A costume jewelry brand that honors its fine jewelry

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Queens do. First ladies do. Even Madeleine Albright and Elizabeth Taylor have done it: wear Ciner jewelry.

And for good reason: Ciner makes what jewelry historian Melinda L. Lewis has called “the crown jewel equivalent” of costume jewelry – pieces crafted with semi-precious stones, simulated gemstones, crystal and silver or other metals, often plated with gold or rhodium. .

One hundred and thirty years after its founding as a fine jewelry brand, Ciner claims to be the only costume jewelry maker in America that still crafts each piece by hand from start to finish, often using the original designs crafted by Emanuel Ciner, its founder.

A team of 15 – currently all women – produces more than 1,000 plays each month at the New York offices of Ciner (pronounced SIGH-ner), overseen by Pat Ciner Hill, the granddaughter of Emanuel Ciner, who runs the business with the help of his daughter, Jean.

Ms Ciner Hill said the company maintains the high-quality setting, enamelling and modeling techniques developed by her grandfather, whether making commercial jewelry or unique and custom costume pieces. measure that have earned Ciner much of its praise.

In fact, the company remains so firm in its commitment to tradition that Kris Ciulla, vice president of sales and design, says it backs down when customers offer to provide computer-aided design for use on a custom piece. . “We work with role models,” she said. “No 3D imaging.”

Many of these models, which the company describes as miniature sculptures, are the basis of what Ciulla called “Frankensteining”: the use of details from old Ciner models in a new piece.

For example, when Danielle Blanco, the company’s artistic director, discovered a birdcage charm in the archives, she incorporated it into a pair of 18-karat gold-plated earrings ($595), each depicting a bird atop a cage draped in flowers and a cascade of rhinestones. In another example, jet crystal and rhinestone beads adapted from a pair of 1980s earrings adorn a glass bead necklace first made circa 2010 ($625).

The original models are part of the Ciner legacy, which began in 1888 when Emanuel Ciner, then 24 years old, apprenticed at a New York jeweler. He showed such talent that the jeweler insisted that Mr Ciner marry his daughter, “but he wanted nothing to do with it”, Ms Ciulla said.

Instead, Mr. Ciner started his own business in 1892, with his sons, Charles and Irwin, joining him in the mid-1920s. (Irwin Ciner was Mrs. Ciner Hill’s father.)

But when the fine jewelry industry collapsed during the Great Depression, Mr. Ciner instead began creating costume jewelry, trading high-end materials for base metals, silver, semi-precious and faux gemstones while retaining the superior artistry of fine jewelry, including individual castings, hardware and chains assembled link by link.

Her work was acclaimed by the wealthy, who often needed so-called travel jewelry – pieces that would look as good as the real thing, but pose less of a financial risk if lost or stolen while traveling. ‘a journey, Ms Ciner Hill said in a recent video interview. Over the next few years, the Ciners perfected the use of pewter and other white metal alloys, as well as patented the mold-making and casting processes that the company still uses.

The archives have been crucial to Ciner’s endurance, said Ms. Lewis, the jewelry historian: “All of their designs are current, but they embody styles from the past, so everything is fresh and new, but contains elements nostalgic and historic. ”

But Ms. Ciner Hill and her staff attribute the company’s longevity to a more personal characteristic of Ciner. Like the company’s founder, who turned to ammunition production to run Ciner during World War II, “we pivot in the moment,” Ms Blanco said. “If we can’t do that, we will. If we can’t find it here, we’ll look elsewhere. It is perhaps this combination of innovation and tradition that explains Ciner’s fan base over the years, from Queen Sofia of Spain and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to designer Carolyne Roehm and the star of ” The Real Housewives of Miami” Ana Quincoces.

To commemorate its anniversary, the company has produced an earring, necklace and bracelet featuring its iconic tiger head, originally created in the 1980s, encrusted with white Austrian crystals accented with black enamel and cabochons. in blue Bohemian glass, and set in heavy 18 carats. gold plate.

The collection, which debuted online and in stores around the world earlier this month, celebrates what Ms Ciner Hill called the essence of the Ciner brand. “Our future is tied to our past because our past contains the records as well as the quality and integrity of our products,” she said. “After 130 years, the past must be part of the future.”

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