Schreiner New York
Schreiner New York (Est. 1939 – 1977) Experts and collectors know that when examining vintage jewelry, if something doesn’t seem quite right with the piece, it is because one or more of the stones are set upside down. If so, there’s a good chance it is probably a piece of vintage Schreiner jewelry.
One of the most famous characteristics of Schreiner jewelry is the use of inverted or “upside down” set stones. The Company intentionally set the stones with the point up to optimize the sparkle and add depth and dimension to pieces. When placed on a garment, the unfoiled stones allow the fabric to show through creating the illusion that the jewelry is an extension of the clothing.
Born in Bavaria in Germany, Henry Schreiner (???? – 1951) immigrated to the United States in 1923 hoping to find work using his blacksmithing skills. With horse-drawn vehicles fast disappearing from New York City at that time, he took a job at Con Edison, the utility company, then worked for a baker.
In 1927, Schreiner began work at the Better Shoe Buckle Company. The Roaring Twenties had shattered many societal taboos including those for female fashion designs. Dresses were now much shorter than in past decades and made decorative shoe buckles very popular. Schreiner, adept at soldering added artistic touches to his creations some of which were based on his interest in opera and his admiration for great painters.
Henry especially loved working for couture designers. He and his daughter, Terry and her husband, Ambros Albert, established the Schreiner Jewelry Company in 1939. Together they created jewelry for Christian Dior, Adele Simpson, Trigère, and Norman Norell and had permission to use the brand names on the jewelry they produced. It also didn’t hurt that the designers had their models wear the jewelry at fashion shows and displays.
The jewelry designed and produced by the Schreiner Company included flower pins of daises, geraniums, sunflowers, cornflowers, white marguerites, also dragonflies, carrots, pineapples, peas in a pot, turtles, and acorns in different colors. Distinctive Schreiner jewelry used gun-metal, bronze, and gold plating for backing along with expensive custom-made and specially shaped stones that were cut and polished in Germany by Czechoslovakian artisans and craft workers.
As already mentioned, some Schreiner designs had inverted-set or upside-down rhinestones in uncommon color combinations. While Schreiner’s early stones were only of Czechoslovakian origin, the creations were always unusual. Henry kept ties with the old country so he could continue to purchase the custom made stones.
He also had “Key” shaped stones made in Germany. These stones were very expensive, exclusive to Schreiner, and are no longer manufactured. A keystoned piece is a stone cut in the shape of the keystone that is used when architecturally designing an arch. Keystones are usually step cut and Schreiner used keystoned gems in many of its pieces.
Schreiner jewelry was never mass-produced and, therefore, boasted a sense of exclusivity. The company is also known for fine handwork. Consequently, pieces were highly fashionable, attention getters that did not require advertising to create demand. Schreiner production was limited and all pieces were handmade.
Admirers and collectors should note that the stones Schreiner used are irreplaceable and very expensive. Therefore devotees should give special care to their Schreiner jewelry.
The Schreiner Company remains notable for its imaginative use of color, which Schreiner’s daughter Terry attributed to her father working for ‘the couturiers’ and getting the color swatches before anyone else.
Many pieces of Schreiner jewelry are unsigned because when Schreiner made jewelry for clothing designers, the Schreiner tag never went directly onto the created pieces. When the company made jewelry for department stores and boutiques, it used Schreiner or Schreiner-NY hangtags which were then removed by the buyer. However, jewelry marked “Schreiner”, “Schreiner of New York”, or “Schreiner Jewelry” were, in fact, originally on the designed pieces intended for retail sale.
The company also designed ornaments for Elizabeth Arden.
Some of Schreiner’s signature designs and innovations include the Ruffle Brooch, hook and eye construction (also seen on some jewelry made by the Regency Jewelry Company), unusual settings, triangular prongs, and extravagant motifs.
Pieces of special interest include a Milk Glass and Rhinestone Domed Brooch that is unsigned and features an array of white milk glass cabochons, in several sizes (both oval and round), milky semi-translucent white oval cabs, and brilliant sparkling clear rhinestones. This artistic and well-designed arrangement, with a black japanned metal setting that adds dramatic contrast, includes dogtooth prongs incorporated into the design.
Another significant piece is a Schreiner Lucite Leaves and Berries Pin. Also unsigned, it is a brooch and pendant combination that features large open backed Lucite cabochons, pear-shaped and in a pale lemon yellow hue, with a cluster of coral-colored glass “berry” cabochons, and green glass leaves. It features dimensional construction with hook-and-eye, crimped fluted settings in the characteristic Schreiner style.
Also worthy of mention is a Jelly-Red Glass Cabochon Necklace. This unsigned necklace features marquise-shaped glass cabochons (smooth) surface, and jelly-red stones with inside bubbles and pinkish highlights that create a unique appearance. Each stone is individually prong-set into its own mounting and each link is connected along the top. The setting is Silver tone. The extension chain has reverse-set cabochons and pear-shaped stones in the same color scheme.
Schreiner also created earring sets such as the Pink and Smoke Art Glass Brooch & Earring Set. This highly domed brooch and matching clip earrings have many Schreiner characteristics. The brooch is substantial, measuring 2 1/2″ x 2″, with a dome height of approximately 1″. The center elliptical cabochon is pink and gray swirled art glass with a slightly sculpted ridge.
The pieces are surrounded by inverted clear stones, then another ring of inverted pink stones, then a row of angled inverted gray glass oval-cuts that are unfoiled and open backed. They are punctuated at the base with more clear inverted stones. The effect of the reverse-set stones is that the clear stones pick up points of light that reflect back with peach overtones. It is in a Gold tone setting with characteristic Schreiner hook-and-eye construction.
The matching clip earrings use the same combination of stones with some of the smaller inverted stones set in a cluster atop an arched, sculpted wire.
At the height of its popularity, pieces by the Schreiner Jewelry Company graced the covers of Vogue, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar and were touted and worn by celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, and Audrey Hepburn.
Schreiner jewelry was made from 1939 to the mid-1970s. Henry Schreiner died in 1954 but the business continued to operate, making designs from the original molds, under the direction of Terry and her husband, Ambros, until 1977.
Schreiner jewelry is highly regarded by serious collectors and is representative of some of the finest, and most admired vintage jewelry to be found today. Even when not signed, Schreiner creations can often be recognized by the use of “hook and eye” construction, reverse-set stones, and surprising color combinations.