Art Nouveau Silver

By Carolyn Sunday
American Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Repoussé Smalls (and curiosities)
 

American Art Nouveau Sterling Silver The Art Nouveau period (1890-1910) is an era that overlaps and is part of the Victorian period. The designs of the Art Nouveau period featured motifs of women with long flowing hair, angels and cherubs, fairies or sprites, animals (dragonflies being of particular popularity), naturalistic foliate designs, flowers and scroll work. Risqué items and mild erotica were also popular Art Nouveau motifs. The worlds of naturalism and fantasy were often combined. The major artists of the period included Alphonse Mucha, Raphael Kirchner, & Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

Unger Brothers sterling silver


Lovely grouping of five Unger Brothers sterling silver hollow-ware vanity dressing table pieces; large and small hair brush, clothing lint brush, button hook, and ink eraser.
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

This period was characterized in part by its repoussé, designs in jewelry and metalwork. Repoussé [ruh poo SAY]: a technique of raising metal, working from the back side. All of the pieces featured here are from American manufacturers and are classified as “Sterling Silver Hollow-ware.“ Hollow-ware is a generic term for any tool, decorative piece or vessel produced by raising, casting, stamping, or spinning and is usually created by two soldered sterling silver halves.

 

About The Maker- Unger Brothers: Newark, New Jersey:

Many of the wonderful Art Nouveau designs of Unger Brothers were inspired from the famous art work of Alphonse Mucha. William Unger was a partner of Thomas A. Edison from 1870-1872 in the Newark Telegraph Works. This firm was dissolved that year and the five brothers William, George, Frederick, Herman and Eugene Unger organized Unger Brothers for the manufacture and sale of pocket knives and hardware specialties. They began the manufacture of sterling silver hollow-ware and jewelry in 1878.
 

Unger Brothers sterling silver
 

 

An early Unger Brothers advertising print that shows the influence of Alphonse Mucha.
 

Unger Brothers hallmarks

The Unger Brothers hallmarks.

 

Art Nouveau desk top ink eraser

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry] 

 

Signed Unger Brothers sterling silver Art Nouveau desk top ink eraser with sterling silver handle. High repoussé floral pattern of a woman with long flowing hair. The tool measures 6" in length by 1-1/8" in width by 1" in depth. Hallmarked on the edge "Sterling 925 Fine" with double Unger Brothers hallmark.  [Circa 1900]

Unger Brothers

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Close-up of Unger Brothers signed Art Nouveau desk top ink eraser.

 

Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau clothing lint brush

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau clothing lint brush with horse hair bristles and a high repoussé floral pattern on the handle. The tool measures 5-1/2" total length by 2-5/8" wide by 3/8" depth. Hallmarked on the edge, "Sterling 925 Fine", with double Unger Brothers hallmark. [Circa 1900]
 

Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau clothing lint brush

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Top of sterling silver Art Nouveau clothing lint brush.

 

Unger Brothers signed Art Nouveau shoe or boot button-hook

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Unger Brothers signed Art Nouveau shoe or boot button-hook with sterling silver handle and steel hook. High repoussé floral pattern of a woman in profile with long flowing hair. The tool measures 7-3/4" total length by 15/16" wide by 7/8" depth. Hallmarked on the edge "Sterling 925 Fine" with double Unger Brothers hallmark. [Circa 1900]
 

Unger Brothers signed Art Nouveau shoe or boot button-hook

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Close-up of button-hook handle.

 

Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau hair brush
[Courtesy of the Amber Goldstein collection, Key Largo, FL.]


 

Rare Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau hair brush. High repoussé detail in the "Love's Dream" pattern, with an angel or cherub kissing a sleeping woman. The brush with horse hair bristles, measures 5-3/4" by 1-3/4" wide by 1-3/4" depth. Hallmarked on the edge "Sterling 925 Fine" with double Unger Brothers hallmark. Slightly erotic subject matter. [Circa 1900]

 

Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau hair brush

[Courtesy of the Amber Goldstein collection, Key Largo, FL.]

Close-up detail of Art Nouveau hair brush.

 

Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau hair brush

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

Rare Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau large hair brush. The high repoussé detail is really fantastic and includes two Sea Goddesses rising from the water with four Sea Serpents and ten Iris Flowers. The large brush with horse hair bristles, measures 7" by 2-1/8" wide by 1-3/4" depth. Engraved or monogrammed ECW in the center. Hallmarked on the edge "Sterling 925 Fine" with double Unger Brothers hallmark. [Circa 1900]


 

Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau hair brush

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Close-up of Sea Goddesses.

