Monocraft Before Monet
Front of Click Its brooch, Ca. 1930s
Monocraft made its mark in the jewelry business by focusing on initial jewelry with interchangeable letters allowing the pieces to be easily customized. The company’s “Dangles” and “Click-Its” lines of the 1930s included initial charm bracelets, pins, fobs, and necklaces made in both silver-tone and gold-tone metal. The company also made identification bracelets with linked letters that spelled out first names. Advertising of the day encouraged shoppers to “make it personal” by purchasing these unique jewelry items that proved to be very popular with consumers.
“Dangles” were made in a variety of shapes including round, ovals, squares, arrows, hearts and crowns that were
Reverse of Click-Its brooch showing how letters were fastened onto the frame.
suspended from brooches and traditional charm bracelets, according to “Monet: The Master Jewelers” by Alice Vega. Some were embellished with enameling, marcasites or cabochon stones. Individual charms went for 25 cents each. A bracelet with three charms sold for $1. These are most commonly found today in plainer versions, with round charms being the most prolific.
“Click-Its” also made obtaining personalized jewelry easy and affordable with letters that literally clicked
Monocraft mark on Click-Its brooch
into a frame. The frame shapes varied from angular Art Deco influenced designs to more ornate Victorian revival style examples. The shapes of the individual letters also varied, offering further options for unique personalization suited to the taste of the customer or gift-giver. This type of jewelry was, along with the Dangles line, marked Monocraft in block letters.
The condition on these pieces varies widely, with most showing some signs of wear. The finish clearly held up better on these pieces when they were carefully stored away from other jewelry and metals that might mar the surface.
And while the jewelry is found far more often today in the collectibles marketplace, a similar idea was applied to handbags. Frames on the purses allowed larger sized letters to be inserted for personalization. During the Great Depression, when a dollar meant something, these affordable options for customized goods were heartily embraced by consumers.
Short-Lived Lines: Shirley Temple and Dionne Quints
In 1936, Monocraft made a line of Shirley Temple jewelry, and another commemorating the Dionne Quintuplets. Hasty production on these pieces to meet contractual obligations meant jewelry that didn’t hold up as well as Monocraft usually did and the lines were phased out soon after production began. Today the price varies on these pieces, since they’re usually in fairly poor condition when found. They are rare, however, so collectors of Shirley Temple and Dione Quints memorabilia do enjoy adding them to their collections.
Monet Jewelers Launches in 1937
Monet Jewelers late 1930s festoon necklace
As the Great Depression lingered and war was eminent in the late 1930s, Hollywood provided an escape for the average lady. Film stars influenced everything including fashion and jewelry. Many Providence, R.I. costume jewelry companies were copying popular jewelry styles of fine jewelry houses and those worn in the movies of the day, and Monocraft sought a slice of that business.
Monocraft set out to expand its lines by establishing Monet Jewelers in 1937 as a subsidiary of the parent company. The first full-page ad for Monet Jewelers ran in October of 1937 with retail prices from $5 to $100, good sums for jewelry in those days. The names Monocraft and Monet were used together in marketing for a while, but after the Monet brand became more recognized it stood alone, according to Vega.
Monet Jewelers Mark
The “Monet Jewelers” dangling tag mark (as shown in the example here) was attached to Monet necklaces and some bracelets beginning in the late 1930s. It was used on a limited basis through the mid-1940s. Dress clips and brooches from this period were simply marked “Monét” in a serif typeface with an accent over the “e.” Vega adds, “All of the early jewelry hallmarked ‘Monet Jewelers’ is hard to find today. Some can still be found in surprisingly good to excellent condition!”
Close view of Monet Jewelers 1930s necklace detailing rhinestones and enamel accents
Monet continued to make many pieces of all-metal jewelry during this time frame but some colored stones in both faceted and cabochon styles were used in designs in very limited quantities. This practice was discontinued in the 1940s and resumed again in the 1980s. The 1980s pieces will most often be marked “MONET” in block letters with no accent over the “E.”
Some of the popular collections made early on had distinct global influences including the Hindu Bells line and Egyptian revival designs. In 1939, the Etruscan collection was advertised selling in the $2 to $15 range. Other lines had Art Deco and Victorian revival characteristics as well.
Today most early Monet jewelry from the 1930s, especially the prolific all metal pieces, can still be found reasonably priced. The exceptions are rarest pieces like the rhinestone and enamel Victorian revival festoon necklace shown here along with other high style designs containing cabochon stones. The condition varies, however. Like the earlier Monocraft pieces, the finish seems to have held up better if this jewelry was carefully stored where it would not be scratched and marred. Only pieces in pristine condition bring the highest prices now.
To learn more about vintage Monet jewelry, visit: http://monetthebook.com/.
All photographs by Jay B. Siegel; Copyrighted © by CJCI