The Banana Republic Travel & Safari Clothing Company catalogues were popular before my time as an avid shopper.
In the 1990s, shopping catalogs for me meant J Crew and Tweeds. But somehow the original BR style is one that somehow made it into my fashion DNA.
Fatigue green belted shirt dress? Yes, please.
So when I came across a pair of cool Banana Republic vintage clamper cuffs (a most-favored three-word phrase…like swim up bar), and discovered it was old BR, I needed to know more.
Banana Republic was originally the Banana Republic Travel & Safari Clothing Company, started in 1978 by married partners Mel and Patricia Ziegler (San Francisco, CA).
But the original company did not sell jewelry.
When did Banana Republic make costume jewelry?
Banana Republic has made jewelry since 1993.
Even though the company was launched in the 70s, Banana Republic did not start to sell jewelry until the early 1990s, after it was purchased by Gap, Inc.,
Therefore, vintage Banana Republic jewelry is all about Y2K style.
Of course, yes, Banana Republic still makes jewelry today. Only not so vintage.
Vintage jewelry in Banana Republic Catalogues
My favorite way to research vintage jewelry and fashion is old retail catalogs.
It’s like being transported to the past…
And given a second fashion chance.
These Lido pleated shorts were popular when I was in my youth, and they were not flattering.
Now I understand it wasn’t just my thighs.
But I would take this bomber jacket!
I found one for sale on ebay that says it was from the 80s, but the tag showed made in China, which is entirely possible.
Although BR clothing then was more often made in Hong Kong.
The Zeiglers were obviously cool, well-traveled and literary. They met at an office party when they worked together at the San Francisco Chronicle.
But they weren’t interested in selling jewelry.
Not a lot of jewelry in the safari, I guess.
Even after purchased by Gap, Banana Republic could not have been less interested in selling jewelry, if their catalogs are any evidence.
This Y2K era winter 2001 catalog shows a lot of unadorned, bare skin.
Where are the bangles?
The blingy chokers?
But never fear!
We know it came out all right in the end.
What kinds of vintage jewelry did Banana Republic make?
Banana Republic made vintage costume jewelry that looked a lot like its higher-end contemporary competitors, like Kenneth Jay Lane (KJL) and CINER.
This animal clamper cuff looks like something most other costume jewelers – KJL in particular – were making in the 90s, only maybe more…better.
This half-hearted purple clamper was inspired by Tiffany & Co.’s Bunny Bangle.
CINER and Kenneth Jay Lane also imitated this design.
Here by CINER.
And here by Kenneth Jay Lane.
And I guess we should also pay homage to the original.
You see what I mean by healf-hearted.
But this awesome large-link bracelet features a granulation that CINER used in many of its necklaces and bracelet designs, and, from this picture, does it fairly well.
Banana Republic buyers also leaned into enamel with polished gold.
Bright and colorful, this vintage line is likely from the early 2000s.
Although the color palette is limited, the geometry of the bracelets is not. They came in a variety of different shapes.
Want to know more about enamel jewelry? Me too, always.
Geometric shapes were trending for brand mall jewelry including Liz Claiborne and Monet.
In the end, BR had some compelling, original, and, dare I say covetous, designs that don’t show up at all among their contemporaries’ lines.
This black and white checkerboard bracelet, for example, is reminiscent of MacKenzie Childs, already very popular in the 90s.
If I haven’t bought it by the time you read this, I’m a dummy. $50 on ebay.
And this modernist BR design with its primary colors and forward-looking three-dot motif feels wholly unique.
BR’s vintage clear lucite now looks a bit yellowed, which tells us something we probably already know about quality plastics.
But the yellowing may be like antique brass patina – don’t rub it off! (As if you could.) It takes years to make it look that way.
And I love this.
Artisanal jewelers work with gemstones this way today – machine made rings that are easily reproduced and plated, with a variety of gemstones and glass that are chosen by hand or in bulk based on color and shape.
These brasss rings are nice and chunky. Mafia wife all the way.
The stones are natural, and the glass or acrylic beads interesting in their own right.
Here, the pieces have all been drilled into beads and wire-wrapped by hand.
The – must I say it – fucking bananas awesome toggle clasp in a bright matte yellow goldtone branded with Banana Republic’s hallmark – seals the deal.
But there’s no certain way to tell from the hallmark when it was made.
History of the Banana Republic jewelry hallmark
Corporate owners as of 1983 (5 years after the company was purchased from the safari clothing and travel company), Gap, Inc. registered two jewelry trademarks: “Banana Republic” and “BR” once in 1993 and again in 2004.
According to the US Trademark Office, the Banana Republic hallmark is registered as “a backwards “B” interlocked with a forward-facing “R”.
Watches with the BR hallmark were filed in 2016, but the trademark lapsed
This original trademarked logo look familiar to some readers. I remember it well.
But this TM has been registered for Banana Republic since 2006, and is the logo that appears on shopping bags and online shipping invoices today:
It also filed for “jewelry and watches” with the trademark “B. Republic” 2003-2007.
Any difference between Banana Republic hallmarks?
At this point, there’s no way to tell the manufacturing date of a BR-hallmarked piece of jewelry, like you can with Monet, whose hallmark changed over time.
This one is from the lucite bangle. Note the connection between the horizontal lines of B and R, which has been repeated so it connects the initials at the top, bottom, and middle.
It’s what was filed with the trademark office.
And here’s the same hallmark from that Mackenzie Childs checkerboard bracelet:
This one and the lucite bangle seem to be of the same age.
However, when looking at the chunky aventurine necklace, the horizontal lines aren’t (yet?) there.
The tag for the aventurine is perhaps earlier, then. Who knows? But it’s something to look for.
Let’s develop a theory. Send pictures of your Banana Republic jewelry and BR brand tags.
Are you a BR fanatic, too?
The trop literate Zeiglers published Wild Company: The Untold Story of Banana Republic in 2012.
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