How this began
Unsigned Eisenberg Facts
What's not in the book
How this began....
Am I a collector of Eisenberg? Until last year I would have said "No, I'm a historian." But now I have too many pieces, and spend too much time investigating and looking at pieces to deny that I am in fact collecting the design house.
When I first met Sharon and began working with her in her Antique's business, I was frustrated beyond belief that when the Holiday season came aournd I had to shop generic for her. It seemed, on the outside, that she had no collections or specific passions I could add to, and that drove m crazy as I'm all about the presents. Then finally one day she shyly revealed to me her treasure trove. There were trays of jewelry of every conceivable material, style, and period. I was overwhelmed, and delighted, and finally believed we really were sisters at heart. While I was never able to buy her the most valuable pieces; I could now spend all year putting together additions that were fun, striking, or occasionally snagging those "amazing finds."
Through the years Sharon and I traded many gifts for our various collections, and many of the photographic images I'll get to posting in the Millinery section came from her or another friend Karen. Gradually I started not only looking to purchase for Sharon's business but for her own collections, and would every day send her any finds I'd discovered listed. So I had to learn about her pieces. She has the most amazing collection of Lucite figural pieces, and quite a stunning array of everything else. But one of her primary passions was her ever-growing Eisenberg collection.
As I learned about the designer from her, and her pieces, I was fascinated as well by the fact that after years attending shows, I didn't know about them; I'd easily heard the stories of Haskell, Schiaparelli, etc., but somehow in all those shows and my textile experience, I'd never known the name beyond the jewelry, or that the clothing they had begun with had continued for almost 25 years after the jewelry had launched. Yet Sharon had acquired from the amazing Teresa Knowles pieces that proved they were still going into the later decades with not just fashion, but accessories. Then came the discovery of all the perfumes and cosmetic items...even mens things. So why weren't they known?
That's when Sharon and I came across Bobye Syverson and all those that contributed to her site. We realized that there were many collectors out there, but that everyone just kept saying the same story over and over. Was that story even true? And why was it so short?
Sharon and I really wanted to know. That desire to know, and a serious of unfortunate events that left Sharon with too much time on her hands and several heavy weights, had us decide it was the perfect thing for us to focus on using her immense collection as a basis for a book. We would research, gather the community together for pieces and samples, and we would get as many of the questions answered as we could. And even the two of us were taken by surprise by some of the details we hadn't known. And how wrong some of the most commonly believed things were.
Obviously Sharon decided not to involve the community the way I had thought we would even after I had begun gathering people and pieces to include. She also decided it would not legally be the joint project owner I had anticipated and took full ownership through a contract with Schiffer. Though I ended up salvaging the book at the end of her contract period, long after my part was done, there were changed made in editing that I had no say about that I do not agree with in both text and arrangement, and the book went forward to print with information missing that I did provide, but for some reason doesn't seem to have made it in. But I have all that information, and all the reference materials that I used in researching for the book, and I've also learned quite a few things since. I really look forward to sharing them. But right here I'm going to cover the most important topics related to collecting.
Unsigned Eisenberg Facts....
Are there unsigned Eisenberg pieces that are legitimate? Of course there are. There are unsigned designer pieces from the 1930s and 1940s from almost every house, in fact Eisenberg was one of the first jewelry houses that did sign their pieces. They began in the mid-1930s when most didn't take to marking pieces until about a decade later. So what's unsigned? Usually it's the necklaces, bracelets, and sometimes the earrings. It appears all pins and clips (Dress and Fur) are signed, or should be.
So if I have an unsigned bracelet, what do I say about it? Well that's the problem. I have spent many years in the industry of collecting, and worked with several large collections on protecting the investments, and it comes down to two facts, what the police and the insurance company will accept. If you have the other pieces, and yes you can assemble a matching parure even if you didn't start out with it (Bobye worked to do this for her collection, always searching out the extra pieces,) you can certainly then claim the value of the set since the exact match is obvious. But if you just have the bracelet...then you're a bit out of luck. The best you can do is show the reference and hope when selling that someone is looking to match the pieces. Otherwise any extra panache for the name, any name, is only theoretical, and will likley not be present in price. And any evidence you have that lifts the value past that of what it integrally is (a lovely quality vintage - nearly antique - bracelet) will be largely dismissed and you won't get the inflated value from the insurance, and if it were stolen, the police would also value based on non-signed status.
