The Rise of American Jewellery
Whilst the history of American jewellery manufacture and design dates back to the turn of the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until nearly one hundred years later that the American jewellery industry truly began to flourish. In 1876 the Centennial Exhibition saw a move towards celebrating jewellery designed and crafted in America. Previously much of the jewellery worn by American citizens had been imported from Europe, where the jewellery industry had been established over many centuries. Companies including Tiffany & Co., Starr & Marcus, Gorham and J. E. Caldwell all exhibited American made pieces, and marked the start of what would become a thriving industry.
The late 1800s saw new sources of gemstones and gold discovered in the US which helped pave the way for the success of American jewellery firms, and new innovations abound, such as Tiffany’s famous six claw setting which was first patented in 1886. America has since produced many world-renowned jewellery companies, and 1900 marked a new era of American design with Tiffany & Co. becoming the first American company to win the Grand Prize for jewellery at the Paris Exposition.
Another American firm creating waves at the turn of the century was Marcus & Co., which was established in 1882 by Herman Marcus, one of Tiffany’s former employees. As was fashionable at the time, Marcus & Co. produced many pieces in the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts style, taking inspiration from nature. In particular, their creation of plique-à-jour enamel orchid brooches could be said to epitomise this style. Their attention to detail and high level of craftsmanship ensured that they were to be remembered as one of the most important American jewellers of the early 20th century.
Marcus & Co. produced not only incredible jewellery, but also talent. Raymond Yard started at the age of thirteen at Marcus & Co., and years later, John D. Rockefeller recognised his talent and encouraged him to start his own company. Yard was known for his distinctive Art Deco style, which utilised only the finest gemstones and displayed contrasting cuts in innovative settings.
By the end of the Art Deco period, American jewellers were providing jewellery for Hollywood stars and presidents alike. From the beautiful gemstones used by Bailey, Banks and Biddle to the delicate use of platinum by Dreicer & Co, American designers had successfully established themselves, with pieces becoming increasingly sought after not just in America, but all over the world.
If you would like to own your own exceptional piece of American design history, come and visit our Hatton Garden shop or view our entire collection online.