The Design House Of Eisenberg
On this page you'll find the labels, hardware, and marks of all the Eisenberg Years - the links will take you to the rest
Despite the common knowledge of Eisenberg as originally a dressmaker that went into jewelry, Eisenberg was actually a full design house for at least a decade - producing clothing, jewelry, accessories, and cosmetics including a number of successful perfumes.
I don't want to take away from Sharon's book, so there are details and facts that I'll skip posting here until the book has been out for some time. But there are a few things that I have that didn't make it into the book, many pieces that people have that obviously won't be shown there, and I'm sure there are a lot of people who will have questions about the facts and details in the book that I'll be happy to answer or clarify. And some things are shown or mentioned on other sites already so I don't think there is any harm in covering them here.
Below you'll find the labels, marks, and hardware of the company.
The Founding Of Eisenberg
When Eisenberg & Sons was founded in Chicago in the 1920s they were just dressmakers, but saying "just" doesn't do them justice. Their dresses were considered some of most elegant and individual in America. By the end of the 1920s they were sought after by discerning women across the country, and due to their designer, Irma Kirby, they were a national success. This had taken carefully marketing and the targeting of exclusive stores shopped by the most stylish women.
Their first clothing label in the 1920s does not bear the cursive signature we are accustomed to later seeing but rather a stylized script signature in a thin strip. It was then extended to a taller version with room for their logo image.
Very Early Eisenberg & Sons Original label Courtesy of Deborah Burke from AntiqueDress.com - an amazing vintage clothing site of museum quality fashions and accessories. Some of the prettiest pieces on the web - go check it out. In addition to pieces for sale she has a museum archive of sumptuous creations that have passed through her hands.
Their designer, Irma Kirby, was considered a rare American trend-setter, standing independent of the overseas influences dominating the style scene. Irma began with the company in its Chicago founding and when Harold and Sam took over in 1928, and they officially became Eisenberg & Sons Inc., she was awarded a Vice Presidency and given stock. Though she herself was an immigrant like Jonas, she designed exclusively for the American woman she knew and the design attributes they loved; always adding her own personal touch. Eisenberg would take advantage of Irma's renown in ads for her one-of-a-kind dresses. There's an absolutely fascinating story of a falling out between her and the company that I'll go through later.
She would have her own signature label that would be used on "Autographed Originals" or custom made pieces.
This is an Irma Kirby label from a dress in my own collection.
Yes an iron would smooth it out, but I'm terrified of harming the dress.
The Suwanee Ensembles line would be introduced as the company embraced a broader spectrum of clothing, and adapted to the more practical needs and desires of their clientele. It would feature clothing of more durable fabrics, colorfast dyes, and that were easy to wash. They had their own label for this line highlighting the cotton dresses it was founded on. Not the most politically correct label, cotton picking, but not out of place for the times.
Shown with thanks to the owner of the dress; which is in the book and will be shown here later on.
The earlier version of the label.
I'll post the pictures of this dress of mine soon. Thank you Sharon for getting it back to me!
Yes, Irma Kirby would also specifically design some of the Suwanee Ensembles Pieces - meaning that some of the easy-care items would have been limited edition outfits, or even one of a kind customs. Sadly this label was attached to a dress that had a lot of problems, but I was allowed to show it here even though I passed on purchasing it.
After the time of the first Suwanee label comes the next shift in Eisenberg labeling. In both black and white versions the label now has their gowned lady logo included.
The black version is from a print ad, I'll replace with one from a garment when I get one photographed, or someone donates the image.
The Eisenberg & Sons Original label stops being shown on ads in the 1940s and the clothing is simply advertised with the cursive "Eisenberg Originals" that is also now the label on the clothing. There is also just the one line of clothing that now includes full wardrobe options of all kinds of materials.
"Eisenberg Originals" is also how the accessories are marked.
The Scarves are also marked Eisenberg Originals or Eisenberg Original, and the story of these scarves is fascinating so check back as I'll try to tell it soon.
Eisenberg Suburbans Label - introduced in 1949 the Suburban line would span the clothing, the perfume, and the jewelry. It would be a line evolving with the times and the changing roles and needs of women, more serious, less sparkly in some ways. It took me forever to get a copy the ad this label is cut from, however it's the ONLY place I've ever seen the label. If you have a piece of clothing that actually has this label, PLEASE SHARE IT. I find it interesting the clothing has the s on the end of Suburban.
Eisenberg begins accessorizing their clothing with rhinestones, embellishments, and embroidery in the 1920s, along with many designers of the day. But Eisenberg would be working with one of the finest companies of the time - Agnini & Singer, and the embellishments would be jeweled delights; from glittery buttons and buckles to collar enhancements.
As time passes they become more akin to stand alone jewelry pieces, though they are still firmly attached to the dresses and were not designed to be removed. These pieces do not appear to be signed, but they were not meant to leave the dresses they were attached to.
