Want Vintage Alexis Kirk Jewelry? Learn about history, jewelry marks, materials used, collectible pieces, and where to buy.
Alexis Kirk’s jewelry was influenced by his great interest in the spiritual, the occult and ethnic cultures. His materials were as exotic, e.g.. bamboo, shells, cork, which he expertly combined with traditional metals and stones.
Brief History of Alexis Kirk Jewelry
Alexis Kirk was born in 1936 in Los Angeles but grew up in New England. His father was an artist for Walt Disney, and his grandfather was a jewelry designer and a glass craftsman for René Lalique.
Alexis studied art at Harvard University and the Rhode Island School of Design, after which he became a lecturer in painting, sculpture and music at the University of Tennessee. He began making jewelry in Tennessee. He make his first piece for himself: a collar of Islamic glass beads and assorted charms. His early work was defined by symbols drawn from cultures and religions around the word, such as the hamsa, Indian Paisley motifs, and Chinese fish.
He opened a small studio in Newport, Tennessee, where his designs were very popular. News of his work made it to New York City, and he was hired to design a budget-priced line of jewelry for the Hattie Carnegie company. The line was a failure, but he moved to NYC to open his own business.
His reputation soared when his first collection won the Coty American Fashion Critics' Award in 1970. His clients then came from the upper echelons of society. Since his artistic proclivities seemed to have no bounds, he then went into fashion design, primarily to create clothing that served as a worthy background for his jewelry. Both his fashions and his jewelry then were influenced by medieval designs.
Alexis’s jewelry has the highest quality materials and meticulous craftsmanship often with huge, vibrant stones in dazzling colors. Many designs included his talent for sculpture: elaborate and intriguing shapes.
Alexis’s costume jewelry was sold through exclusive retail outlets and is highly collectible. His clients included the Duchess of Windsor, Jacqueline Kennedy and Cher. He made many elephant-themed pieces worn during the 1980s by the wives of Republican leaders, such as Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.
Alexis continued designing through the 1980s. He had a retail organization called Dream Diamonds Online until he died in May 2010.
Alexis Kirk Jewelry Marks
- Alexis Kirk (script) ©
- Alexis © Kirk
- Gold tone metal
- Japanned metal (metal coated with a lustrous black lacquer)
- Colored glass stones
- Colored crystal
- Colored beads
- Simulated pearls
- Tiger cowrie shells
Favorite Collectibles: Vintage Alexis Kirk Jewelry
1970s. This brooch is fashioned from antiqued gold-color metal trimmed with clear and silver rhinestones and featuring four faceted black rhinestones. Measurements: 2 inches by 2 inches.
1970s. This choker necklace features white resin beads and a cream enamel centerpiece accented with large tear-drop-shaped rhinestones and a gold metal trim. Measures 14 inches.
1980s. The embossed black leather belt has a gold-tone frog closure. The belt is adjustable from 22 inches to 33.5 inches.
Tips for Buying Vintage Alexis Kirk Jewelry
- Find out as much as you can. Knowledge is power! Do your own research and ask the dealer questions, such as who owned the piece in the past, how did he acquire it, etc.
- Antique jewelry stores are always fun outlets for collectors as are estate sales and auctions. Many people do not realize these events are open to the public. Go, try things on, ask questions—it’s all to your advantage as your collection grows.
- Since Alexis was so focused on spirituality, it would add to your interest in a particular piece by knowing the meanings behind the symbols, such as:
- The hamsa symbolizes the hand of God, bestowing blessings or in supplication depending on the direction of the hand. Either way, it brings the wearer happiness, health and good fortune.
- The Italian horn wards off the “evil eye.”
- In China, the fish symbol refers to our higher selves and feelings, an awareness of innate intelligence. The fish is also one of the first symbols of Christianity, a way for early Christians to identify themselves secretly. In Islamic tradition, it is a symbol of eternal life. In Judaism, the fish wards off the evil eye and brings good fortune.
- Look at a piece very carefully and, when possible, in person. Too often costume jewelry is not treated as well as fine jewelry, so you may find worn plating, cloudy rhinestones, missing parts, scratched or chipped enamel and the like. Also, repairs can result in sloppy soldering and haphazard stone replacements.
- An excellent dealer will send you a piece to look at on approval. If it's not what you expected it to be, you can send it back.
- Be patient. You cannot build an enviable collection overnight. It is better to have three exquisite Alexis Kirks than nine of lesser quality or questionable origin.
Alexis Kirk jewelry is among the most dramatic and symbolic costume jewelry. In addition to the beauty of the piece and the high, high quality of materials and craftsmanship, there is the rich symbolism, sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle, to discover, understand and take to heart.