Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Neiger Brothers' Jewelry


Anyone who collects Art Deco jewelry will eventually run across the Neiger name.  And one may become hooked on the designs; complex, exotic, beautifully crafted jewelry that evokes the riches of King Tut's tomb or carries ancient Chinese motifs. As colorful and over-the-top as the Art Deco era itself. Trying to identify a piece as a true Neiger however, is no easy task.

Neiger Egyptian Revival brooch courtesy of www.etsy.com/shop/hipcricket

 Norbert Neiger graduated from the Gablonz, Poland technical school's bjouterie program in the early 20th century and started a jewelry company in the basement of the family home.  After his early success his younger brother Max joined him in the business. Norbert ran the business and Max designed the jewelry and ran the workshop.

After WWI the brothers focused solely on Max's designs, and also produced filigreed scent bottles. In 1926 they employed as many as 24 workers as demand from America and Europe for their jewelry was very high.

Neiger jewelry is characterized by beautiful Czech glass and lovely metal parts. Max designed the jewelry and the pieces were assembled by their workers.  They also did not stamp their parts, but bought them from estamperies, or local metal crafting shops. This is one reason why identifying a true Neiger is so difficult.

Neiger necklace courtesy of www.etsy.com/shop/boylerpf

Their best known works derive from the Egyptian design craze that began after the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922.  They also added other fanciful lines, with Chinese and Indian motifs. They produced "hypnotizing brooches, beautiful beaded necklaces and fascinating bracelets, all of the highest quality."  (Value This Now Blog - 6/25/13). Their finishes were commonly gilded and rhodium plated.  The designs were composed of small enamalled and stamped floral patterns set with glass stones.

Neiger Chinese brooch courtesy of www.etsy.com/shop/GrandVintageFinery

Not only did they not stamp their jewelry, but
with their success other local jewelry makers began to emulate their work -- the parts were available to all from the same local manufacturers from whom the Neigers bought. Though their competitors' jewelry does not equal theirs in workmanship or style, these practices are why today pieces are often described as being "attributed" to the Neigers instead of being given full recognition -- certainty is often difficult.

The Neiger brothers came to a tragic end.  When WWII began they moved their operations to Bohemia, thinking it would be safe.  It was not.


Neiger buttons courtesy of www.etsy.com/shop/artfuloldies

They were sent to Auschwitz during WWII and both died there.  Today there are Neiger jewelry clubs dedicated to identifying true Nieger pieces.  There are quite a few Boards on Pinterest for Neiger Jewelry, creating not only virtual museums but also places to help with identification of newly discovered pieces.  That the brothers' jewelry is so popular today and commands such high prices is a testament to their workmanship and the eternal nature of their designs.



Sources: Value This Now Blog; 6/25/13: Gillian Horsup Vintage: Jewels Collecting Dust.