The superb craftsmanship and beauty of Eisenberg vintage costume jewelry makes it highly sought by costume jewelry collectors.
And because Eisenberg costume jewelry has been marketed since 1930, many styles and designs have been produced, some appealing to lots of vintage costume jewelry collectors and others that have a more narrow appeal.
Jonas Eisenberg, an Austrian who came to the United States in 1880, founded Eisenberg & Sons Originals, in 1914, as a women’s clothing company, in Chicago. In 1930, Eisenberg & Sons, in an attempt to sell more garments, began attaching jewelry pieces to women’s clothing, pinned to the garments in the company’s blue velvet boxes. The jewelry became much more popular than the garments, and in 1958 Eisenberg stopped making clothing and produced Eisenberg jewelry exclusively, from a company called Eisenberg Jewelry, Inc.
The first Eisenberg costume jewelry pieces were made outside the company, but as soon as Eisenberg & Sons decided to become Eisenberg Jewelry, Inc., and manufacture jewelry exclusively, the Eisenberg jewelry design and production was moved in house.
Eisenberg jewelry was an expensive line of costume jewelry when it was first sold. The craftsmanship was excellent and high quality materials were used, such as Swarovski Austrian crystals and rhinestones imported from Austria and Czechoslovakia, and the jewelry was produced with Rhodium metals (which does not tarnish so has maintained its luster) in colors that complimented the crystals and rhinestones. During World War II and into the end of the 1940s, the company produced high-quality sterling silver pieces.
Eisenberg Jewelry signed in many different ways
Collectors who know what they are looking for find that vintage Eisenberg costume jewelry is fairly easy to spot. However, the pieces were signed in different ways over the years, presenting a challenge for Eisenberg jewelry collectors, as many knockoffs have surfaced. It sometimes takes a highly skilled collector to tell a real Eisenberg from a fake, which only adds to the challenge of finding an actual Eisenberg costume jewelry piece.
The Eisenberg earliest pieces were not signed, but from the mid-30s until about 1958, most pieces were marked. Then, in 1970 pieces were marked again. Marks over the years include Eisenberg or Eisenberg Original, E, or Eisenberg Ice. The sterling pieces from the 1940s were simply marked “Sterling,” but the other marks overlapped so it is difficult to date a piece just by the mark. Even pieces in the same set were marked differently (with an “E” on the earrings and the word Eisenberg on the brooch, for example), probably because there wasn’t room for the full name on the earrings. Some pins carried an Eisenberg mark signature on the clasp. After 1955, pieces were also signed with the copyright mark.
Unique Eisenberg Jewelry Colors and Designs
Typically, Eisenberg vintage jewelry emphasized bold designs and distinct color combinations. The pieces included brooches, fur clips, earrings (clip and, also, screw clasp) and necklaces. Sets that included circle brooch and matching earrings were in demand. Some of the more popular designs included cascading rhinestones and flowers, Christmas tree designs and matching “twin” pins, small pins that were only about 1” across and sold in pairs to be worn together.
Some of the most common color combinations in the first part of the 1940s included the pairings of red and crystal, red and turquoise, pink and turquoise, pink and purple and light with dark topaz. In later pieces, more colors were used. In the 1970s, Eisenberg jewelry featured pop art designs in bold enamels.
Most older Eisenberg jewelry pieces included crystal rhinestones and many pieces also featured pearls. Many of the pieces were abstract, but there were also many figures, including mermaids, dancers, animals and birds, and pins that illustrated a nursery rhyme (Puss ‘n Boots, or the Little Piggies, for example).
Typically, Eisenberg pieces are heavy, and some are very weighty, as they were made with sturdy metals and oftentimes festooned with lots of sparkly rhinestones and crystals. Collectors have found incidences in which the Eisenberg pieces clearly were manufactured to emulate much more expensive, fine jewelry.
The quality Eisenberg design and craftsmanship have made Eisenberg costume jewelry very popular for 80 years, and Eisenberg Costume Jewelry still operates in Chicago, led by Jonas Eisenberg’s descendants.
Preston Reuther is a "Master Wire Sculptor" and Cameo Appraiser and has been collecting and selling Vintage Jewelry for over 30 years. He is a jewelry instructor and has produced over 100 jewelry making videos and owns two vintage jewelry stores WWW.CAMEOJEWELRY.COM and WWW.ANTIQUECAMEOS.COM You may reach him at either store.