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If you are looking to add some vintage McClelland Barclay jewelry to your collection, you have come to the right place. You will learn about the history, marks, materials, and tips on how to buy.
McClelland Barclay was an artist: painter, illustrator, sculptor and jewelry designer. He was famous for his illustrations that appeared on popular magazines and movie posters. Today, he is equally famous for his bold costume jewelry, among the best ever made. It is also extremely rare and coveted by collectors.
Brief History of McClelland Barclay Jewelry
McClelland Barclay was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1891. A talented painter, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC, and the Art Students League in New York City. His teachers encouraged him to concentrate on illustration, and soon his works were appearing on the nation’s most popular magazines: Collier's, Redbook, Saturday Evening Post, The Ladies' Home Journal and Cosmopolitan. He later gained even more fame as the go-to guy for movie posters.
He was a prolific artist and sculpted utilitarian items, such as trays, bowls and bookends. Lesser known at the time was his costume jewelry, but it is highly regarded today and a sought-after collectible. In the late 1930’s, McClelland established a small company, the McClelland Barclay Art Products Corporation, to produce his jewelry as well as the household items.
McClelland had three styles of jewelry: gold- or silver-plated Art Deco and Art Moderne pieces studded with rhinestones in the 1930s; intricate sterling silver jewelry, including the sterling vermeil pieces, in the 1940s; and pieces fashioned from unadorned metal, such as his “Wings” series, floral brooches and horse head brooches.
Always the patriot, McClelland created recruiting posters for the Navy as soon as the country entered World War II. As a member of the Naval Reserve, he served as a combat artist. On July 18, 1943, he died while on active duty on a ship in the Solomon Islands that was torpedoed by the Japanese.
- “McClelland Barclay”
- “STERLING SILVER/McClelland Barclay"
- Partial signatures, including “Clelland Barclay,” “nd Barclay,” “cClelland Barclay,” “lelland B,” and “McClelland B”
Please note: To distinguish McClelland Barclay pieces from Barclay (no connection), the latter company’s mark is almost always in script. Also, the "a" in McClelland Barclay’s last name is like a keyboard "a”; the "a" in "Barclay" (the other company) is a cursive "a."
- Rhinestones: red, blue, green, purple, yellow and clear only
- Gold plate
- Sterling silver
Most Collectible VIntage McClelland Barclay Jewelry
Pieces from the "Wings" series in gold and silver plate.
An intricately detailed sterling silver horse bracelet depicting four foals in all their youthful grace and energy—not only a significant design by McClelland Barclay but also important in the overall genre of antique horse jewelry.
The “Carmen Miranda” Brooch in sterling silver with yellow- and rose-gold coating—quintessentially “camp.” (Carmen Miranda was a Brazilian entertainer and movie star best known for the huge pile of fruit that she wore on her head.)
The Art Deco “Fruit Salad” Brooch and matching necklace feature a swirling spray of large glass stones in the colors of precious gems (the “fruit salad”) accented with milgrain on gold- and silver-toned metal.
An Art Deco wide rhodium and gold-plated bangle bracelet with a hinged closure and push release—sapphire blue and sparkling clear rhinestones in a silver-tone setting.
An Art Deco sterling silver pendant necklace displaying a stylized rendition of a water lily, lily pad and several buds, as well as a very similar wishing well pendant.
Multi Leaf Bracelet with a maple leaf design and hundreds of pave-set rhinestones: a large gold-tone leaf in the middle with two sets of smaller rhodium-plated outside leaves. Even the push clasp fastener is decorated with a strip of rhinestones.
Tips for Buying Vintage McClelland Barclay Jewelry
- Since jewelry was not McClelland’s primary artistic endeavor, his pieces are very rare. It has been said that if you come across a real McClelland Barclay piece, don’t hesitate or it’ll be soon gone.
- Probably the most difficult aspect of the hunt for McClelland Barclay is the confusion caused by the Barclay Company that has no connection to McClelland Barclay. It’s possible that Barclay was established as a homage to McClelland or its founder may have wanted to take advantage of any assumed connection.
- McClelland’s rhinestones are limited to one shade of blue, red, green, purple, yellow or clear. If a piece has rhinestone colors such as turquoise, peridot, lavender, pink and other pastels, it is a Barclay piece.
- McClelland Barclay jewelry does not contain pearls, lacy filigree or enamel work.
- Pay attention to the findings. Earrings have screw backs. Rare exception: the sterling vermeil clip back. Brooch clips have holes in the back or two curved prongs.
- The safest way to be assured of quality and a fair price is to deal with vendors who you or an associate has dealt with before and know are reputable. If it is a vendor who is new to you, do your due diligence in checking the person out. “Googling” is a great background check, though not always comprehensive. Look for reviews and comments left by previous customers.
- Get everything in writing. It’s not a sign of distrust; it’s a safeguard for the vendor also.
- Use a safe method of payment (e.g., PayPal, Apple Pay, or Venmo) in case of any disputes.
Where to Shop for Vintage McClelland Barclay Jewelry
Etsy and Ebay are both good sources for finding vintage McClelland Barclay jewelry. Head over to Etsy’s McClelland Barclay pages for a look at a variety of pieces. Another place to shop is Ebay, where you can find a selection of McClelland Barclay bracelets, as well as McClelland Barclay brooches.
McClelland Barclay costume jewelry is among the most interesting collectibles, not least because his artistic talents flowed from one medium to another and back again. Also, his jewelry carries with it memories of important eras in American history. His big, bold Art Deco pieces in glorious colors reflect the post-World War I euphoria and the Roaring Twenties. Many of his pieces in the 1940s awaken in us the patriotism that reigned during World War II.
You can go have a look and a wonderful overview of some of McClelland’s designs on Etsy’s McClelland Barclay pages. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below, I always answer!