Napier Jewelry company is an American brand of costume jewellery that manufactured quality items selling for prices that the average woman could afford. Costume jewellery in the 1920s was often ornately embellished. Napier earned its reputation by standing out from the pack with simpler, sleeker designs. Known for its more modern elements, Napier pieces often featured simple geometric shapes. Many popular pieces drew from floral inspirations.
The Napier Jewelry Company can trace its origins back to 1875 in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Known originally as Whitney and Rice, the company specialised in silver products rather than jewellery. Several name changes occurred during the years leading up to World War I. After the end of the first World War I, the company shifted focus from silver products to jewellery. James Napier took over the helm of the company in 1920 and changed the name of the company to Napier Jewelry in 1922. Known for costume jewellery that was elegant in design, the company continued to prosper throughout the 20th century.
Reaching its peak of popularity in the 1950s and 60s, Napier jewellery pieces span a wide array of styles, including pieces that feature faux pearls and beading, large gold- or silver-toned chains, colourful enamel pieces, and earrings, necklaces and bracelets that feature milk glass beads or art glass charms. The company also produced a line of sterling silver pieces. Chunky bracelets, oversized broaches, and large, button style earrings were also manufactured by Napier.
Napier jewellery pieces can be identified by a specific mark that the company began using in 1922. The word "Napier," written in block style letters was stamped on every piece until late in the 1980s. At that time, the company was sold to Victoria & Co. and the identifying mark was changed to the word "Napier" written in script letters. This mark was used until Victoria & Co. closed Napier in October, 1999. While department stores still feature unmarked jewellery pieces sold on cards listing the Napier name, these pieces are not manufactured by the original creators of Napier jewellery. Collectors know that the quality is not the same as original Napier pieces produced in 1999 or before.
Vintage Napier jewellery still holds its value with collectors of costume jewellery. Sterling silver pieces, as well as bracelets and necklaces featuring glass art charms, are highly sought-after. While prices may vary according to the date that the piece was made and the current demand, a pair of vintage Napier earrings may sell for £26 or more and a necklace may go for upwards of £97. Rare vintage pieces from the 1920s featuring an Egyptian motif and are highly collectable.
In the 1950s when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the Napier Jewelry company gifted First Lady Mamie Eisenhower with a charm bracelet that featured elephants, the mascot of the Republican party. Mamie. Eisenhower loved the bracelet and wore it on a regular basis. Bracelets featuring green glass elephant charms were made available to the buying public. Vintage examples of this charm bracelet can sell for £162 or more.
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