Ricker 1Katelyn RickerBennett12th Lit/Comp10 October 2011 Famed Jewelers – Where They Began and Where They are Now “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” (Diamonds Are Forever) exclaimed Marilyn Monroe,who made this phrase infamous. But what about pearls, gemstones, gold and silver? In theworld of jewelry crafting, the options are endless. But the jewelry known today has not alwaysbeen made of these precious materials. “Before written language, or the spoken word, there wasjewelry. In the late 1800s, British archaeologist Archibald Campbell Carlyle said of primitiveman "the first spiritual want of a barbarous man is decoration" ("The History of Jewellery").Ancient jewelry, dating back over 5000 years, was made of bones and teeth. “The word(jewelry) is derived from the Latin word jocale, meaning plaything, and the word jewel, whichwas anglicised during the 13th century from the Old French word jouel. The word jewelry isused to describe any piece of precious material used to adorn ones self” (“The History ofJewellery”). As man evolved, jewelry became a symbol of wealth and status. It was also usedto keep ancient Americans from harm, heal illness, and keep away evil spirits (“The History ofJewellery”). Some jewelers, such as Coco Chanel, Louis Tiffany and Melvyn Bernie, built theirempires by understanding the connection between marvelous jewelry and the wealth and statustheir client’s wanted to display. But they were not always the famed jewelers that are knowntoday.
Ricker 2 Gabrielle Chanel was born on August 19, 1883. She was the second child of anunmarried couple. Her father sold bowls, cups, and other ordinary household items. Her motherwas a common peasant. When Gabrielle was twelve years old, her mother died. Exactly oneweek after her passing, her father abandoned her, and left her at a provincial orphanage to beraised by nuns. “At the time, she had no future, since she was a poor girl brought up by charity.Coco never mentioned the years she spent at the orphanage as she tried her hardest to clear anyand all traces of her unhappiness” ("Coco Chanel Biography"). Chanel spent several years at school before she tried to make a start in the fashionindustry. Her first job was as a shopkeeper who specialized in linens. After that, she attemptedsinging and dancing; she wanted to try to make a career in the theater business. The only thingshe got out of her experience as a singer is the nickname “Coco”, which was given to her by heraudience for her songs “Ko Ko Ri Ko” and “Qui qu’a vu Coco” ("Coco Chanel Biography"). When she was twenty-two, Chanel met a gentlemen horse breeder whose name wasEtienne Balsan. He proposed they live together, and she quickly accepted. Together, they livedin a castle, although she was not accustomed to her position as a mistress. While she did enjoythe life he supplied her, she wanted to make a career for herself. Soon after her stay with Etienne,Chanel met yet another person who would change her life completely. The gentleman’s namewas Arthur Capel, known to some as “Boy”. In 1910, with Capel’s help, she opened her firstmilliner (women’s hat) shop in Paris. Then in 1913, she opened her own boutique in Deauville,France. Once Chanel opened her business and applied her own creativity to it, she becameknown as a “woman entrepreneur.” The start of her career was when she was “hat maker to thedivas” ("Coco Chanel Biography"). Her customers loved her hats so much that they gave hername to very important people in Paris (“Coco Chanel Biography”).
Ricker 3 “Traditionally, dressmakers never were considered a part of society. Chanel was the firstexception to the rule. [Chanel] became an important international figure who was invitedeverywhere” (“Coco Chanel Biography”). According to Coco Chanel herself, “I did not go intosociety because I had to design clothes. I designed clothes precisely because I did go out…”(“Coco Chanel Biography”). Shortly after World War II was declared, Chanel closed her salon. During September1944, she was arrested because there were rumors of her being romantically involved with a highranking German officer. “A few hours [after she was arrested], she was released. Shortly aftershe was released, she left for Switzerland, which was her home for almost ten years” (“CocoChanel Biography”). After a fifteen year break, she resumed her business and was more popularthan ever. Her fashions became iconic in the United States. After her death, Karl Lagerfeld tookover leadership of the Chanel Company (“Coco Chanel Biography”). The Tiffany Company also had a humble beginning. Louis Tiffany was born to CharlesLewis Tiffany and Harriet Young Tiffany on February 18, 1848. “[He] studied under theAmerican painters George Inness and Samuel Colman and trained as a painter of narrativesubjects in Paris” (“Louis Tiffany Biography”). It is said that a visit to Morocco helpedinfluence some of his major works. “Returning to the United States, he became a recognizedpainter and an associate of the National Academy of Design…” (“Louis Tiffany Biography”). “In 1875, Tiffany began experimenting with stained glass, which led to the establishmentof his own glassmaking factory in Queens, New York. By the 1890s, he was a leading glassproducer [who experimented] with unique means of coloring” (“Louis Tiffany Biography”).What made him famous was the glass he named “Favrile”, which was a neologism, or newlyformed word, from the Latin word faber, which means craftsman. “Favrile glass was iridescent
