaster. In World War Two, she contributed most conscientiously to the war effort, and asked Hess to create new patriotic metalfree jewelry designs, using natural materials and plastics.
The horror of World War Two affected her health and emotional stability; in her fifties, she became ill, despite an adherence to health food. In 1950, she lost control of her company to her brothers. Living in an apartment on Central Park South with her widowed mother through the next decades, she became increasingly erratic in her behavior. In 1977, she moved to Cincinnati, under the care of her nephew Malcolm Dubin, and died in 1981. It was a sad ending for an exceptional life, but, as Pamfiloff writes, "Obviously, the legacy of her dream has filtered on down through the decades. It was a man’s world. Designers were men. The owners of companies were men. The staff was men. The salesmen were men. It was all men. And then you had Coco Chanel, who just jumped right out there, and a couple of other women who carved out their own niche in the world. Haskell did that, too."
Deanna Farnetti Cera, The Jewels of Miriam Haskell (Milan: Idea Books, 1997).Barbara Ellman, "The World of Fashion Jewelry" (Highland Park, IL: Aunt Louise Imports, 1986).Cathy Gordon and Sheila Pamfiloff, Miriam Haskell Jewelry (Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2004).