Like so many other jewelers, Henry Schreiner was an immigrant to the United States in his case, from Bavaria, where he began his working life as a blacksmith. During the 1920s, he extended his experience of metalwork first to the American shoe-buckle industry and later to his own costume jewelry firm, which opened in New York in the 1940s.
While Schreiner was never a large company like Trifari or Coro, its jewels attracted plenty of attention in the world of high fashion. Henry went on to make buttons, buckles, and belts for American designers such as Pauline Trigere, and also elaborate costume jewelry for Christian Dior and Norman Norell.
Pieces by Schreiner were worn by top models and promoted by film stars of the day such as Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe. The Schreiner decision to keep the Company small and exclusive meant that the jewelry was always hand-set and finished to the highest standards. In comparison to other post-war pieces, relatively few Schreiners were made, so they are rare and in demand in todays market.
Although the Schreiner look is based on the abstract use of unique paste stones in unconventional settings, some figural pins were also made. In particular, collectors love Schreiner's "ruffle" flower pins, in which long, tapering, "keystone"-shaped stones are set at differing depths to create a distinctive three-dimensional fluttering effect.
In the early 1950s, Henry's daughter Terry and her husband, Ambrose Albert, joined the firm. Schreiner continued to produce pieces up to the mid-1970s, a decade when changing jewelry fashions made it difficult for many long-established costume jewelers to survive.
Schreiner Pendant, 1950s
Pendants are unusual, both for this designer and in costume jewelry in general, but this piece displays some characteristic Schreiner features. Notice how the stones have been set upside down, so their pointed backs are uppermost. Several different cuts are combined, and the colours are subtle, accented by the unexpected appearance of smoky brownrhinestones.
Schreiner Bib Necklace & Earrings, 1950s
Vintage Schreiner inspires passion in collectors attracted to its quality and style, which is perfectly suited to today's fashions. They are also drawn by its sheer rarity, which makes every find of a high-quality piece a truly exciting event. Huge bib necklaces, such as this one, are the scarcest and most valuable of all pieces by Schreiner, but interesting smaller-scale necklaces, floral pins, tremblers, and pretty earrings are also in demand.
This chain section allows the size and length of the necklace to be adjusted. Larger dangling earrings in the style of the necklace would add greater value to the set than these smaller ones.
The jewelry that Schreiner manufactured for various fashion designers was usually unsigned, so many pieces can be identified only stylistically. Look out for distinctive inverted stone settings and tapering keyhole-shaped pastes. Colours tend to be subtle, with Schreiner favoring unusual shades of smoky grey, light brown, pale yellow, and green faux peridots. Pewter-colour metal settings also suggest a Schreiner. Clear paste pieces, such as these c.1950s earrings (valued at £125-175/$210-300 for the pair), are almost impossible to identify when unsigned. This pair is signed "Schreiner" on the earclips.