 

 

Unger Brothers signed sterling silver Art Nouveau hair brush

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Close-up of Sea Serpents.
 

 

Unger Brothers sterling silver repoussé nude erotic cigarette case
[Courtesy of the Delta Burke collection- Los Angeles, CA.]
 

 

Rare signed Unger Brothers sterling silver repoussé nude erotic cigarette case. Categorized as tobacciana (or smoking collectibles). The case is for small hand-rolled cigarettes and measures 3" by 2" by 5/8" with an arched shape to fit the curve of the body. The interior has its original gilt finish (yellow gold plated) and two spring loaded retainer arms. Hallmarked on the edge "Sterling 925 Fine" with double Unger Brothers hallmark; and monogrammed with three overlapping initials EPS on the back. [Circa 1900]
 

 

Unger Brothers sterling silver repoussé nude erotic cigarette case
[Courtesy of the Delta Burke collection- Los Angeles, CA.]
 

Interior of cigarette case.

 

Unger Brothers sterling silver repoussé sewing thimble holder

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

Rare signed Unger Brothers sterling silver repoussé sewing thimble holder. Fantastic open pierced work, with a hinged lid.  The thimble holder has a small initialed monogram on top, "B". Measures 1-1/8" tall by 1" in diameter. Hallmarked on the edge "Sterling 925 Fine" with double Unger Brothers hallmark. [Circa 1900]
 

 

Unger Brothers sterling silver repoussé sewing thimble holder

[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Sewing thimble holder open.
 

 

 

 
About The Maker- William B. Kerr:

Another popular manufacturer of silver hollow-ware in the Art Nouveau design was William B. Kerr. William B. Kerr, originally Kerr & Thiery, was established by William B. Kerr in Newark, New Jersey in 1855. The company was a maker of flat and tableware, sterling silver and gold dresser ware, and jewelry. William B. Kerr was purchased by the Gorham Corporation in 1906 and moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1927.

 

William B. Kerr circa 1901 "American Beauty" series Art Nouveau sterling silver dresser vanity brush set
[Courtesy of the Amber Goldstein collection, Key Largo, FL.]


 

Outstanding rare signed William B. Kerr circa 1901 "American Beauty" series Art Nouveau sterling silver dresser vanity brush set with extraordinary detail and extremely high repoussé design. The “American Beauty” series featured fantastic Art Nouveau motif with flowers, classic Gibson Girl style women’s heads with upswept hair, detailed leaves and scroll work.  The big over-sized brushes have horse hair bristles; the rectangular brush measures 7-1/4" by 2-1/2" x 2". The hand brush measures 9-1/2" by 3-1/4"; the handle has a 1-1/4" width. Both pieces are signed "Sterling" with Kerr hallmark and "1447 Pat'd Dec. 10 '01". The style number #1447 indicates that this is part of the “American Beauty” series. 
 

 

William B. Kerr circa 1901 "American Beauty" series Art Nouveau sterling silver dresser vanity brush set
[Courtesy of the Amber Goldstein collection, Key Largo, FL.]
 

Close-up of hand brush.


 

William B. Kerr hallmark

The William B. Kerr hallmark.

 

 

William B. Kerr in the “American Beauty” series of Art Nouveau repoussé
[Courtesy of the Amber Goldstein collection, Key Largo, FL.]

 

 

Another piece by William B. Kerr in the “American Beauty” series of Art Nouveau repoussé. This is a rouge pot with a glass bottom and sterling silver lid. The style number #1447 indicates that this is part of the “American Beauty” series. Lid diameter is 3-3/4”. [Circa 1900]

 

William B. Kerr in the “American Beauty” series of Art Nouveau repoussé
[Courtesy of the Amber Goldstein collection, Key Largo, FL.]

 


William B. Kerr hand mirror in the “American Beauty” series of Art Nouveau repoussé; notice the detail of the poppy flowers. 10” long. The style number #1447 indicates that this is part of the “American Beauty” series. [Circa 1900]
 

 

 Dresser tray by William B. Kerr in the “American Beauty” series of Art Nouveau repoussé.

[Courtesy of the Amber Goldstein collection, Key Largo, FL.]

