Morganite, a pink gemstone named by Tiffany & Co. gemologist for wealthy American industrialist JP Morgan in 1910

Did American Jewelers Love Art Deco?

Apr 24, 2023 | art deco jewelry

Very little is written about Art Deco jewelry designers in the United States. There’s a good reason for this.

As a whole, American Art Deco jewelry lacks many of the innovative style elements of Parisian Art Deco jewelers. The United States produced most of its high-end Art Deco era jewelry through Tiffany & Co. However, Tiffany & Co. jewelry designed during the 1920s and 1930s took a very traditional approach to its jewelry. Although the United States produced jewelry during the interwar period, many of its designs did not look like Art Deco.

Review the primary style elements of Art Deco jewelry, including a focus on geometric, interlocking shapes.

That said, the United States was a major manufacturer of costume jewelry during the 1920s and 1930s, and some American jewelers allowed themselves to be swayed by the ubiquitous style that was Art Deco.

Moreover, the relationship between Parisian jewelers and artists as a whole and their American counterparts was strong enough for famed sculptor and jeweler Jean Dunand to paint American jewelry mogul Hattie Carnegie.

Jean Dunand portrait of American jewelry mogul Hattie Carnegie
Dunand portrait of American jewelry mogul Hattie Carnegie

Many US brands and jewelry designers embraced the Art Deco style in their “cocktail jewelry”. The most collectible American jewelry from the 1920s and 1930s reflects the spirit of the age by incorporating geometric, interlocking shapes, and Art Deco era motifs.

American-designed jewelry was distributed to an ever-growing American middle class through department stores and drugs stores. The New England region, especially Rhode Island and Massachusetts, became a major jewelry manufacturing hub that remains in business today.

Black and white image of Macy's Herald Square, New York City, 1907
Macy’s Herald Square, New York City, 1907

The following list of jewelry designers in the US includes recognizable names that became more widely known in the decades following the Art Deco era. It also includes names that may be wholly unfamiliar to you.

Enjoy the hunt for their designs! You never know what you can find until you know what to look for.

American Art Deco Era Jewelry Designers

As a general rule, Art Deco era jewelers working in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s were either jewelers who were Americans, or jewelers from Europe who expanded operations into the US to better serve the wealthy in America’s industrialized cities, or sons and daughters of famed European jewelers who emigrated to the US at some point in their career. The list below includes jewelry brands and design houses that began in the US and produced jewelry in America between the two World Wars.

  • Bailey Banks & Biddle – Philadelphia, 1832-2007
  • McClelland Barclay – St. Louis, 1932-1938
  • R. Blackinton & Company – Attleboro, MA, 1862-1978
  • JE Caldwell – Philadelphia, 1839-2003
  • Miriam Haskell – New York City, 1924-1990
  • Hattie Carnegie Inc. – New York City, 1918 –
  • The Chapin & Hollister Company – Providence, 1898-1923
  • Ciner Manufacturing Company – New York City, 1892-present
  • Guglielmo Cini – Boston, Laguna Beach CA, 1922-1970
  • Coro (aka Francois) – New York City, 1901 –
  • DeRosa – New York City, 1935-
  • Diamondbar – Providence, 1907-1931
  • Eisenberg – Chicago, 1914-1948
  • Providence Jewelry Company (aka J.J., Lisker&Lisker, Jonette) – Providence, 1935-
  • Mazer Brothers (aka Jomaz) – New York City, 1927-1951
  • Krementz and Company (aka Lester & Company) – 1866-present
  • Ledo (aka Polcini) – New York City (Mamaroneck), -1911-1980
  • Les Bernard (aka Vogue) – New York City, 1936-1974
  • Lisner (aka Richelieu) – New York City, 1904-1979
  • Napier (aka Whitney and Rice, aka Carpenter & Bliss) – Attleboro, MA, 1875-present
  • Pennino Jewelry Company – New York City, 1927-1961
  • W. E. Richards Company (aka Symmentalic) – Attleboro, MA, 1902-present
  • Nettie Rosenstein – New York City, 1930s-1964
  • Tiffany & Co. – New York City, 1837 – present
  • Trifari – New York City, 1910-1974
  • Whiting & Davis – Attleboro, MA, 1876-1983
  • Raymond Yard, New York City, 1922-present

Tiffany & Co. history and Art Deco jewelry

The United States produced most of its high-end Art Deco era jewelry through Tiffany & Co. However, Tiffany & Co. jewelry designed during the 1920s and 1930s took a very traditional approach to its jewelry.

