ZEITGEIST. A Century of Idar-Oberstein Costume Jewellery

Book  /  Design   History   Arnoldsche
Published: 23.10.2009
ZEITGEIST. A Century of Idar-Oberstein Costume Jewellery.
Anne-Barbara Kerr
Edited by:
Arnoldsche Art Publishers
Edited at:
Technical data:
192 pages, hardcover with dust jacket, approx 270 colour illustrations, text in German and English, 23.5 x 29.5 cm
Out of print

A lavishly illustrated and scholarly book drawing on hitherto unpublished material. A vivid picture of the inventiveness and creative powers of a sector that vanished thirty years ago is recreated before readers’ eyes. A book for jewellery lovers and collectors alike who are eager to explore uncharted terrain in jewellery.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Idar-Oberstein rose alongside Pforzheim, Hanau and Schwäbisch-Gmünd to pre-eminence in costume-jewellery manufacture in Germany. For about a century, innumerable small and medium-sized factories competed with English and Bohemian jewellery manufacturers to produce costume jewellery to make any woman’s dreams come true, working in tombac, brass and anodized aluminium. The era of Idar-Oberstein costume-jewellery manufacture ended in the 1980s when the global market changed.

The distinguishing features of Idar-Oberstein costume jewellery are, apart from mass production, the use of simple, inexpensive materials and cutting-edge design, which tended to cater for the growing fashion awareness of the classes beginning to participate in the economic upturn and the concomitant prosperity.

Although fashion jewellery is a widespread given in 20th-century everyday culture, it has hitherto rarely been subjected to serious art historical study. Hence we are indebted to the art historian Anne-Barbara Knerr for providing a comprehensive and scholarly overview of the many dazzling facets of this field of production – ranging from watch chains through necklaces to fashionable accessories. Moreover, it becomes clear that costume jewellery design did not simply entail simulating “haute jouaillerie”. Instead, it emerged from a creative reflection on, and evaluation of, the prevailing trends in art and the applied arts to take up artistic stances of its own – from Jugendstil/Art Nouveau and Art Déco to Informel and Zero.

Drawing on hitherto unpublished documents, photographs and pieces of jewellery, the publication also presents twelve Idar-Oberstein jewellery manufacturers, providing information on their owners and employees, the conditions under which they produced costume jewellery, how they launched their models, the styles in which they worked and how their pieces were marketed and distributed worldwide – a particularly helpful chapter for collectors, especially since identifying and dating Idar-Oberstein jewellery has never been an easy task as hallmarks are usually lacking. 

Wilhelm Lindemann (ed.) / Anne-Barbara Knerr