If you are looking to add some Lisner costume jewelry to your collection, you have come to the right place. Here you will learn about the history, jewelry marks, materials used, most collectible pieces, and tips on how to buy.
There was a time when Lisner jewelry was the quintessential “junk jewelry,” selling for $1 to $5 back in the day. but the pieces were cleverly designed and well made. For the past several years, it has greatly increased in value, particularly the pieces produced in the 1950s and 1960s. Collectors came to realize that the clever shapes and bright colors of the company's cheaply made plastic leaves and baubles possess a unique beauty.
Brief History of Lisner Jewelry
David Lisner and his family emigrated to New York City in 1864. His father had been a merchant in Germany, and in 1869, he and his two brothers went into business selling fine goods imported from Europe (e.g., jewelry, hatpins, crystal giftware). David continued that tradition. From 1904 to his death in 1923, David and his cousin Saul owned and operated the D. Lisner Company selling jewelry imported from Europe wholesale, particularly Elsa Schiaparelli’s Parisian jewelry.
As the storm clouds of war gathered across Europe, it became difficult to impossible to import jewelry. To stay in business, the Lisner company would have to produce jewelry domestically. Fortuitously, Urie Mandle, a jewelry company owner, joined Lisner as a full partner. He moved the company to Providence, Rhode Island, a hub of jewelry manufacturing and built a retail jewelry shop there selling only “Made in America” jewelry for every taste and budget.
Another timely happening brought the Lisner company into its own: the invention of Lucite by the DuPont Company in 1931. The colored acrylic plastic was perfect for the Art Deco styles of the day. The company designed their own trendy jewelry lines with the Lucite, clear and colored rhinestones, iridescent rhinestones (such as the Aurora Borealis by Swarovski), lava stones and chrome, silver plate and lustrous black lacquered metals.
In 1953, Victor Ganz, the son of Saul, became president of Lisner. He brought with him an innate sense of aesthetics and impeccable taste honed by his life-long interest in art. He oversaw both the manufacturing and creative processes.
In the 1960s, Lisner jewelry had clean, sharp edges and a tendency toward the geometric and drew its inspiration from nature with leaves, flowers. Other notable Lisner designs featured translucent, plastic “jelly” leaves.
In the 1970s, Lisner bought the Richelieu Pearl Company and became “Lisner-Richelieu,” producing jewelry that would rank among the best of the time. In 1979, Victoria Creations bought Lisner-Richelieu, and by 1985, the jewelry no longer bore the Lisner name.
Sidney Welicky is the only designer whose name appears in the Lisner archives. When he retired in the 1960s, Victor Ganz, president of the company, and his Vice President of Product Development, Iraida Garey became the designers. With Ganz’s artistic talents, he also designed very successful retail packaging and advertising.
Although early Lisner designs were produced by others, they bore a Lisner mark. The marks were used year after year, which sometimes makes it difficult to determine the exact age of a piece.
- "LISNER" in block was the mark first used in 1935.
- "Lisner" in script was first used in 1938.
- “LISNER ©” in block with the copyright symbol was used after 1955.
- "Lisner" in script letters with a long L in a circle was used most often in and after 1959.
Materials Used in Lisner Jewelry
Lisner employed the DuPont Company’s invention of colored acrylic plastic, Lucite. Large, clear cabochons (stones shaped and polished into a smooth, convex top with a flat bottom) of Lucite were used to imitate rock crystals and to form “jelly” jewelry, such as translucent leaves and flowers.
They used thermoset Lucite jewelry in the 1950s-1960s, because it could be opaque or translucent and molded into almost any shape. It could have objects embedded into it, things such as abalone, shells, confetti or glitter.
Clear and colored rhinestones, particularly Aurora Borealis, iridescent rhinestones by Swarovski.
Lava stones, cooled volcanic lava from deep inside the earth, that can absorb essential oils so that its healing powers are contained within the jewelry you are wearing.
Chrome plating, invented in 1924, is the electroplating of a thin layer of metal. The bright, shiny metal was popular in jewelry and home décor during the Art Deco era.
Far less expensive but equally decorative as sterling silver, silver plate is a thin layer of sterling over another metal, such as nickel.
Black Japanned Metal
Metal finished with a lustrous, black lacquer, originally developed to imitate the lacquer objects imported from Japan to Europe in the late sixteenth century.
Most Collectible Lisner Jewelry
- One of the most coveted vintage Lisner lines is the molded plastic oak-leaf jewelry which was only produced for five years in the 1960s. The Sculpted Oak Leaf set is translucent molded plastic that looks good enough to eat!
- Some of the rarer sets are multi-colored; for example, the set called “Spring Frost” was created in different shades of gray, while the red oak leaf sets were made in a variety of colors. A red maple leaf set of necklace, bracelet and earrings sold for a record price of $610. The maple leaf sets come in at least 15 colors and myriad shapes. Some of the colors and shapes are quite rare, but it makes hunting them really fun—especially when you find them!
- Purple colored Lisner Jelly jewelry is rare, as well as the “pink strawberry” set. If you find any, you have hit the jackpot.
- Lastly are the Lisner floral sets.
Note: Individual pins or necklaces without matching bracelets or earrings are more affordable but not nearly as collectible or valuable as complete sets.
Tips on Buying Lisner Jewelry Online
- Even if you are certain that you have found a genuine Lisner, make sure that it is in good condition. Watch out for the vendors who try to convince you that wear and tear is only natural with vintage jewelry.
- Verify the signature via high-quality photos.
- Check the vendor’s reviews and feedback from customers.
- Read the vendor’s "Shipping and Return Policies."
- Ask for a guarantee of authenticity.
- Use a safe method of payment, e.g., PayPal, in case of any disputes.
Where to Shop for Vintage Lisner Jewelry
I enjoy shopping on Etsy and eBay for vintage jewelry. The selection is huge, you can message sellers, read reviews, and sort your searches by categories to make it easier to find what you are looking for.
Be sure to visit the Lisner page on Etsy. There is an absolutely phenomenal selection of vintage Lisner jewelry. Etsy is a great place to find vintage jewelry of all kinds. The site is easy to navigate and facilitates communication between you and the vendors. A big plus is supporting small businesses in this “big box” world!
Let me know if you have any questions, I am here to help!