Thursday, 25 April 2013

About Signatures of Jewellery

These earrings bear the signature "original by Robert" within an "artist's palette" plaque. Robert jewelry was always signed but the signatures changed over the years, this one being used only for five years in the late 1940s.


Many manufacturers stamped (signed) their jewelry. These signatures, where present, are found on the reverse of the piece, either on a dip back or on the body itself. They can commonly be quite small and difficult to see and usually require a small hand lens, or "loupe", to read. Many markings on the back of vintage costume jewelry are, however, not signatures identifying the manufacturer but could be part numbers, patent numbers, or even casting faults, so look carefully.

Makers' marks can also tell us a great deal about the age of a piece. A few manufacturers (such as Dior and Hollycraft) actually stamp the year of manufacture with the regular signature, while others have, over the course of the company's life, changed the design of the signature, thus providing us with a useful method of estimating the age of a piece. This is not an exact science, because a maker could use the same design of signature for over 20 years, but with that knowledge and other information such as design, colour, method of manufacture, and material, one can narrow down the estimated age to within five years.
This piece bears the signature "Eisenberg original”. 
There may also be other useful information stamped on the reverse of the piece. Costume jewelry made from

silver generally bears either a hallmark (if made in the UK) or other marks depending on country of origin. These range from the grade of silver written in numbers (for example 925 for sterling silver or 800 for lower-grade silver), assay office marks of individual countries (far too numerous to list here), or "STERLING SILVER" for sterling silver pieces made in the United States. Grade and thickness of gold plating is found on some pieces.

Finally, it is important to note that just because a signature cannot be found on a piece of jewelry it doesn't mean that it is not of any value. Some of the finest and most valuable costume jewelry is "unsigned". After all, somebody must have made it and very many makers simply did not stamp their pieces. Sometimes the process of plating a piece (mostly done after the signature had been stamped) can fill in the signature, all but obliterating it, and of course signatures can wear away over time. This is where real skill and judgment come into play, and after a fair amount of practice one may be able to identify manufacturer, designer, and age with just a brief glance. Some of the more common makers marks are listed opposite with approximate dates of usage. 

These are two signatures of the famous Liberty & Co. Several signatures were used, for example "Ly & Co" (which was used in London in 1898-1901) and "L & C Cymric". This is the stamp of C.R. Ashbee. It accompanies pieces made at the Guild of Handicrafts in Chipping Camden, Oxfordshire. The early signature on the far left was registered in 1945 but in use since 1944. The other signature was in use from the 1950s to the early 1970s.

This is the mark of Theodore Fahrner (who also worked in other styles). It is sometimes seen with the stamp of a designer (individual or company). This is one of the stamps of the Wiener Werkstatte cooperative, registered in 1903 and dissolved in 1932.Although Chanel's earliest pieces date from the 192os, the italic, or "script", signature made its first appearance in the early 19305. The "block" signature is still in use.

These are two of the signatures used by Murrle, Bennett & Co. They are sometimes seen with other manufacturers' stamps (such as Theodore Fahrner), indicating that the piece was in a pre-existing line of jewelry. The large E dates from the early 19405, "Eisenberg Original" from the early 1930s to i945, and "Eisenberg Ice" from the mid-194os to mid-195os (and in script italics for a re-introduction of classic pieces in 1994). From the 195os to the late 198os no signatures were used. The "K.J.L." signature is marked on the earliest jewelry and is by far the most collectable. The "Kenneth Lane" signature dates from the 198os and '9os. Care must be taken because the K.J.L. signature has now been reissued and accompanies modern pieces.
The horseshoe-shaped signature was used from the late 1940s. Before this, Haskell jewels were unsigned. The oval signature dates from the 19505 onward. Schiaparelli's "script" signature is stamped on the earliest of the American-produced pieces, which date from 1949. Little is known about the "block" signature, but it possibly dates from 1954, when she ended her active designing career.  

The three Hobe signatures shown here can be dated accurately, as shown below each stamp. The stamps themselves are soldered onto the backs of the jewels.

Joseff of Hollywood used two different signatures, and there appears to be quite a lot of confusion about the dates. The "block" signature is generally regarded as having been used up to the early 1950s, while the "script" signature was in use from 1938.   

Of the 17 or so known Trifari signatures, the earliest was "Jewels by Trifari", in use from 1920. "KTF", used from 1935, stands for the company founders - Leo Krussman, Gustav Trifari, and Carl Fishel. "TRIFARI" was in use from 1937. "TRIFARI" with a crown above the "T" was used from the 19405 onward. A copyright symbol © suffixed this from 3955 onward.  

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