Eisenberg Jewelry is among the finest costume jewelry ever made and a favorite of many collectors. The quality is exceptional in design, materials and workmanship. In fact, the workmanship was so superior that the jewelry has held up really well throughout the years. As have the designs that are as fashionable today as they were when they were created.
If you are looking to add vintage Eisenberg jewelry to your collection, you have come to the right place. Here we will cover the history, materials, marks, and tips on how to buy.
Brief History of Eisenberg Jewelry
Jonas Eisenberg immigrated from Austria, settled in Chicago, and, in 1914, opened Eisenberg & Sons, Inc. specializing in high-end ladies fashions. The store was struggling during the 1930s, and Jonas came up with a genius marketing plan: brilliant, bold pins and brooches that complemented the fashions. The idea exceeded all expectations, and the jewelry became more popular than the dresses. In 1940, Jonas and his son Sam opened Eisenberg Jewelry, Inc., where, in addition to the pins and brooches, they carried fur clips, clip earrings, screw earrings, bracelets and choker necklaces.
Initially, the Eisenberg jewelry was made by Agnini & Singer of Chicago, but when the Eisenbergs launched a jewelry line separate from its fashions, it was produced by Fallon & Kappel (F&K), the two companies eventually becoming exclusive: Eisenberg jewelry was only made by F&K; F&K only made Eisenberg Jewelry—until the mid-1970s when F&K closed. After that, we have no idea who made the jewelry.
In 1969, Karl Eisenberg, Sam’s son, took over the company; and in the 1970s, he was responsible for the extremely popular “Artist Series”: jewelry designed by many of the leading artists of the day, including Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso. Also in the 1970s, Eisenberg enamel clip earrings were very popular, as well as bows, flowers, cascading rhinestones and pronged clips of kings and queens.
In 1977, Eisenberg Jewelry merged with Berns-Friedman, a jewelry maker for mid-level department stores. The company went out of business in 2011.
Fun Fact: Eisenberg Ice was in many movies at the height of Hollywood glamour, and the studios still have the pieces in their costume departments.
Eisenberg Jewelry Designers
- For a time, Agnini & Singer and Reinad Novelty Co. (perhaps others) designed and manufactured jewelry for Eisenberg.
- In 1943, F&K began making the jewelry exclusively, and Ruth Kamke was the designer. Ruth designed for Eisenberg more than 30 years. She started as a teenager and worked until the 1970s. Ruth created almost all of the Eisenberg Originals made after 1939 and also the Eisenberg Ice until 1972. She designed literally thousands of pieces.
- After that, there were several designers on the F&K staff, but we have no particular name.
- In the 1940s, a collection of turquoise pieces were designed by artisans in Mexico.
- The “Artist Series” was designed by Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso.
- The first pieces of jewelry were not hallmarked.
- 1938 to 1942: “Eisenberg Original”
- 1943 and 1944: “Eisenberg Original Sterling”
- 1944 to 1948: “Eisenberg Sterling”
- 1945 to 1950: "EISENBERG"
- Late 40s to early 50s: the letter “E”
- 1949 to 1958: “Eisenberg Ice” in block letters
- 1958 to 1970: most pieces not marked
- 1970: “Eisenberg Ice” in script
- From 1977 when the company merged to the early 1990s: the mark was replaced with a removable hanging ID tag
- 1994: “Eisenberg Ice” was reissued with the addition of “94” to differentiate it from the older pieces
Examples of Eisenberg Marks
- Swarovski rhinestones mostly in white but also in a few colors
- Rhinestones imported from Czechoslovakia and Austria (in bell shape, pear, round, marquise, emerald, oval)
- Poured, blown and molded glass
- Rhodium plate metal
- Sterling silver
Most Collectible Vintage Eisenberg Jewelry
- Christmas pins are in high demand. The glitter of the rhinestones fit right in with Christmas decorations. Trees, snowmen, Santa—the Christmas theme resulted in Eisenberg masterpieces.
- Due to World War II, crystals were no longer available from Europe. They were replaced with domestic pressed-glass stones. Ruth Kamke designed amazing figurals (e.g., women, animals, mermaids) with these stones, and they are very rare today.
- Pieces made with sterling silver are highly prized, especially the matched sets of necklaces and earrings. They were only made during the war, because base metals were needed for the war effort.
- Special sterling silver pieces include those set with a type of quartz called citrine, named “topaz quartz” by Eisenberg. A few very unusual pieces with topaz quartz were made in 14-carat gold.
- Also during the war, turquoise and jade were set in 10-karat gold-plated pieces made by artisans in Mexico.
- The items in the “Artist Series” of the 1970s have no rhinestones. Instead the pieces are enameled, some with geometric or abstract designs, other with hand-painted sunflowers, water lilies, purple trees, and the like.
- Eisenberg brooches that tell stories, such as “Puss in Boots” and “Piggy Goes to Market.”
How to Spot Fake Eisenburg Jewelry
Beware! There are many fake Eisenberg pieces because of their popularity—so many that there are items that only an expert or veteran collector can determine authenticity. Here are some tips on how to spot fake Eisenburg jewelry:
- Examine the construction. Shoddy workmanship is a dead giveaway that the piece is a fake. The quality and attention to detail in Eisenberg jewelry was impeccable.
- A misspelled hallmark or one that is “off” in any way is a great clue.
- Check that the size of the piece is accurate. Copies are often larger than the originals.
- A fake piece of Eisenberg jewelry might have plating that is too “loud” or plastic instead of glass stones.
- Original vintage factory and designer names are almost always die stamped, not cast. Most fake and reproduction mountings are one-piece castings; originals are mostly assembled from many parts soldered together.
- Use a black light to check for glued stones and glue used in assembly. Originals will not be glued.
Tips for Buying Vintage Eisenberg Jewelry
Best way to avoid knock-offs is to work with a reliable vendor.
- Check the vendor’s reviews and feedback from customers.
- Read the vendor’s "Shipping and Return Policies."
- Find out if the vendor will give you a guarantee of authenticity.
From around 1958 to 1975, most Eisenberg jewelry was not hallmarked. That’s a lot of jewelry. It would be a shame to miss out on some fabulous collectibles because you are depending on the mark. True, the mark is the “first line of defense” in thwarting the unscrupulous, but there are ways to identify Eisenberg without a mark. For instance, you can check out the Eisenberg ads from that period and go to antique fairs and vintage jewelry shops to examine real Eisenberg jewelry, particularly the backs.
Tell me what you love about Eisenberg Jewelry in the comment section below! And let me know if you have any questions, I'd love to help 🙂