Schreiner Jewelry has a long history in fashion. As the premier costume jewelry of its time, there are many collectors today willing to pay top dollar for these well crafted pieces. This is the subject of recently published book, Schreiner, by Eve Townsend and Carole Tanenbaum. With a collection of over thirty thousand jewels, dating from the Victorian era to today, Carole has the eye and the connections to acquire existence jewels while Eve holds a degree in art history and fashion studies, with a sincere passion for research. Together they made a great team bringing this book to fruition. I was fascinated by the history and story behind the brand at their recent book launch held at Rizzoli.
The researcher of this dynamic duo, Eve, was happy to divulge the following and more:
What inspired your interest in this subject?
- Jewelry created by Schreiner was truly ahead of its time. The company experimented with unconventional color formats, unusual construction methods, custom European-made stones, and oversized designs. Schreiner pieces are total conversation starters. They were worn by celebrities, paired with the high-fashion runway collections, and enjoyed by thousands of well-dressed customers! Their distinct bold designs remain fashionable to this day and have really stood the test of time.
What were the major challenges in bringing this book to fruition?
- Our biggest challenge was the lack of information available on Schreiner. While their over-the-top designs are often included in books devoted to costume jewelry, Schreiner jewels are usually accompanied by limited text. Luckily, by sleuthing through various archives, I was able to find an address that eventually led me to members of the Schreiner family. Their family archive (a researcher’s dream!) was filled with vintage magazine covers and advertisements, family and factory photographs, and of course jewelry — all of which shed light onto this remarkable company and allowed us to bring their story to the public.
This brand has had a long and storied history; what were you most surprised to learn while digging into the history of the brand?
- We uncovered so many surprises along the way. One that comes to mind is that founder, Henry Schreiner, began the company in 1932 (far earlier than we had initially suspected!) and his daughter, Theresa and son-in-law, Ambros Albert continued to run the business until 1975. As a result, their earliest designs are small sterling silver and marcasite pieces that we would never have thought were Schreiner. Also, unbeknownst to us, it was Ambros Albert who was responsible for the majority of designs known to collectors today as “Schreiner.”
What impact would you say has the brand had on current fashion in both jewelry and clothing?
- Interestingly, their designs are still replicated today. Members of the Schreiner family joke that founder, Henry Schreiner, used to say “If they stop copying you, then you’ve really lost your touch.” But their bold use of color and willingness to experiment were their strongest assets and these are characteristics that great designers of any medium share. Plus, with a growing interest in sustainable fashions, vintage garments and accessories are a stylish option for those who desire to be environmentally conscious while obtaining a unique look!
What do you think keeps collectors interested in these pieces?
- Seasoned collectors often have an eye for quality and a sense for originality of design. Schreiner’s experimental creations and quality materials paired with a seemingly endless variety of designs has kept collectors hunting for Schreiner jewels, which they’ve either never seen before or for favored designs in different color formats.
What are your best tricks or tips for those looking to expand their collection or to start collecting?
- Buy what you love! Both Carole and I feel strongly that people should wear and enjoy their collections. While on the hunt, make sure to look carefully at both the front and the back of a design. The back of a piece will provide valuable information on how the piece was constructed, the quality of the materials used, and whether or not it has a maker’s mark. For new collectors, there are wonderful books on costume jewelry that can help in identifying the collectability of specific designers and pieces.
What is the brand most well known for?
- Large three-dimensional designs, the use of lots of color, inverted or “upside down” set crystals, statement bib necklaces, and incredible brooches – they could really make a pin!
What is the personal impact this process and book has had on you?
- This book has been a remarkable journey for us. To have had the opportunity to share an illustrated history of the Schreiner Jewelry Company through Carole’s extensive collection, supplemented by ephemera and early designs from the Schreiner Family Archive, along with their fascinating backstory has been a true gift.Members of the Schreiner family were able to attend our launch at Rizzoli Bookstore, which was a highlight for us all.
What is one thing that you would like readers to take away?
- That every jewel tells a story – these pieces are inexplicably linked to the individuals who wore and enjoyed them, to those who designed them, and to those that sold them. When you wear vintage, you really are wearing a piece of history!