by Dr. Lori Verderame
Founded in 1914, Eisenberg & Sons started a business selling women’s clothing and later turned to costume jewelry design, manufacturing, marketing, and sales in the 1930s. Why did the Eisenberg firm change course? The costume jewelry that was used on store displays to market their clothing lines kept getting stolen.
As a result of this change of course, Eisenberg & Sons produced some of the 20th Century’s most sought after pieces of costume jewelry like other costume jewelry makers such as Miriam Haskell, Matisse, Schreiner, and others. the firm that Jonas Eisenberg and his sons ran was known for attention to detail, new designs, and quality materials in costume jewelry.
Jonas Eisenberg was an Austrian native who relocated to Chicago, IL in the early 1900s. His costume jewelry firm was a big name in the industry however when he started out costume jewelry was the furthest thing from his mind. In fact, Jonas Eisenberg started his business, and a successful business at that, as a women’s clothier in the early decades of the 20th Century. When the tides changed in women’s clothing, Eisenberg moved into costume jewelry designing.
Many Eisenberg pieces were designed by Ruth Kamke of Fallon and Kappel of New York once the two firms had a mutually exclusive agreement from the 1940s to the 1970s. Kamke designed Eisenberg pieces for nearly decades; specifically she designed all of the Eisenberg Original pieces made after 1939 and much of the Eisenberg Ice line of jewelry thru 1972. Many Eisenberg brooches and pins were designed in the form of figures like mermaids, dancers, animals or insects. Some pieces featured geometric Art Deco or organic Art Moderne forms in attractive color combinations featuring pinks and purples, complimentary color pairs, and light and dark colored faceted or cabochon stones from the same color family.
Stones and Metals
Eisenberg jewelry was known for its use of Swarovski crystals set in sterling silver and pot metal using innovative designs. Other materials used were jade, dyed onyx, calcite, enamel, rhinestones, faux pearls, glass beads, etc. Most costume jewelry pieces made by Eisenberg were individually set and many rhinestone pins were comprised of large or very large stones.
Eisenberg costume jewelry designs were known for their high quality, good materials, and fine designs. Eisenberg like many high-end costume jewelry firms hired talented designers to create their pieces. At Eisenberg, Ruth Kamke was the lead designer at the firm. Kamke designed Eisenberg pieces for decades. She was responsible for designing all of the Eisenberg Original line of costume jewelry pieces that were made after 1930 as well as pieces made until 1972 including the popular Eisenberg Ice line of costume jewelry.
Eisenberg was known for it classic styles as well as its whimsical offerings of costume jewelry. Styles like Art Deco, Art Moderne and others were offered to clientele by Eisenberg. Figural mermaids, dancers, animals and insects were the subject of many Eisenberg earrings, brooches, bracelets, and necklaces. Color combinations that contrast or complement were also integrated beautifully in the designs of Eisenberg in the mid 20th Century. Pinks and purple set crystals were the focus of many cluster earrings, clips, and brooches. Light and dark colored faceted faux stones were all the rage. Eisenberg highlighted, in their designs, Swarovski crystals, dyed onyx, calcite, jade, enamel, glass beads, faux pearls, and rhinestones. Eisenberg Ice was a line that highlighted and looked very much like diamonds and the fashion idea surrounding the wearing of diamonds.
What to Look For
When it comes to marks, Eisenberg pieces were easy to spot by their mark. While some Eisenberg pieces were unmarked, the majority of pieces by the Eisenberg firm retained a clear and identifiable mark. The mark related directly to the Eisenberg firm’s name, however, the mark changed over the years.
From circa 1935 to 1948, Eisenberg used a script or cursive “E” or “Eisenberg Original” to mark its pieces of costume jewelry. From 1945 to 1958, the bold all capital lettered “EISENBERG” mark would be found. After 1955, Eisenberg added the all important copyright symbol to its firm name mark to protect its designs from copyright infringement.
By the late 1950s to the 1970s, the firm changed to using an Eisenberg paper hang tag which often times makes it problematic to identify a mid 20th century Eisenberg piece. Eisenberg pieces are recognizable by its style, however, marks make it easy for collectors to confirm the authenticity of an Eisenberg piece.
In the 1960s to the 1970s, there was a new mark introduced for a new line of costume jewelry pieces based on the high end fashion pieces of the elite class called “Eisenberg Ice”. Suggestive of high end diamond jewelry in the costume jewelry manner, Eisenberg Ice pieces were clearly marked and immediately recognizable. They were very popular with clients, too. Eisenberg, like other firms, occasionally used sterlin silver in their settings. These pieces were marked “Eisenberg sterling.” Like the costume jewelry pieces, the original Eisenberg & Sons blue velvet boxes are also sought after and valuable with collectors and resellers.
Get an online appraisal of your Eisenberg costume jewelry piece from Dr. Lori.