Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cufflinks of the Mysterious "Fleur-de-lys" Maker

Cufflinks of the Mysterious
"Fleur-de-lys" Maker

Cufflinks of the mysterious "Fleur-de-lys" maker, circa 1925.

The Stamping Act of 1906 required that makers of gold and silver jewels in the United States mark their pieces with the purity of the precious metals. But it was not until 1961 that American jewelry manufacturers were required to sign their pieces with a maker's mark. As a result, there is a body of fine cufflinks created in the first half of the 20th century that are unattributed. The anonymous makers of these beautiful cufflinks have been nicknamed the "Mystery Makers."

Frequent readers of this blog are aware of my interest in the Mystery Makers. This month I feature several striking cufflinks from an unidentified cufflink maker who favored distinctive Fleur-de-lys brackets. The aptly named "Fleur-de-Lys" maker created richly engraved platinum and gold cufflinks in the years around 1925. At the top of this note is a wonderful example with intricately engraved platinum centers flanked by black enamel accents and surrounded by bold zigzag borders.

Fleur-de-lys maker cufflinks, circa 1925.

The Fleur-de-lys maker united jazzy, dramatic borders with intricately engraved centers in a pleasing fusion of Edwardian and Art Deco design. The bold borders beautifully balance the engraved designs and are an integral part of the overall design. All to often borders appear to have been added to cufflinks as an afterthought merely to relieve the plainness of an unfinished edge.

The above Fleur-de-lys maker cufflinks have jazzy Art Deco borders and radiant engraved star burst centers that capture the excitement of the era. They would have been the perfect accessory for an elegant affair at Jay Gatsby's.

Fleur-de-lys Bracket maker cufflinks, circa 1925.

In addition to dramatic borders and intricately engraved centers, the Fleur-de-lys maker favored unusual shapes. Traditionally cufflink makers favored soft, rounded shapes so a cuff could be easily dressed. The design dicta was to avoid obtruding edges and sharp corners that might catch while a cufflinks was being passed through a buttonhole. The most common cufflink profiles were circles, ovals and rectangles with the corners rounded or cut away.

In contrast the Fleur-de-lys maker favored marquises, navettes and hydrid shapes with right angles and unsoftened corners. The unique cufflinks have elegantly jagged profiles that speak to the Art Deco fascination with technology, an embracing of the Machine Age. Given the striking beauty of the cufflinks, any difficulty slipping one through a recalcitrant buttonhole is well worth the effort.

Reverse of Fleur-de-lys maker cufflinks.

Several of the Mystery Makers are known by the distinctive linkages - brackets, bridges and cross bars - they employed. In earlier posts I have written about the Winged Bridge and Acanthus Bridge makers.

The nickname "Fleur-de-lys maker" derives from the elegant, flowing brackets which help secure this maker's cufflinks on the cuff. The bases of the brackets are reminiscent of an iris in bloom. The Fleur-de-lys maker also utilized a distinctive crossbar marked "PLAT." and "14K" for the precious metals.

Fleur-de-lys maker crossbar.

Next month we will discuss several of the clues that
may be followed to identity an unknown maker.

For more information about these and other fine cufflinks
please visit the Antique Cufflink Gallery.

Cufflinks of the mysterious Fleur-de-lys maker, circa 1925.

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