by Dr. Lori Verderame
Do you know about Mazer Bros., Benedikt NY and Ben Amun costume jewelry designers? You all know Sarah Coventry, Trifari, Hattie Carnegie, Miriam Haskell, Marvella, Coro, Lisner, Renoir, Matisse, and a whole lot of other costume jewelry designer names. It’s easy to recognize the styles from earrings to bracelets and necklaces to brooches of each individual designer without giving it a second thought. These names mean good quality, fashionable pieces, and a strong showing in the online resale market but what about other costume jewelry designers?
Do you know who you are missing in that jewelry box or online shop of yours? Do you recognize the more obscure but no less beautiful and valuable costume jewelry designer names like Pennino, Loran Sim, Topazio, and others? If you don’t, you should. And there are some other costume jewelry designers whose names should be as common to you as Bluette, Bogoff, or Brightons.
There are three costume jewelry designers that you should know but you probably don’t know. And at the end of this article, I will tell you about a bonus designer that every collector should wear. The three most illusive and marvelous costume jewelry designers are Mazer Bros., Benedikt NY, and Ben Amun. There are other designers that are not as well known either but these three costume jewelry name are not the household names that Trifari is but certainly should be. When it comes to their designs, quality materials, and stylish sets as well as their market prowess, you’ve got to know these three costume jewelry names and learn to recognize their breathtaking pieces.
Mazer Bros. Costume Jewelry
Mazer Bros. or Mazer Brothers were a New York City based designer costume jewelry firm that was in business from 1927 through the Great Depression and World War II and ceased operations in 1952. During a period when costume jewelry was referred to as “Fashion Jewelry”, Mazer Bros. were head and shoulders above the rest. The Mazer look was the precious look in fashion jewelry as their slogan stated.
The Mazer brothers, specifically, were Louis Mazer and Joseph Mazer and they like only some of the designers in this realm of that time period used high quality materials and inspired manufacturing techniques. They used gold plated metals and rhodium plated metals both before and after World War II. They employed sterling silver, imported Austrian crystals, enamel over metal, and vermeil in their designs.
Ribbons and bows, flowers, classic designs were the way of the Mazer Bros. and their designs were highly recognizable and became synonymous with the American pre- and post-war periods. The emerald diamante with gold bow brooch by Mazer Bros. and its sister brooch, the sapphire diamante and silver bow brooch were among the most beloved and well worn pieces of the mid 20th Century with fashionable women. The diamante designs with colorless stones that simulated diamonds were popular and desired by women across the country and beyond. Mazer Bros. used the diamante design in earrings, tennis bracelets, brooches, etc. and it was a mainstay of their design catalogue. Various faux stones were put together by Mazer Bros. with diamante style pieces including faux emerald, aquamarines, rubies and sapphires.
Today, the market for Mazer Bros. pieces range in value from the $250-$1,500 range. Most vintage diamante brooches are worth $300 for the small scale variety pieces and large, bold statement brooches by Mazer Bros. with diamante designs command $500 or more on the vintage costume jewelry market and collectors compete for these pieces in online auctions and collectors groups with vigor.
Benedikt NY Costume Jewelry
Howard Benedikt, the founder of the Benedikt NY costume jewelry firm produced pieces that became the end all, be all of costume jewelry designs in the post war era. Producing pieces from circa 1955-1963 from the firm’s famous 5th Avenue location, Benedikt jewelry was made of high quality materials in the trend of the time. Many compare Benedikt pieces to those of Hattie Carnegie or Miriam Haskell and the famous designer, Kenneth Jay Lane drew some inspiration and ideas from the forms and fashions made famous by Benedikt.
One of Benedikt’s most famous designs is the inspirational Maltese cross brooch boasting color combinations of faux stones like rubies and pearls contrasting with gold tone metal. Benedikt was featured in many publications of the late 1950s to early 1960s and was held up as an esteemed and highly sought-after firm at the time. Today, there is little information on Benedikt NY and the firm’s pieces beyond the Maltese cross brooch but I have appraised many of his pieces and they are nothing short of spectacular.