These dresses, however, would begin to attract the most attention in the Eisenberg & Sons section of the stores that carried them, and Harold and Sam began to look beyond the clothing to a possible expansion from dressmakers to becoming a full design house. By the mid-1930s they were now having their "adornments" made by Fallon & Kappel, and these pieces were actually jewelry pieces, still sold with specific dresses, but fully removable. ALL these pieces would be marked "Eisenberg Original." They would quickly begin offering selections of jewelry as a stand alone line, and there is no doubt at all that every Eisenberg piece made by Fallon & Kappel was MARKED, or meant to be marked.
At this time F&K were manufacturing for many companies, and Sam Eisenberg would go through the pieces they had on display for that seasons' line, and select those he felt most represented the "Eisenberg Ice" look. According to Karl, his son, Sam created that marketing moniker in relation to the pieces they offered being the magnificent large Swarovski crystal pieces, which resembled bold "real" jewelry designs being done by fine jewelers in gold and diamonds - ie. Van Cleef & Arpels, Mauboussin, etc. It was the gangsters of the day that coined the term "ice" in reference to diamonds and Eisenberg would call their creations "Eisenberg Ice" in advertising from the very beginning, yet it would NOT appear on any jewelry until the 1960s.
In the 1930s and early 1940s, before the exclusivity contract that would see F&K ONLY designing and manufacturing for Eisenberg, there was quite a variety of styles in the pieces. From those with large swathes of gold plating, to those done with small colored beads, to pieces with dangles done with non-rhinestone stones, to the iconic Eisenberg look of large intricate crystal designs often having huge Swarovski pieces.
Contrary to the common belief that there are a large number of "unsigned" Eisenbergs, there just aren't, and I'll cover that more elsewhere - see the "Collecting Eisenberg" section. But basically by the time the embellishments were jewelry, they were being marked. What we do see are lots and lots of F&K pieces that hit the market unmarked from OTHER designers' lines. Eisenberg was actually very early in marking their pieces...many companies wouldn't sign their creations until well into the 1940s, while Eisenberg consistently marked their creations from the first "removable" jewelry piece matched to a dress.
Now there is a lot of history lingering in the Agnini & Singer archives that may shed light on just how many "jewelry" pieces they made for Eisenberg dresses before the switch to F&K was made, but in the sample design cards shown in the book, there was at least one that indicated it was likely a brooch. Yes, if these pieces were made in quantity it might open the window a bit, but these pieces would be more "deco" and "adornment" in style, not the "Eisenberg Ice" style that was crafted by F&K; which are the iconic designs when thinking about Eisenberg jewelry and which are most often the style of the "unsigned" Eisenberg Originals for sale.
From the very first offering of a "jewelry line," which would take place in 1940, Eisenberg would offer dress clips, brooches, fur clips, necklaces, bracelets, and even rings. Some of the ads that announce the launch of the line are shown in the 1940s ads section. "Eisenberg Jewelry, Inc." would be incorporated at the very end of 1940 or at the very beginning of 1941 as the ads have it "appear" during that short window, but I was never able to find the specific date of incorporation...I'm still looking though.
One note, in some ads, and in many of the sample pieces I've seen there is a suggestion that when speaking of bracelets earrings, and necklaces, there may have been a more lax dedication to marking the pieces. But every piece I've seen unmarked, I've also seen elsewhere marked...hence much of the confusion. There was never a lazy policy about marking the brooches.
The very first marking would be Eisenberg Original
This is what I call "the Dot Matrix" form of the Eisenberg Original Mark - note that the Eisenberg is done in tiny dots.
This is the full script Eisenberg Original mark.
Note the Original is much more freeform than the regimented Original of the previous mark.
I have begun trying to collect marks and the fronts of the pieces to try and date if one form of mark is exclusive to pieces from a certain period. As of now all I can say is that both are official marks.
Eisenberg Orignal Plaque
I have seen it said that the plaques are all fakes, not so - it is one of the ways that fakes are fabricated into Eisneberg Original pieces - we'll talk more of that in the "collecting" section, but the plaque is an OFFICIAL way the pieces were marked.
This is the official dress clip mechanism of smaller size Eisenberg Original Dress Clips.
Note - Not all pieces were signed, so their one mark was on the clip. Not helpful if your clip broke and it was replaced with an unsigned one - this is actually common as the hinge does break. The mark also does wear off.
Even if you can swear it's an "Original" piece, if it doesn't have a mark, for whatever reason, it takes a hit in value.
This is the official Eisenberg Original dress clip back of the larger pieces. The clip does say Eisenberg Original.
Not all Eisenberg Original Dress Clip Hardware Was Marked! But The Pieces Would Be!
Yes, it's true, some original "Original" dress clips (the hardware) were not marked, but the piece always would be. This happens to be an iconic Eisenberg Original piece shown in an ad so there is NO question it's all original.
Okay, we're going to cover several things with this piece.
Note 1 - The separated Eisenberg Original mark - yes it is possible on OFFICIAL pieces to find the Eisenberg & the Original separated. Usually when the piece has limited open areas.
