After learning about manufacturing costume jewelry as an employee at the American "Coro" company, Albert Weiss established his own firm in 1942. He went on to become a hugely successful costume jewelry designer in the 1950s and '60s. The Weiss look, like Kramer's, was based more on paste than on metalwork, and indeed the settings became no more than a mere mechanism for displaying as many rhinestones as could possibly fit on a single piece. The effect is one of an almost continuous carpet of glittering jewels, an aesthetic that fitted in with the 1950s"more is more" mentality.
Collectors love extra-wide bracelets in this style, along with necklace and earring sets in attractive colours, especially Weiss's own signature" back diamonds" in smoky grey paste. Weiss based these unique stones on grey Austrian crystals, and they went on to become best-sellers, widely copied by competitors in the 1950s. Although Weiss's work was mainly abstract, he also produced a limited range of figurals, and these have become increasingly collectable today. Look out for long-stemmed flowers, such as the one shown below, along with colourful jeweled butterflies, sparkling Christmas trees, and enameled insects, animals, and fruits.
As the demand for showy paste-encrusted jewels has increased, so prices for classic Weiss pieces in good condition have started to rise. Bargains can still be found, however, and would probably make a good investment. Pieces are most often signed "Weiss", either on an applied plate or stamped directly into the metal.
Weiss Flower Pin, c.1960s
These long-stemmed flowers sold extremely well in the 1960s. Weiss produced them in a range of colours and, although they basically follow this same design, subtle differences in the stems, leaves, and petals do appear. This variation within a theme has inspired collectors to try to find them all. Today, Weiss flowers are worn either singly or in colour-coordinated groups. The style shown here, with very narrow paste petals, is rarer than those with wider marquise-shaped petals.
Weiss Pin & Earring Set, c.1950s
Although Weiss is usually prized for its vibrant colouring, this clear rhinestone set would make a good bargain alternative to "Eisenberg Ice", which it closely resembles. Like most Weiss pieces, the impact of this set derives from its use of many variously set and cut faceted stones. At the opposite end of the colour spectrum, Weiss is also known for its distinctive line of jet-black paste on black metal, which enjoys periodic revivals whenever the Victorian look regains popularity in contemporary fashion.
Albert Weiss was one of the first designers of costume jewelry to recognize the Christmas tree as perfectly suited for the rhinestone treatment. He produced pieces in the shape of a Christmas tree, such as this late 1950s pin (valued at £150-250/$255 425), in a variety of styles in the 1950s and '60s. Christmas jewelry is avidly collected today, trees by Weiss, along with Eisenberg, fetching high prices. Vintage Santas, candy canes, bells, and wreaths also appear, and, although the majorities are unmarked, the best are signed by collectable makers. Look out for pieces designed on the Christmas theme by other designers such as Ken Lane, Robert, Kramer, Hobe, Hollycraft, Boucher, and Butler & Wilson.