Wednesday, September 10, 2008

UnSigned Sherman FACT or FICTION? Part I

I'd like to begin by telling everyone that I am not an expert, I have never interviewed any former employees of the Sherman factory or their family members and that I am not an aggressive jewelry dealer.  I am a collector of vintage jewelry and have been for several years.  As my collection grows, so does my experience.  I do sell Sherman as well as other brands from time to time enabling me to invest in more elaborate pieces, that is the extent of my "dealer" status.  

This blog was created to journal my collection and opinions for my 2 1/2 year old daughter.  For those of you who have checked my profile and noticed my age, the answer is "Yes, she is my natural daughter", no medical intervention, just a perfect little miracle on her own.  I probably should start a blog about the stresses of being an older, first-time mom LOL :))

Getting back to topic, Sherman is my favorite brand of costume jewelry so you will see his designs documented more than any other.  When I first started collecting, I bought several jewelry books hoping to educate myself about collecting vintage jewelry but I still made mistakes, buying too high, unknowingly buying damaged or altered pieces or buying poor quality. Most mistakes were only made once though and I now feel confident voicing my opinion on the ongoing debate of whether or not any jewelry left the Sherman factory without that so highly sought after Sherman stamp clearly marked on each and every piece.  

Up until recently, I would have argued with the most experienced jewelry dealer that "Yes, each and every piece, no matter what the design or practicality would have had a clear, permanent identifying mark on it, absolutely NO exceptions!!!!"

If you stop and actually think about that statement, does it really seem logical for the time Sherman  jewelry was manufactured?  This jewelry was distributed decades before "Sherman Mania" would drive serious collectors to pay thousands of dollars for an elaborate "used" set that may have originally retailed for only $15.  I know that during the 50's or 60's, $15 was a moderate investment but surely not equal to what thousands translate in to today.  Not even Gustave Sherman could have predicted the incredibly high prices that his pieces are currently being sold for. If he or his staff had had the gift of foresight, then I truly believe that each and every piece would have been permanently marked. 

During the time of production, Sherman designs were available at high-end department stores and reputable independent retailers. No one purchasing it would have debated with a clerk at either whether or not a piece was truly a Sherman if it was presented in the "Jewels of Elegance" storage case, had a delicate threaded "Sherman" hang tag or was clearly stamped on the piece itself. 

Starting with the earrings, I have seen the Sherman stamp on the backs of the screw back, on the back and sides of the clips and also on the back part of the earring where the clip snaps down. I have included a picture of that particular pair for this post to clearly show that there were "unsigned" plain clip findings in the factory at some point during production.  This particular pair of earrings is made with a combination of beads and spacers common in other pieces that are signed differently.  I know they are Sherman, the back of the cluster portion of the earring says so, but the clip findings don't. How far fetched would it be that these same "unsigned" clip findings may have been used in the Sherman factory on earring fronts that did not bear a signature?

This same pair of "Signed" earrings was sold to me with a beaded bracelet that uses the exact same combination, color and style of beads and spacers.  If you look at the design of this bracelet, how practical at the time of production would it have been to create a fixed stamp on memory wire? Would they create a tiny permanent signed rhodium plated hang tag to be incorporated into the bead design?  At the time when this bracelet was sold for only a few dollars, probably not very practical.  Instead, it would have made more sense to use one of the tiny fragile hang tags with thread to identify it as a Sherman at the retail level. Who could have predicted at that time that this same bracelet might be sold over and over, especially 50 years later and need to be positively identified? Of course the hang tag would have been removed the first time it was worn and most likely destroyed.

For now, my opinion is that this bracelet was indeed produced at the Sherman factory to match the signed earrings. Some of you would argue that point saying the bracelet design is too "common", and that's okay.  I know that it is of the highest quality produced at that time, is a perfect match to the signed earrings and whether it's a "true" Sherman or not, I plan to wear it proudly.
I'm just getting started but I can see that this topic is going to need more than one post so consider this part I. Before I close, I do want to state for the record that I do have Valerie Hammond's book "All that Glitters" on Sherman jewelry and I have enormous respect for the research and effort that went into producing such a wonderful book.  We have waited a long time for this and I want to thank Valerie for doing it for us.  I know that Valerie actually interviewed former employees of the Sherman factory and family members who swear that nothing was produced without a signature. I will give my comments on that in a later post.

For now, please feel free to state your opinion and experiences. I look forward to hearing from you as we continue to explore this hotly debated topic in future posts.  


woztiques said...

Hi Deb
Like you I believe that there were many unsigned pieces of Sherman. An elderly lady that collects Sherman locally and whom i have sold for has a sister that worked with Gustav Sherman and shes said many times that all sets were boxed togther and usually only 2 -3 pieces of a 4 piece set were signed while others may have a hang tag. Over the years sets were broken up so im sure that there are many unsigned pieces out there. Will be interesting to see what everyone else thinks
Pam- Alberta Canada

woztiques said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deb said...

Hi Pam, thank you for your comment, I've actually purchased from you in the past. Nice to hear from you.

Funny thing about this series of posts was that I was expecting to prove they were all signed and ended up doing just the opposite. I have had a few emails from others who believe in unsigned Shermans as well. No one prepared to stick out their neck in writing on the post though LOL!

Thanks for confirming that not all former employees of the Sherman Factory believe that everything was signed.

Just one more piece of the puzzle up for debate!



Kathy said...

Thank you for sharing your comments and your photos. I have been in love with Sherman jewelry for YEARS and know that I have had dozens of Sherman pieces in my hand that led me to say, "Why on earth did they not sign this piece!?" We all know Sherman when we hold it in our hands; the weight, the highly polished rhodium, the beautiful multi-colored and multi-faceted Swarovski crystals. Well, in this girl's opinion - no one can duplicate that quality and beauty. I think that if someone wanted to knock off Sherman jewelry, with the amount of time and quality materials they would have to use, they would want their OWN name on it, not someone elses :)

Why did Sherman sign some and not others? I have no idea. But in this girl's opinion - there were pieces that did slip out of Sherman's shop, unsigned. No doubt in my mind.

Mistik said...

Having seen and examined hundreds of pieces of Sherman, having come across pieces from original owners, and seen those that are indisputibly a match as to stones and construction and plating, I have always believed that there are unsigned pieces of Sherman. We are looking at 40 and 50 year old pieces of jewelry with the eyes of modern collectors. At the time these were made, every hang tag, every soldered plate and every box and card was a business expense - why sign, and then essentially triple or quadruple brand? I firmly believe some pieces were signed on the piece itself, while others had a hang tag or were part of a parure where other pieces where signed.

Deb said...

Hi Kathy, thanks for posting your opinion about collecting this beautiful jewelry. I'm with you, why put someone else's name on jewelry that takes this much effort and expertise to produce?? Great point!!

By the way, SWEET BABY on your lap. I have a 2 1/2 year old little girl who is acquiring quite a taste for rhinestones!! LOL!!!

Hi Mistik, thanks for posting, looks like we are all in agreement thus far and you are absolutely right about it being redundant and more expensive to double and triple stamp pieces.

Now if only some collectors would be brave enough to join the post who haven't converted to our way of thinking. LOL!!!

Thanks again ladies, your comments are valued and I appreciate that you took the time to read the posts and comment on them.