Note 2 - The PIVOT piece, note the circular hinge at the bottom that allows the piece to swing open, and the two clips to hook on each side of a neckline. While I've seen many of these, the most famous one, the "butterfly" is NOT actually an Eisenberg. Not a single example of the "butterfly" has EVER been seen marked, yet all the other samples, and lost halves, ARE marked. Remember F&K were making for other design lines and the "butterfly" clearly belongs to another company or at least one would have been seen marked as clearly as all the others have been.
Note 3 - this is actually a very short piece and again we see a variation on dress clip back. I have seen these smaller clips marked from time to time.
A pair of Eisenberg Original sew-on clips
Note that the sew-on holes are the ONLY form of attachment though there is a hinge, there are no teeth and no real tightness, so sewing is the only way they would stay in place. Both of these sew-on clips are MARKED Eisenberg Original.
This is the early Eisenberg Original Fur Clip
An Original Fur clip from Eisenberg should ALWAYS have the two holes at the top.
Given the weight of the Original pieces, Eisenberg would modify the desgin a bit to encourage the piece not to fall off when you bent over...been there...seen it happen. Now in Fur it was probably more stable than in any other type of fabric, but the modification in the next generation solved the issue brilliantly.
Fur Clip With Locking Mechanism
If you look closely down at the bottom you'll see the two bracket half loops for the prongs to hook into. This was designed to prevent the clip from opening up when worn, and falling off!
Note 1 - This is a sterling piece, and the fur clip is marked as such.
Note 2 - ALL Sterling marks on Eisenberg pieces will be the small impressed word STERLING, it will never read as numbers, be written, or a large marking. It doesn't matter if it's on the clip or the piece, it will always be the small STERLING.
Eisenberg Original & Sterling Brooch
It is a misconception that sterling pieces only have Eisenberg & Sterling marks, no Original. Yes, MANY pieces, like those two above, only have Eisenberg, and then the small impressed word STERLING, but the full name is ALSO found on sterling pieces.
Here's another view of the bracket on the bottom. It's actually an attached piece; on this piece it is also where you find the only Eisenberg marking. This happens to be the hardware of one of the cover pieces of the book. It's also a sterling piece and the fur clip and piece are both marked.
Okay now we see whether or not I actually pulled all the samples of Rhodium marks or not. Basically every mark was used in this post-sterling period.
Eisenberg Original on Rhodium
It appears at the same time they were marking some pieces one way, they were also marking them others...at this point I have no way of defining specific dates for enough pieces to tell if there's a pattern.
This simple Eisenberg is on many of the post-sterling pieces.
Cursive E - Script E
Referred to as both ways this is a genuine mark of Eisenberg, but it is also the mark used on MANY rhodium fakes. I'll cover that more in the collecting section when I get to it.
There is some question as to whether this mark is on some early genuine Base Metal pieces...I haven't seen enough, or one in person, to know definitively whether that's true or not.
Shown here on a brooch and an earring.
Essentially just the first letter of the Block Eisenberg, the E can be the hardest mark to find since it's simply applied wherever it fits. There are some pieces where the block E is applied, usually on a clasp, where it's sitting on a plaque.
Block E marks do not appear on sterling pieces; there are some deco sterling pieces that are European and that mark is being mistaken for Eisenberg.
The single block letter E seems to reappear during the Ice years when space is quite limited for marking. And of course the Block E© is on pieces from the 1970s.
Block Eisenberg Copyright Symbol -
From the 1970s - the mark that was used after F&K went out of business and Eisenberg had to find replacement manufacturing options.
Block E Copyright Symbol -
Again from the 1970s - used primarily in tight spaces. These are often on plaques or applied.
Eisenberg Ice Patent Pending - there is an accessory, some rings, and a bracelet hinge that all seem to come from the same time, when Eisenberg seems to have toyed with the idea of turning the mark into Eisenberg Ice as F&K had new management. However things didn't seem to go well, and most 1960s pieces went out with NO markings at all.
Eisenberg Ice© would be the mark on the jewelry from the sale of the company to the end of the markings. Interestingly the Block E© does appear on pieces from this era, mainly when there wasn't room for the whole plaque, but it appears it will be on some applied shelf or plaque.
At the very end pieces were unmarked and sold on blister cards, or with hang tags alone. For some time these pieces would also still be marked Eisenberg Ice©. Once the mark stopped being on the jewelry the value of these pieces is questionable as they are unidentifiable as actually being Eisenberg once the tag or card is removed, and since I've seen tags and blister cards sold empty, any piece could be tagged. I've seen 1960s pieces that are definitely NOT Eisenberg listed as such since they were stored in Eisenberg boxes. Since this was a period when they were largely not being marked it can be a bit confusing, but time and attention to styling will narrow your options down to mostly it being Eisenberg or Weiss, at that point it's a bit of a crap shoot as many of the 1960s pieces for both companies weren't signed and they are VERY similar.
There are a few other images I need to post; the sterling Mexican pieces come to mind, but I don't have mine photographed yet. But for now most of the important bits are covered here.