Now that doesn't mean they don't have value. Any unsigned designer piece is made identical to the signed one, so the quality and styling is there, and that will draw dollars, but it just can't "officially" pass for the designer's piece. In the collecting and jewelry worlds, things are often a bit kinder and things are just accepted as the designers (think of the trouble with all the early unsigned Carnegie) and will be listed, sold, and purchased as such. But when filing for insurance coverage, without a mark, any designer's piece, unless it's specifically "agreed" by all books and collectors to be that designer, and you provide ample evidence of this, will be rejected.
There are people who collect things that are super easy to identify, my Father collects pocket watches, and almost all of them, barring the very earliest which still tend to be singed, have serial numbers. This allows for the specific year of manufacturing to be identified. In jewelry collecting it's much harder. With some pieces matching dated advertising, we can then extrapolate that similar pieces come from that specific era. But the truth is, some of the eras will overlap, and exact dating, is difficult. With the shift to sterling in the 1940s it is easy to pin those pieces, identified or not, right to that window of about 5 years, depending on designer. But there are a lot of sterling pieces that aren't marked, and many are "attributed" and that works for jewelry lovers, but not for insurance companies.
So should you buy unsigned pieces? If you can afford them, and you love the piece, then definitely. You'll love it and that's all that matters. But if money will matter at some point, then make sure you only pay, even for sterling, what you will be able to charge for it down the line. That means keep your expectations practical; without the signature, it will never demand the highest price.
If you are trying to build a collection of positively one designer, then pass on the unsigned pieces. Even if you know the piece is so-and-so's and it has replaced hardware, or it's worn completely off. There will, with the online community. always be a chance to get another piece you'll like as much, just signed.
Like many I have contacted sellers at times that have listed Eisenberg repros, or outright fakes, and informed them of their error, and clearly there are a few dealers that knowingly sell repros and fakes based on the volume of them they sell, so it's not always welcome. But a lot of sellers just don't know, and the honest ones usually modify their listing to include the new information that it might not be an original Original. I have a healhty showcase of fake samples from Bobye and other outlets, and tips to provide that will tell you what to look for. I take a knock from a reviewer on Amazon that claims I should't flatter a "fake" or "repro" piece the way I did. But then they have never seen a copper repro in person and have no idea just how good, and stunning, they are in person.
Sharon included one of her copper repros in the book as an Original, despite the numerous conversations we had where I pointed out to her what it was. She just doesn't seem to want to care since the exact same repro is listed in Brunalti's book as a legitimate piece. It is quantified there as a genuine re-issue, which it's not. But they respected the quality of it so greatly it's shown on the very same page as the sterling original, and still listed as genuine.
Sharon has a couple of these copper pieces, and they are breathtaking, however the easiest way to spot them, is they are copper. I've seen them listed as rose gold washed, and though there are a few 1930s genuine Eisenbergs that have a weird metallic color, the fake Eisenbergs are quite clearly copper colored. Though they are not actually made of copper that I'm aware. I've only held one of Sharon's for a few minutes, but I've seen dozens of them in photos, and they are stunning for a reason, they are directly cast off Original pieces, then finished with exacting detail - prong-set, beautifully finished, and even cold enameling. All the pieces I've seen, barring the hummingbird, have been cast off sterling designs, so I do assume that the actual Eisenberg Original hummingbird is sterling, but I've yet to see the actual Eisenberg hummingbird. Now this re-casting artist, and yes I say artist since they are so meticulously made, seems to have tagged only actual Eisenberg designs with the fake Eisenberg Original mark, since, barring the elusive hummingbird, all the Eisenberg Original copper re-casts are from actual Eisenberg Original pieces.
