Robert DeMario’s jewelry is multilayered and unique in the combinations of materials and techniques he employed. Natural wood, intricate details in mother of pearl, innovative techniques using gold foil, rock crystal and beads gave his work a glamour and boldness that makes his pieces highly desirable still.
If you are looking for vintage Robert DeMario jewelry, you have come to the right place. In this article you will learn about the history, designers, marks, materials, and tips on how to buy.
Brief History of Robert DeMario Jewelry
Robert DeMario was a successful designer of costume jewelry in the 1940s-1960s. What jewelry historians cannot agree on is whether or not he started out designing for Miriam Haskell. At first glance, some of Robert’s beadwork and pearl designs look much like he may have learned them under Haskell’s tutelage. But there is no actual evidence. We do not know much at all about Robert’s life except that he started his career working for other jewelry designers—be it Haskell or any of the myriad others. Of that we are sure. In 1945, he went out on his own and opened Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc. in New York City.
DeMario Jewelry includes necklaces, necklace parures, brooches and pins, though Robert is primarily known for his necklaces, bold works of art with unique clusters of glass beads, faux pearls, and rhinestones wired onto a base of gilt filigree. (Gilt is a thin coating of fine gold leaf or powder applied to a surface such as metal filigree.)
Robert’s beautifully designed and meticulously crafted jewelry arrived on the scene at exactly the right time. In the 1950s, after the restraints imposed during the war years, costume jewelry offered ladies of all socio-economic strata the ability to luxuriously accessorize the more feminine fashions that had come into style. Also, in an age that glorified mass production, Robert was one of the few jewelers who held fast to traditional methods by hand making or hand finishing the pieces that he produced in limited editions.
Robert closed his business in 1965. The comparatively brief production period (1945-1965) and his preference for limited editions make his jewelry rarer today than that of some of his contemporaries and, therefore, in demand among collectors and expensive.
Robert DeMario Jewelry Designers
Robert designed his own jewelry, as far as we know, with one exception and for a brief period of time, Stanley Hagler (who also may or may not have worked for Haskell), an established designer with socialites and celebrities as clients. He and Stanley, planning on going into a partnership in the 1960s, collaborated on a few pieces, but those plans fell through. At one point, Stanley was a guest designer for Robert and Robert was for Stanley.
- “DeMARIO” with or without a copyright symbol
- “DeMARIO N.Y.” with or without a copyright symbol
- “DeMario” in an oval
- “ROBERT deMARIO N.Y.C.
- “Hagler for De Mario" and "Hagler/De Mario" (Please see “Jewelry Designers” section above.)
Note: Do not mistake the marks “Robert” or “Original by Robert” for Robert DeMario marks.
- Colored rhinestones
- Art glass
- Opal-foiled art glass
- Rock crystal
- Faceted opaque
- Dotted satin
- Venetian clear with copper flecks
- Faux pearls
- Baroque pearls
- Mother of pearl
- Faux turquoise, citrine, emerald, garnet
- Silver- and gold-toned metallic
- Gold plate
- Gilded filigree
- Memory wire
Most Collectible Vintage Robert DeMario Jewelry
- Faux Pearl Parure (Necklace, Bracelet and Earrings)
It’s quite a coup to find a full parure DeMario in excellent condition. More so when it is as glamorous as this one that retains a freshness that speaks of springtime and youth. The elaborate design includes gold-tone leaves surrounded by pearls and multi-colored rhinestones. The choker necklace has a 4 ½- inch extension chain. The large earrings are an additional rarity; Robert usually kept to button earrings.
- Green and Gold Demi Parure: Brooch and Earrings
The lush green glass beads against faux pearls, rhinestones and gold gilt leaves mounted on filigree is a unique and stunning brooch. The earrings are complimentary with smaller beads and gold-tone woven edge.
- Three Strand Baroque Pearl Necklace
This baroque pearl necklace is another find to celebrate. The color of the pearls is exquisite, and the different sizes and shapes result in a perfect and ingenious DeMario design.
- Pancake Pearl Necklace
This is rare today and was likely very unusual in its day. The glass pancake pearls in champagne mocha with gold-tone filigree bead caps and channel-set rhinestone rondelles is evidence of Robert’s limitless creativity.
- Pearl Etruscan Style Bracelet
Big and bold, this fabulous bracelet was designed based on the ancient traditions of the Etruscans in ancient Italy. Five rows of different-sized pearls with gold separators and pearls as clusters of flowers with gold-toned leaves.
- Glass Bead Duette Brooch and Earrings
This is a beautiful early DeMario design and a rare demi-parure with rose and green Austrian glass beads, baroque pearls, crystal clear rhinestones in a silver filigree setting. The brooch separates into two dress clips.
Tips for Buying Vintage Robert DeMario Jewelry
- With the rarity of Robert’s jewelry, it can be tempting to grab up whatever piece you find. Do not succumb, because some of his pieces have not held up well. If you see green corrosion (verdigris) on the metal, it is irreversible. You may be able to clean off the green, but there will be black underneath.
- As with any antiques, the appreciation of vintage jewelry depends on availability, region and the economic climate. It is best to buy what you like rather than what you think might make a profit, because that is never a sure thing.
- Know your vendor. If you do not know the vendor, ask around for recommendations. Check the vendor’s reviews and feedback from customers. Make sure you are clear concerning policies for returns and shipping. See our picks for the best costume jewelry shops on Etsy.
- Use a safe method of payment, e.g., PayPal, in case of any disputes.
The more you familiarize yourself with vintage jewelry and the various designers, the more you will (1) enjoy collecting and (2) be comfortable and confident in your dealings. Etsy.com is a treasure trove of everything vintage. Be sure to see Robert DeMario’s pages on Etsy. You can also find vintage Robert DeMario jewelry on eBay.
Happy Vintage Hunting,