 

Dresser tray by William B. Kerr in the “American Beauty” series of Art Nouveau repoussé. 5” across. The style number #1447 indicates that this is part of the “American Beauty” series. [Circa 1900]

 

 


Gorham signed Art Nouveau sterling silver wisk broom
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 


Gorham signed Art Nouveau sterling silver wisk broom. Measures 8-1/8" by 2-3/8" (tapering to 1" at the handle) by 1" thick. Lovely finely detailed repoussé flowers and leaves with scroll work. [Circa 1900]

About The Maker: Gorham Corporation- Providence, Rhode Island, was perhaps one of the most popular and prolific American sterling silver manufacturers in the silverware and jewelry industry in 18th century New England.
 

 

Gorham signed Art Nouveau sterling silver wisk broom
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]
 

 

Close-up of sterling silver handle.
 

Gorham Corporation early hallmark
 

The Gorham Corporation early hallmark.

 

 

Art Nouveau sterling silver repoussé sealing wax stamps
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

 

A pair of Art Nouveau sterling silver repoussé sealing wax stamps. Wax stamps were used to seal letters and mark legal documents. The large one measures 3-1/4” the tiny one measures 1-1/2”. [Circa 1900]

 


sterling silver Art Nouveau gentleman’s cigar cutters
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

A pair of sterling silver Art Nouveau gentleman’s cigar cutters. Categorized as tobacciana (or smoking collectibles). Notice the jump ring at the top. These would have been hung off the end of a pocket watch chain, and left to dangle on the outside of the vest or trousers' pocket as ornamentation. Measures 1-1/2” in length. [Circa 1900]

 


sterling silver Art Nouveau gentleman’s match safes, or Vestas
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

A trio of sterling silver Art Nouveau gentleman’s match safes, or Vestas. Categorized as tobacciana (or smoking collectibles). The two on the outsides have never been cleaned and retain all of their original age tarnish or blackened patina. The large one measures 2-7/8” by 1-1/2”, the small ones measure 2-1/2" by 1-3/16". [Circa 1900]

 

Schmitz Moore Co. sterling silver Art Nouveau manicure nail buffer
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

Signed Schmitz Moore Co. sterling silver Art Nouveau manicure nail buffer for vanity or dressing table. Measures 4-1/4" by 1-1/2" x 2-3/8". Marked "Sterling" with maker  hallmark on the side edge. Lovely high repoussé leaf and floral pattern, extremely ornate. Has the initial "R" monogrammed on the top of the handle. A heavy felt-like wool fabric wraps around the top and is used to buff the nails. [Circa 1900]

 

Schmitz Moore Co. sterling silver Art Nouveau manicure nail buffer
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Top of nail buffer.

 

Schmitz, Moore & Company hallmark

Schmitz, Moore & Company hallmark.

 

About The Maker: Schmitz, Moore & Company- Newark, NJ.  were manufacturers of sterling silver dresser-ware. Advertisement was listed in Jewelers Circular in 1915. Succeeded by Moore & Hofman between 1915-1922.

 

Art Nouveau nail or cuticle manicure tool
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

Art Nouveau nail or cuticle manicure tool, with sterling silver handle and steel blade. Measures 5-1/4" by 1" x 5/8". Woman with long flowing hair is gazing at her reflection in a mirror, surrounded by flowers. [Circa 1900]

 

Art Nouveau nail or cuticle manicure tool
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]
Close-up of handle.

 


Art Nouveau button hook - sterling silver handle with steel hook
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]
 

 

Art Nouveau button hook - sterling silver handle with steel hook. High repoussé floral pattern of winged fairy or sprite, with iris flowers. The tool measures 7-1/2" total length by 15/16" wide by 5/8" depth. [Circa 1900]

 

Art Nouveau button hook - sterling silver handle with steel hook
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Close-up of the handle.

 

Victorian sterling silver calling card case, signed Webster
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]


 

Victorian sterling silver calling card case, signed Webster. The case was used to hold calling cards for business or social engagements. Case has a slightly curved shape to fit against the body inside your pocket, and hinges open from the side. Measures 3-3/8" by 2-7/8" by 3/16" thick. Retains all of its original deeply age tarnished patina. [Circa 1900]

About The Maker: Webster Company- North Attelboro, MA. Founded by George K. Webster in 1869. Webster Co. eventually became a subsidiary of Reed and Barton in 1950.

 

Victorian sterling silver calling card case, signed Webster
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Back of sterling silver calling card case.

 


 

Webster Company hallmark

Webster Company hallmark.

 

Art Nouveau sterling silver shoe horn
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

 

Art Nouveau sterling silver shoe horn with sterling silver handle and steel horn. Measures 7-3/4" by 1" (handle width), 1-1/4" (shoe horn width). A woman with long flowing hair is surrounded by flowers.  [Circa 1900]

 

Art Nouveau sterling silver shoe horn
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Close-up of handle.