The most important contribution, I think, that Benedikt made to costume jewelry is in the area of the faux gemstone brooch. In an era when brooches were big, and pins were characterized as something as incidental as bobby or safety, Benedikt NY made designs that highlighted nature and used faux gemstones to the fullest. Popular designs included gold tone metal sculpted in the shape of flower petals with faux pearls in the center, ribbons of silver tone metal wrapping faux jade and faux yet faceted rubies and other colorful faux gemstones.
Starfish and star burst brooches with deep blue topaz rhinestones at the center and stippling or beaded metal were all the rage from Benedikt NY in the late 1950s. The famous Purple heart brooch was popular with American veterans of World War II searching for just the right gift for their army wives living in the post war Levittowns. In addition to the bold oversized purple heart shaped art glass “gem” set into the prongs of a gold tone metal setting, Benedikt NY offered a host of other figural brooches such as angels, pineapples, leaves, etc. that would complete the outfit of the most fashionable women.
Ben Amun Costume Jewelry
Ben Amun is a name that speaks to family lineage and cultural heritage. Isaac Manevitz was born in Egypt and as the brains behind Ben-Amun jewelry, he has been designing and manufacturing high-end fashion jewelry for approximately four decades. Ben Amun is named for the Manevitz’s son, Ben, and for the most famous king of the founder’s Egyptian homeland, King Tutankhamun or King Tut as he is widely known.
The logo for Ben Amun is easily recognizable as in the case of most pieces of good quality costume jewelry and the pieces are hard to forget. The pieces are hand made in New York City. The materials are something to be proud of and are designed as fine jewelry is designed with a high-end client in mind. For instance, a vintage Ben Amun faux pearl and gold tone chain link necklace is stunning. It rivals fine jewelry pieces and the gold tone chain link snakes its way around each pearl shows the firm’s masterful designs and innovative execution. This costume jewelry firm makes the type of pieces that can stand up and stand with fine jewelry in an outfit without fading into the background. If you were to wear this Ben Amun necklace with a real pearl bracelet or earrings pair, many people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the faux and the fine jewelry pieces.
Ben Amun has provided the costume jewelry for some of the world’s most famous necks, wrists, ears like of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassia, model and actress Naomi Campbell, actress Halle Berry, actress Cate Blanchett, super model Kate Moss, actress Anne Hathaway, actress and author Mindy Kaling, actress Sophia Vergara, actress Jane Fonda, actress Sandra Bullock, and many, many others. Ben Amun has made jewelry that appeared on the runway, in major motion pictures, and in music videos. From the music world, Ben Amun designs have been worn by Madonna, Alicia Keyes, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Christina Aguilera to name a few.
What to Look For
No matter the costume jewelry designers of your choice, these three major names –Mazer Bros., Benedikt NY, and Ben Amun—should be part of your growing vintage costume jewelry collection. And if you want to know what to look for when it comes to a good piece of costume jewelry then remember it is much more than what you like. You have to learn to like high quality pieces made well.
It is easy to spot good pieces of costume jewelry if you just look for good quality metal settings first–preferably gold plated or rhodium plated–and then try to unite that with fine faux gemstones or fine Austrian crystals that sparkle like the real thing. Inspirational and well executed artistic designs will seal the deal when it comes to a great piece of costume jewelry. Name brands are very important as the best of these will maintain the high quality materials and manufacturing techniques for all of the costume jewelry designers. The best designers like Mazer Bros., Benedikt NY, and Ben Amun have set the bar high so others can reach for the diamante and faux sapphire stars.
I can also help you identify and value your Mazer Bros., Benedikt NY and Ben Amun costume jewelry during a video call or you can send me photos. Check out the options and get started. Watch videos on my YouTube channel as I show you more tips to appraise your costume jewelry too.