The founder of Hobé jewelry was Jacques Hobé, who designed and produced costume jewelry in France, beginning in 1887, and from the beginning paid a great deal of attention to detail.
His son, William Hobé, came New York City during the 1930s and he brought the Hobé tradition of fine craftsmanship with him, and he first applied his knowledge and artistry to the theatrical costumes he sold for a German company. One of his first clients, the story goes, was Florenza Ziegfield (of the Ziegfield Follies), who asked the younger Hobé to create expensive (looking) and highly dramatic stage jewelry.
William did become quite well-known for his knowledge of period dress and his ability to interpret and recreate jewelry to be worn in productions. Hollywood directors loved him and he made costumes, jewelry and also design sets for many movies.
“The Cocktail Style” period in costume jewelry, characterized by draping metals, large citrines, dazzling aquamarines – truly exuberant costume jewelry – was, in part, started by designers like Hobé, who showed off their creations in the movies.
The pieces were also available through retailers and went perfectly with the budding cocktail culture of the 1940s and 1950s. Cocktail parties were a popular form of home entertaining. Although women didn’t typically wear evening wear to cocktail parties, they did dress up and needed lots of sparkle to go with the clothes.
Hobé creations tended to feature very intricate metal workmanship (with a variety of metals) and particularly stunning semiprecious stones, as well as faux stones. The pieces are highly noticeable, because they are so well-made and complex. Hobé jewelry of note includes lovely sterling silver floral designs.
The Hobé perhaps discovered and certainly popularized the Majorcan pearl, considered the best faux pearl by many costume jewelry aficionados.
Over the years, Hobé were signed in various ways, and collectors are able to tell the timeframe of when a piece was created by the marks. Very rare Hobé signatures include the word Hobé under a pair of crossed swords and may date the jewelry back to when it was first produced, in France. Also the word Hobé inside a crown, is also believed to be a mark from the first Hobé costume jewelry produced in France.
Jewelry with the Hobé signature is still made currently, but is not associated with the Hobé family.
Collectors find it relatively easy to find Hobé jewelry that is in great condition, because it was so well made. Older rhinestone pieces and also sterling silver pieces are avidly collected. One way to tell the older pieces from newer ones is to look at whether the beads or stones were actually strung.
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.