Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cufflinks - On Your Marks

Carrington & Co. Sapphire and Gold Cufflinks

Carrington & Co. Sapphire and Gold Cufflinks, circa 1930

Antique cufflinks are bright bits of history. They capture the style and elegance of a past time and bring them into the present. By closely examining the design and craftsmanship of a pair of antique cufflinks you can often estimate their age and identify the maker.

It is worthwhile to examine the backs of the cufflinks as closely as the fronts. On the backs, you will often find a wealth of clues about who, where and when the cufflinks were made. You may even discover who first wore the cufflinks and the special occasion on which they were given. To help you unravel these clues, I illustrate the maker's marks of three prominent American cufflink makers.

Carrington & Company

A more detailed discussion of the Carrington maker and precious metal marks can be found at Carrington Cufflinks and Mr. Goldsplat, the Mysterious Jeweler

Founded in 1900 by Charles Carrington, Carrington & Co. created elegant gold and platinum cufflinks and dress sets for five decades. The firm was also renowned for elegant cigarette and vanity cases, lockets and other jewels. Carrington cufflinks and accessories were retailed by many of the finest jewelers of the day including Tiffany & Co and Cartier.

The maker’s mark for Carrington & Company is an angular “C” surrounding a “14” or “18”, the gold purity mark. Platinum cufflinks may be simply marked "PLATINUM".

Carter, Gough & Co.

Originally founded by Aaron Carter in the 1840s, the firm evolved through numerous partnerships and name changes to become Carter, Gough & Co. in 1915. The firm's cufflinks ranged from heavier, gem set jewels during the Victorian era, to intricately engraved gold and platinum links during the 1910s and 20s. Carter, Gough did not survive the economic exigencies of the Great Depression and closed in the early 1930s.

The Carter, Gough maker's mark is an arrowhead surrounding the letter "C". The arrowhead is sometimes misidentified as a spade or carrot. The maker's mark is often preceded by the precious metal marks "14K" and "PLAT".

Krementz & Company

Krementz & Comapny was founded by George Krementz in 1866. In the 150 years since the firm’s founding, the Krementz family has been involved in almost every aspect of jewelry design and manufacturing. In an earlier post I illustrated several Krementz cufflinks in the Art Nouveau style. In the 1920s, the firm was a prolific maker of elegant and distinctive dress sets. Given the longevity and creativity of the firm, it is not an overstatement to speak of the Krementz family as the Bachs of the American jewelry industry.

The maker's mark for Krementz & Co. has been described as a "moustache" and, my favorite, an "upside down two-handle umbrella." In fact, the mark is the profile of a single-piece collar button George Krementz invented in the 1880s. The maker's mark is usually preceded by a precious metal mark (here "14K").

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Platinum and Gold Cufflinks

Carter, Gough & Co. Platinum and Gold Cufflinks
Crafted in platinum and 14kt gold, circa 1920

Fine antique cufflinks have been made in a variety of materials ranging from precious metals to tortoise shell, pearl, ivory, Vulcanite (an early form of hardened rubber), Bakelite and glass. In fact just about any material that imaginative jewelry makers could shape, bend or mold can be found in a pair of cufflinks. Among the precious metals, platinum, gold and silver have been the most popular with palladium, a platinum group metal, making a rare appearance.

Prior to 1900, platinum's high melting point limited the metal's use in fine jewelry and cufflinks. With the development of high-heat torches the limited use of platinum began to melt away. Some of the most striking cufflinks from the early decades of the 20th century elegantly contrast gold and platinum. These two-tone cufflinks sparkle with the warmth of antique gold and cool brilliance of platinum. Here are a few examples.

An exquisite pair of platinum and gold cufflinks from Carter, Gough & Co. During the early decades of the last century, the firm created beautiful cufflinks and dress sets in the sparkling, airy style of the Edwardian period. Carter,Gough cufflinks appear to dance in the light as you move your cuffs. For another example, please revisit the photograph at the top of this post.

Elegant two-tone cufflinks in the bold Art Deco style. These cufflinks feature checker board platinum centers surrounded by engraved and dimpled gold borders. Crafted around 1930, I believe these cufflinks were created by the Chicago jewelers Lebolt & Co. There is something undeniably magical about the cool geometry of Art Deco design.

For more elegant cufflinks crafted in platinum and gold,
please visit our Antique Cufflink Gallery.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Carrington Cufflinks - A Touch of Elegance

Carrington & Company Platinum Cufflinks
Crafted in platinum, circa 1920

Carrington & Company was one of the premier makers of cufflinks in America during the first half of the last century. Founded in 1900 the firm was renowned for creating elegant jewels and accessories for men and women. The firm was based in Newark, New Jersey and produced jewels and cufflinks for the finest jewelers and luxury retailers of the day, including Tiffany & Company. After surviving changing fashions, the Great Depression and two World Wars the firm discontinued operations in 1950.

I must admit to being an unabashed admirer of Carrington cufflinks and dress sets. Working in gold and platinum, the firm excelled at creating simple, balanced designs that were bold without being ostentatious. The cliche "understated elegance" is appropriately applied to Carrington cufflinks. Here are a few of my favorites.

There is something undeniably elegant about brilliant platinum, sparkling diamonds and black Onyx. These Carrington cufflinks feature eight-sided Onyx tops with diamond centers and ornately engraved platinum borders. Truly "Putting on the Ritz!" Crafted in platinum and 14kt gold, circa 1920.

Wonderful Art Deco cufflinks featuring Mother of Pearl centers surrounded by bright-cut platinum borders. The Mother of Pearl centers are beautifully engraved with fine wavy lines. Crafted in platinum and 14kt gold, circa 1930.

Bold Carrington cufflinks with alternating stripes of engraved gold and green enamel. These elegant cufflinks epitomize the classic geometry and primary colors of the Art Deco era. The pair was retailed by Tiffany & Company and is shown with its original box. Crafted in 14kt gold, circa 1935.

Gold Carrington cufflinks that are a nice example of the bolder, more robust Art Deco designs of the late 1930s and 1940s. The dramatic horizontal and vertical stripes are reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionist art of the 1950s. Crafted in 14kt gold, circa 1945.

For more Carrington and beautiful cufflinks by other makers,
please visit our Antique Cufflink Gallery.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

British Cufflinks

Great Britain has a long tradition of creating beautiful and elegant cufflinks. The bespoke jewelry ateliers of London, large manufacturering jewelers in Birmingham, and workshops like Charles Horner in Halifax have all contributed to the history of the British cufflink. Here are two examples from the Edwardian and Art Deco eras.

The Edwardian era created exquisitely crafted cufflinks that seem to float with light, airy opulence. The materials of choice were platinum, pearls and diamonds.

Above is a pair of British cufflinks that exemplify the Edwardian style. Swirling mother-of-pearl centers are surrounded by reeded platinum borders. In the center a small pearl rests in a milgrained platinum collet. These cufflinks are the epitome of the phrase "cool white". Crafted in platinum and 18kt gold, circa 1900.

The tradition of stylish elegance was continued between the first and second World Wars. Many British cufflink makers created beautiful gold or gold-over-silver cufflinks with intricately engraved linear designs. The cufflinks often featured Art Deco motifs, such as rising sunbursts and soaring designs reminiscent of Art Deco sky scrapers.

The links I have chosen to illustrate feature a background of fine diagonal lines overlaid with an engraved diaper (diamond shape) pattern. The main diagonals are intricately engraved with a geometric design reminiscent of an endless stairway in an M.C. Escher print. Crafted in 15kt gold, circa 1930.