Sherman Costume Jewelry (Est. 1947 – 1981) New York. Los Angeles. Paris. Milan. Copenhagen. Most jewelry collectors associate these cities with fine costume jewelry. However, one of the most respected names in the field, Sherman Costume Jewelry was established in 1947 by Gustave Sherman (???? – 1984) in Montreal, Canada.
Gustave Sherman’s Jewish parents immigrated to Canada to escape the Nazis and their collaborators in Eastern Europe. Upon arriving in Montreal, Gustave took a job as a jewelry salesman and found himself intrigued by the business.
Beginning with only one employee, Jimmy Koretza, a Hungarian jeweler, Sherman tapped that artist’s expertise to create the Sherman Company’s exquisite designs. During its nearly thirty-five year history, Sherman became known as Canada’s premier jewelry designer.
By the 1950s, Sherman’s work began to appear on the fashion scenes in Paris and New York. The company logo, “made to last a lifetime,” stood up to its promise with heavily gold-plated, rhodium-plated, and japanned settings that incorporated high quality crystals ordered to meet Gustave’s demanding specifications.
Most Sherman pieces look like fine or real jewelry because they use the best Swarovski stones including some trade and fancy stones Swarovski made according to Sherman’s directions. Sherman’s crystals with Aurora Borealis coatings are featured in many of the designs. In some, one easily sees Sherman’s passion for navettes and elongated marquise stones created to display the jewelry’s flowing lines.
Round stones were also used mostly in necklaces and bracelets. Sherman also tended to use monochromatic color combinations to create subtle variations in the same tones, e.g., champagne to topaz, sapphire to light blue, fuchsia to pink, and emerald to peridot. Experts further suggest that more than one thousand different color combinations can be seen in the designs with many combinations off-beat, non-traditional, and produced for just one season.
The Aurora Borealis pinks, purples, blues and greens explode like fireworks while clear crystal designs sparkle like diamonds that create a palette of rainbow colors. Because Sherman insisted on top quality workmanship, the finest materials and, stones, Sherman pieces were offered in only one price range: expensive.
Even when Sherman’s business had not yet achieved its full fame, a piece of Sherman jewelry could sell for as much as $50 per piece, not a trifling amount at the time especially for a piece of costume jewelry. The Swarovski crystals were prong-set to last, backings were usually highly polished in rhodium-plated, japanned (black backing), and gold-plated settings.
Sherman’s more modest creations were sold through department stores and fashionable shops in Canada. The ultra-glamorous jewelry was found in small shops and local boutiques throughout Canada.
Because Sherman would not compromise his personal standard for the manufacture of his company’s beautiful rhinestone crystal bead pieces, Sherman’s fortunes declined in the mid 1970’s when fashion design ideas changed and more designers used the faux gold and silver look.
Like other purists at the time, Sherman started producing quality gem jewelry in large quantities using precious metals, but, as the price of gold skyrocketed, so, too did the prices of the jewelry because they included the higher cost of production. Sherman ultimately had to close his business in 1981. He died in 1984 in Montreal, Canada.
Collectors have increased the desirability of Sherman jewelry and are willing to pay high prices for the designer pieces. All Sherman pieces found today may not contain the Sherman mark. On some set pieces, the tags, boxes or cards have disappeared, been separated, or lost through time.
Marks: “SHERMAN”, “Sherman”, in script, and “SHERMAN STERLING”. Sometimes, too, paper tags were used when a piece was too small or ornate for a soldered Sherman tag.
Evelyn Yallen and Sandra Caldwell who co-authored the book, “Sherman Jewellery: The Masterpiece Collection” suggest that, “not all pieces in a parure [a matched set] were signed, though Gus Sherman was indeed proud of his branding and used marked boxes, cards and hang-tags prolifically.”
Yallen and Caldwell also write, “Sherman jewelry, beloved by women for its extraordinary sparkle and quality when it was new, still attracts collectors for the same reasons more than 60 years after its manufacture.”