 

Marshall Fields slightly erotic Art Nouveau sterling silver hair brush
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

Early Marshall Fields slightly erotic Art Nouveau sterling silver hair brush features in repoussé a highly detailed water scene with bare breasted risqué nude and calla lily flowers with cat tails. Brush with horse hair bristles, measures 7-1/8" by 2" by 1-3/4". Signed "Sterling MF" on the top. [Circa 1900]

 

Marshall Fields slightly erotic Art Nouveau sterling silver hair brush
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Close-up of sterling silver hair brush.

 

 

Marshall Fields Art Nouveau sterling silver nail buffer
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

 

Early Marshall Fields Art Nouveau sterling silver nail buffer manicure tool for the dressing table or vanity. Measures 4-1/8" by 1-3/8" by 3/8". The nail buffer features in repoussé a highly detailed scene of a woman with long flowing hair surrounded by flowers. Signed "Sterling MF" on the top. [Circa 1900]

 

Marshall Fields hallmark

Early Marshall Fields hallmark.

 

Marshall Fields hallmark
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

Close-up.

 

Art Nouveau sterling silver top with steel pin stem hat pin
[Courtesy of  Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry]

 

Art Nouveau sterling silver top with steel pin stem hat pin with a darling winged angel cherub in repoussé. Angel measures 1-1/2" by 3/4"; steel pin stem measures 8". Marked "Sterling Top" on the back of the angel.   “Sterling Top” marked items indicated a construction using a sterling silver repoussé sheeted front on a steel or base metal back for strength. [Circa 1900]

 

repoussé sterling silver bodied yo-yos
 

 

For the little kid (or big kid) that has everything! Three repoussé sterling silver bodied yo-yos, each 2-1/4“ in diameter.

 

 

Alvin Corporation hallmark
Here is a fun test question
: All the yo-yos are in the Art Nouveau style but with three very different ages, can you tell which one is actually from the Art Nouveau era? Left to right:1. Alvin Corporation- This yo-yo was made circa 1950-60. It is marked “sterling silver plastic body”. The plastic body core is the giveaway that this is of a later vintage. The maker - Alvin Manufacturing Co., Providence, RI. 1886 to present - produced a full line of flatware and hollow-ware of noteworthy Art Nouveau designs. The Alvin Manufacturing Company is currently a division of Gorham.

[To the right, the Alvin Corporation hallmark.]

 


2. L.S.M. Company- This yo-yo was made circa 1940-50. It is marked “sterling silver steel body”. The L.S.M. Company was most likely riding off the popularity wave of the yo-yos that had been made a decade or two previously.



L.S.M. Company hallmark
[ The L.S.M. Company hallmark.]


3. Gorham Corporation- This is the oldest of the three yo-yos, circa early 1930s, and marked “sterling cover steel body”. As you can see, the sterling silver yo-yo was so popular that other silver manufacturers continued to produce it well into the mid-1900s! The maker - Gorham Corporation, Providence, Rhode Island - was perhaps one of the most popular and prolific American sterling silver manufacturers in the silverware and jewelry industry in 18th century New England.

 

Gorham Corporation later hallmark [The Gorham Corporation later hallmark.]

 

 

Answer: This was a trick question and the answer might surprise you!  None of these is actually from the Art Nouveau era, but all are in the Art Nouveau STYLE. This is just an exercise to show just how popular the motif was with silver manufacturers, even well after the era came to a close!
 

 

Recommended Web Sites:
Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Maker's Marks
Center For Jewelry Studies
Gorham History
Marshall Fields
Recommended Books:
American Jewelry Manufacturers by Dorothy T. Rainwater
Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers  by Dorothy T. Rainwater & Judy Redfield
The Glitter & The Gold- Fashioning America’s Jewelry by The Newark Museum
The Collector’s Timeline by Christie Romero and Barbara Talbott  

About the author:: Carolyn Sunday, of Sunday and Sunday Fine Antique Jewelry, specializes in antique jewelry and vintage watches with emphasis on Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau eras. Their inventory includes antique cameos, enamels, lavelieres, mourning and hair jewelry, pocket watch chains, fobs, early Victorian rings and pendants, Edwardian and Art Deco filigree, military sweetheart pieces and other vintage militaria, Tobacciana, including antique cigar cutters and vintage cigarette cases.
Contact info: Ed and Carolyn Sunday, www.sundayandsunday.com, P.O. Box 1240, Uniontown, Ohio 44685