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Albert Weiss & Company

Albert Weiss & Company (Est. 1942 – 1971) Before Albert Weiss, a jewelry designer and manufacturer, established the company that bore his name, he’d been employed by two noted costume jewelry houses, Marvella Jewelry and Coro. Born and raised in New York, Weiss was a remarkably talented designer with an eye for classic design and appealing color schemes. Many experts give Albert Weiss credit for setting trends in the costume jewelry industry while he actively designed jewelry.

Weiss was the first jewelry designer who recognized the Christmas tree as a perfect shape for the rhinestone treatment. He designed his Christmas tree pins in a variety of styles from the 1950s to the 1960s. They became bestsellers and were copied by his competitors. Other Christmas pieces made by Weiss were candy canes, bells, and wreaths.

The tree pins contributed to Weiss’ career as a hugely successful costume jewelry designer in the 1950s and 1960s. Weiss’ look was based more on paste than on metalwork and his settings became a mechanism for displaying as many rhinestones as could possible fit on a single piece. He also used inverted stones to create, among other designs, long stemmed enamel flowers in great detail. These were produced in a wide range of colors and with subtle differences in the stems, leaves, and petals.

Weiss jewelry was of very high quality as he used excellent Austrian diamanté as well as clear and colored and aurora borealis rhinestones of exceptional quality and clarity. He also employed faux pearls, clear and glass colored stones with antique and gold-tone, silver-tone and Japanned metal settings.

His most desirable pieces include beautiful rhinestone studded figural jewelry shaped like butterflies, insects, fruits, and flowers. Weiss jewelry is said to be comparable to Eisenberg and Bogoff. In fact, Weiss’ use of Pave icing was intended to imitate Eisenberg designs.

Weiss is perhaps best known for using smoky rhinestones. His company was also one of the first to use Swarovski’s polychromatic aurora borealis crystals and created with Christian Dior in the 1950s. Earrings and pins in Weiss’ Skyline brand are also comparable to those in the Eisenberg Ice line.

Beyond rhinestones, Weiss collectors also seek the company’s work in enamel and its japanned pieces. Dark, japanned pins in the shape of Maltese crosses were often studded with “black diamond” beads and the japanned metal pieces serve as an exotic counterpoint to the clusters of rhinestones in royal blue, ruby red, and other rich colors.

Weiss’ signature stone is the “black diamond” in smoky grey paste which reproduced German smoky quartz crystals. Weiss based these unique stones on grey Austrian crystals. These became best sellers and were widely copied by competitors in the 1950s.

While much of Weiss’ jewelry is unmarked, many early Weiss pieces were signed “Weiss” in block capitals either on an applied plate or stamped directly into the metal. The company also used, “Weiss” in script.

Pieces were also signed “Albert Weiss” or A.W. Co., a signature that appeared sometime in 1951. “WEISS Co.” hang tags and boxes can have “A.W. Co” with the “W” in the shape of a crown. After about 1955 the company also interpolated the © symbol.

At the beginning, Weiss Jewelry produced its pieces in house. While many were affordable, Weiss also created some high end costume jewelry. In fact, Weiss produced some of the most beautiful, quality jewelry of its era. Though not as large a company as many other costume jewelry design firms like Trifari and Coro, the Weiss Company’s standard of craftsmanship was exceptionally high.

Weiss invested his energies in the quality of his stones and imported many of his supplies from Austria. These stones had a higher lead content and gave Weiss pieces a dazzling appeal. Though his company started small, it grew steadily so that in the late 1950s and into the 1960s Weiss had to contract manufacturing work to Hollycraft so he could keep up with demand.

Weiss also manufactured jewelry for wholesale stores that included JC Penny and Sears & Roebuck who used their own name boxes for retail sales. During its the years in business, the Weiss Company produced some of the most beautiful and appealing rhinestone jewelry of the post WWII era.

Albert Weiss was president of the company until he retired in 1969. His son, Michael Weiss, took over the business but could not keep it afloat. Weiss Jewelry officially closed its doors in 1971. Due to its relatively short lifespan, there is a significant market for Weiss among vintage costume jewelry collectors. With less Weiss jewelry to collect, it’s harder to find.

As previously stated, Weiss employed many styles and designs some of which were copied by other jewelers. It is therefore often difficult to be sure that pieces are genuine Weiss. Fake Weiss brooches and pins, for example, are often seen on auction sites. Fakes can be recognized by their high gloss finishes and textured backs that are made to look antique.

In addition, fake Weiss pieces began to enter the market from Mexico in the late-1980s and are difficult to distinguish from those that are genuine. Many of the fake Weiss pieces have a textured back. With few exceptions Weiss pieces have a smooth, shiny rhodium-plated back.

A new line of Weiss jewelry is offered today by a group that bought the rights to the name and trademarks and is called the Albert Weiss Collection. Located in Brooklyn, New York, the company states on its website, “We continue to make a timeless statement with every creation. Each of our pieces has been designed and handmade with infinite care by our experienced craftsmen.”

Weiss jewelry designs of 1940s and 1950s are valued today for their incredible style. Many of Weiss’ pieces are considered collectible and all embody unmistakable style. Among the more desirable collector pieces are the ‘black diamond’ series which feature a unique smoky-colored rhinestone. Look for the early earlier pieces with unusual designs that contain strikingly beautiful rhinestones.

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