Should I have been harder on the pieces in the book? I am very tough on those that mark unclaimed period pieces as Eisenberg even though they clearly aren't. I hate the shoddy later fakes that are routinely passed off as Originals. But when it comes to the copper colored pieces, I am heavily influenced by a woman I talked with who had purchased several directly from the artist. Now she never said much about the artist, but she did say that as an actual Eisenberg Ice dealer, when she found the copper pieces being sold, she was intrigued, and thought so highly of the quality, and the detail of the reproduction, that she purchased several. And today, those pieces tend to be so striking, and in such great condition, they actually sell higher in some instances than the original "Original" they are copies of.
Now all these fakes were done during the time when collecting costume jewelry was becoming very en-vogue. During the 1980s and 1990s the jewelry skyrocketed, with Bakelite, and certain designers, becoming traded at very high prices. Many who purchased at that time were later forced to accept much less for their pieces when they had to sell them, but thankfully, the market is doing better lately, and a lot of the value is back. This push for certain names, and Eisenberg Original pieces fell into demand, drove many to try and "create" pieces when they didn't actually have them.
Karl Eisenberg himself would say he was shocked to find that the family's Original pieces were demanding such high prices and were being so heavily sought. They hadn't really kept any samples, and they certainly hadn't kept records of the designs they had sold, so he found himself having to go out and buy some of the Eisenberg Original iconic pieces himself. Some of these pieces would serve as the basis for Eisenberg Ice to do genuine re-issue pieces, replicating vintage desings in modern materials. There were two batches of these done as an ode to the collect-ability of Eisenberg jewelry.
But actual fakes were being marketed. Some of these were creating by taking similarly feeling pieces from the right era, that were not marked, and stamping them Eisenberg Original. I've seen several variations of this, and hope to show actual samples of all of them eventually. In many instances these pieces feel "wrong" and even before I see the incorrect mark, I know they are likely to be fakes.
Others cast rhodium pieces of similar sizes and designs, and then finished them with fairly decent Eisenberg Original marks, but the pieces themselves don't hold a candle to the actual Originals in person, and with a little time, you can learn to spot them quickly when you glance through the eBay listings.
And then of course there are the "unsigned Eisenbergs" that have the quality of the Originals, including weight and finishing details, but are more than likely either Fallon & Kappel designs for other names, or from another high class jobber like F&K. But if it's a pin, or a clip, then it should be marked Eisenberg Orignal or you should only buy knowing its limited marketability.
So what about the twins? Okay, you do have me there. I've seen the same piece marked from Carnegie and Eisneberg, and I've seen them unmarked. This leads to the rabbit hole. On one side you have the conspiracy that they are all Period Fakes, possibly made by Reinad, or someone else, and none of them are real. Some say that the jobber houses just messed up, and for Eisenberg duplicates, they sold the pieces to multiple houses, and given the timing, it's possible even sterling duplicate pieces could have been done before the Eisenberg/F&K exclusivity deal. The truth is, those pieces are unlikely to ever be sorted out. They are accepted by the jewelry industry as legitimate duplicates, and I have no intention of disagreeing. They are all wonderful, well made, and stunning in person, so with no proof one way or another, they get to stay how they are marked. And with no manufacturing records for any of the houses coming to light, it's unlikely to ever be set to rest. If it bothers you, it's not hard to spot the similar pieces and simply avoid them.
What's not in the book....
Some thing this site will highlight. Accessories...there was information available before the final turn-in of the book that Sharon just never seemed to grasp, and it was all left out. But I had worked hard to dig it up so I will definitely be sharing it here. It covers the accessories, the perfume, and even some new facts about the clothing. Some of it is relatively meanlingless, but fun, other pieces actual reveal some very interesting information. If you don't want to flip thorugh the whole site to track down what's not in the book - this will be a quick cheat list - SPOILERS if you'd rather explore the site to learn that way. If you just want the updated information, click here - "NOT IN THE BOOK"