The first Tiffany store – what would become know as Tiffany & Co. – opened in New York City in 1837. The first day’s sales total is USD $4.98, according to the Tiffany & Co. timeline. That’s about $157 in today’s market. Not a huge opening day for a high-end jewelry shop.

The Tiffany store published its first direct mail catalogue in the U.S. in 1845. The first of its kind, the Blue Book (as its now known) introduced Americans to luxury goods under the name Catalogue of Useful and Fancy Articles. The Blue Book is still published each year.

Tiffany became known for its diamond imports, and so ultimately became best known for its gemstone jewelry and pearls. In fact, Abraham Lincoln purchased a Tiffany & Co. seed pearl necklace and matching bracelet set for his wife, which she wore to his inaugural ball.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s seed pearls by Tiffany & Co. | Library of Congress

Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, became the company’s first official Design Director in 1902, smack in the middle of the Art Nouveau movement.

Tiffany Co Nouveau Laburnum Lamp_Christies
Tiffany Co Nouveau Laburnum Lamp | photo ©Christies

Although Louis Comfort Tiffany is an influential figure in the Art Nouveau movement – this is when Tiffany glass lamps were designed and introduced – stylized Art Deco jewelry from Tiffany & Co. is not a part of the company’s history.

During the progressive design movement in the 20s and 30s, Tiffany’s design styles remained traditional, and focused on satisfying America’s commercial elite rather than those paying attention to Parisian artists.

For example, in 1910 – arguably when murmurings of Art Deco first began, Tiffany’s gemologist introduces morganite to the American public and names it in honor of financier and philanthropist J.P. Morgan.

Morganite, named by Tiffany & Co gemologist for American magnate JP Morgan

Where Tiffany & Co. did show its Art Deco chops was with timepieces.

A nine-foot Atlas clock was installed above the Tiffany store entrance on Fifth Avenue in 1853. Today, the clock is still there, and is the oldest public clock in New York City.

With clock design such an integral part of Tiffany & Co.’s NYC roots, it makes sense that timepieces are where high-design Art Deco style elements are actually recognizable.

Tiffany & Co. Art Deco Enamel Agate Diamond Desk Clock
Tiffany & Co. Art Deco Enamel Agate Diamond Desk Clock | 1st Dibs $20,295
Tiffany & Co. black watch with gold-trimmed square face from the 1920s
Tiffany & Co. black watch with gold-trimmed square face from the 1920s | 1st Dibs $4,700

Raymond Yard’s Animal Cocktail Brooches

Raymond Yard was a New York City jewelry whose artistry took the form of animals serving cocktails. Yard’s line of detailed cocktail brooches incorporating precious and semi-precious stones and metals to create pins that were both stunning and fun is one highlight of American Art Deco jewelry design.

Many different versions of a rabbit serving champagne exist. Note the jadeite-colored enamel (jadeite?) incorporated into the serving tray on the left.

Watch Sotheby’s video on Raymond Yard’s cocktail brooches. The one on the left was up for sale.

The pin on the right was auctioned at Christie’s for $50,000 in 2018, nearly twice as much as anticipated.

Raymond Yard chicken cocktail brooch pair. Image © 1st Dibs
Raymond Yard chicken cocktail brooch pair. Image © 1st Dibs

In addition to rabbits, Yard designed cocktail brooches with chickens, and additional rabbits dressed up and ready to golf.

Other Examples of American Art Deco Jewelry

Many of the Art Deco era American jewelers saw their start in the 1930s, but their apex in the decades after, from the 1940s through the 1970s. For this reason, much of the costume jewelry made in America emanates a mid-century style rather than an Art Deco one.

Here are just a few examples of what American jewelers were making in the 1920s and 1930s. While some of their designs expressed the original spirit of Parisian Art Deco, others showcased a very traditional aesthetic, sometimes hearkening back to Art Nouveau and other times anticipating what would be the style of costume jewelry available to the masses in the 1940s and 50s.

Ledo / Polici gold player rhinestone brooch
Ledo / Polici gold player rhinestone brooch
Cini sterling peacock brooch
Cini sterling peacock brooch
Faux Pearl Brooch. Rhodium-plated metal, Swarovski rhinestone. The end of the 1930s. 7.5 cm.
Eisenberg faux pearl brooch with Swarovski rhinestones, late 1930s
Photo from the magazine Vogue 1931 Carnegie brooch in the form of a pear, rock crystal.
Photo from the magazine Vogue 1931 Carnegie brooch in the form of a pear, rock crystal.

It’s clear that although America was not always at the forefront of Art Deco style jewelry design, it was regardless central to jewelry manufacture and design and grew into a powerhouse in jewelry production far beyond the famed era.

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