Ricker 4and freely shaped, and was sometimes combined with bronze like alloys and other metals. Hisglass was admired abroad, especially in central Europe, where it created a new fashion” (“LouisTiffany Biography”). Tiffany’s decorating firm, known as Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, servedmany wealthy New Yorkers. “Tiffany was commissioned by President Chester A. Arthur toredecorate the reception rooms at the White House… he created the great stained-glass screen inthe entrance hall” (“Louis Tiffany Biography”). In an effort to expand and grow his business,Tiffany decided to reorganize. “In 1900, Tiffany’s firm was reorganized as Tiffany Studios.Afterwards, he ventured into lamps, jewelry, pottery, and bibelots [trinkets or small householddecorative objects]. He created one of his major achievements, a large glass curtain for thePalacio de Bellas Artes [in] Mexico City in 1911” (“Louis Tiffany Biography”). The corporatereorganization in 1900 and expansion into new product offerings helped turn the family-ownedbusiness into a multi-national corporation. “Tiffany and Company, is a jeweler and specialtyretailer, whose merchandise offerings include an extensive selection of jewelry, as well astimepieces, sterling silverware, china, crystal, stationery, fragrances and accessories”("Shareholder Information"). To symbolize the quality and craftsmanship for which thecompany became famous, Tiffany designed a trademark which is recognized world-wide.“Tiffany has one thing in stock that you cannot buy of him for as much money as you may offer;he will only give it to you. And that is one of his boxes” (“Tiffany & Co History”). The shadeof blue used for the trademark Tiffany box has become synonymous with the company itself, andthus is known as Tiffany Blue®. “True to the vision of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the Tiffany BlueBox® was to become an American icon of style and sophistication” (Tiffany & Co History”).Less recognized, but still highly desired, is the unique style of 1928 Jewelry.
Ricker 5 Melvyn Bernie was twenty-three years old when he first started his venture into jewelrymaking. His first workshop was in his garage. During the daylight hours, he sold watches. Butby night, he made costume jewelry in the back room of his house in Van Nuys, California. Heused some of the money he made selling watches to buy the tools and materials to make hisjewelry. He then sold his creations to department stores and retail chains. Over time, his part-time venture became a full time business named the 1928 Jewelry Company (Apodaca). 1928 Jewelry is known for producing pieces designed after antiques. Their jewelry,which ranges from five dollars to 300 dollars, is new and made with gold and silver plating, andis made to look like jewelry that might have been worn at the turn of the century. Today, thecompany has a 50,000-square-foot plant. Depending on the time of year, there are 1,000 to1,500 workers hand-crafting the jewelry that 1928 sells. According to the founder of 1928Jewelry, Melvyn Bernie, “The plant is the largest site of costume jewelry manufacturing in theworld” (Apodaca). Eighty percent of the company’s jewelry is sold in major stores such asMacy’s and Broadway. The jewelry line is very popular with women of all ages. According toJim Litwak, president at Trans World Entertainment, “The [type of] customers [the jewelry]attracts is very mainstream, from the young customer who wants an antique look to thegrandmother who wants some costume jewelry to wear with [her] old pieces (Apodaca). Jewelry had humble beginnings. Ancient jewelry was comprised of materials such asbones and teeth. Over time it evolved into using gold, silver, diamonds, and other preciousmaterials. It is now often considered a sign of wealth and status. Likewise, today’s famousjewelers also had humble beginnings. Three of the most prominent names in the industry, LouisTiffany, Coco Chanel, and Melvyn Bernie, started from nowhere and built their companies intothe empires we know today. Owning one of their pieces is, to many, the ultimate indulgence.
Ricker 6 Works CitedApodaca, Patrice. “Jewelry Firm Finds Gold in Antique Styles:Fashion:1928 Jewelry Co., Which Started In A Garage, Now Has Revenue of $100 Million A Year.” Los Angeles Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Sept. 2011. <articles.latimes.com///_1_costume-jewelry>. .“Coco Chanel Biography.” Coco Chanel Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Sept. 2011. <http://www.famous-women-and-beauty.com/chanel-biography.html>.Diamonds Are Forever. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2011. <www.diamonds-are- forever.org.uk/quotes.htm>.“The History of Jewellery: Origins of Jewellery Design.” All About Gemstones. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2011. <http://www.allaboutgemstones.com/_history_early_man.html>.“Louis (Comfort) Tiffany Biography.” Bio. True Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. <http://www.biography.com//ouis-Comfort-Tiffany-9507399>.“Shareholder Information.” Tiffany & Co. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2011. <http://investor.tiffany.com/>.Tiffany & Co History and Timeline. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. <http://press.tiffany.com//US//&Timeline.pdf>.