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Fashioncraft Jewelry Company

Fashioncraft Jewelry Company (Est. 1942-1979) A Google search for ‘Fashioncraft’ reveals many companies with that name. Even a search for ‘Fashioncraft Jewelry’ can prove somewhat confusing. This becomes less surprising when one charts how Fashioncraft branded its jewelry over the years of its operation. In addition, the work of Robert De Mario (1945-1965) is often confused with Fashioncraft since De Mario also marked his creations, Robert or Original by Robert.

Fashioncraft Jewelry was founded in New York City in 1942 by Robert Levey, David Jaffe, and Irving Landsman. Landsman left the company in 1951 and, in 1960, Fashioncraft’s name was changed to Robert Originals, Inc., but the company was often referred to as Robert or Original by Robert. Robert, of course, refers to Robert Levy, one of Fashioncraft’s original founders.

These designs featured nature and floral motifs reminiscent of the Art Nouveau movement. It used faux pearls, colored glass, beads, and high quality Austrian crystal beads set in elaborate gilded filigree metalwork. Robert Originals also produced collectable Christmas tree pins.

Because of the excellent designs, workmanship and materials, the jewelry sold at high prices. Hollywood screen stars were drawn to the company’s luxury costume jewelry because, in many cases, it copied the style of renowned jewelry designer, Miriam Haskell. All pieces were made by hand and unique. Nowadays, these are hard to find.

The firm also produced necklaces, bracelets, earrings, brooches, and rings. Fruits, flowers, animals and insects were among the company’s favored design themes that ranged from playful designs to detailed replications of high-end Victorian pieces. Decoration included enamel work, rhinestones, gilt and silver overlay as well as intricate bead and seed pearl designs.

One piece, a hinged bangle bracelet – known as a clamper – is decorated with hand-painted enamel stripes. The bracelet’s unique clasp – a gilded ram’s head – is a motif often found on ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Celtic artifacts as well as in 19th century jewelry fashioned from gold, silver and precious stones. Similar Robert Originals clampers made during the 1960s and early 1970s are valued at $50 to $75.

Many Hollywood stars adored these pieces and wore them in their movies. Beautiful and exquisite brooches of “Russian gold” shone under the lights and screamed luxury. Robert jewelry was also used by television networks and can be seen in the 1952 Oscar nominated Elia Kazan movie, “Viva Zapata” starring Marlon Brando and Jean Peters.

In 1975, Robert Levey retired and David Jaffe’s daughter, Ellen joined the company. In 1979 the company’s name changed to Ellen’s Designs for Robert Originals. While it continued to use the name of the creator and chief designer, the jewelry pieces no longer had any direct relation to the management of the company nor its creative heritage and the quality of jewelry began to decline.

The original company closed in 1979, however, in 1984, the lineage continued when Ellen Designs, run by Ellen Jaffe Wagman and her husband John Wagman, began producing items.

Fashioncraft’s Robert jewelry was usually marked with several different markings used during its years of operation. A copyright symbol ‘©’ was incorporated on all pieces after 1955. The different trademark names were Fashioncraft, Fashioncraft Robert, Pinless Pin, Robert, Robert and Robert, and Originals by Robert.

There was also a line of Fashioncraft jewelry that bore a resemblance to Hobe wire work pieces of the 1940s and 50s. The designs in the wirework itself are a bit different from those used by Hobe, but they are similar and unsigned pieces are occasionally confused.

Today, Fashioncraft’s, Original by Robert jewelry is highly collectible.

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