Czech List

 1920s Egyptian Revival brooch with scarab beetle by the Neiger Brothers.

1920s Egyptian Revival brooch with scarab beetle by the Neiger Brothers.

Burgeoning Beginners

Many pieces of Czech jewellery feature metalwork designs. These were often created from machine stamps, engraved so that the metal would represent elaborate and delicate filigree work. There was a lot of technique involved in the creating of these stamps, the cutting, forming and setting of the metal, and those who produced these components were called ‘Gürtler’ or belt makers – because these were the items that were made in abundance. The metal was often gilded with enamel details and glass stones were added. Because of the machine element involved in the production of Czech metalwork, pieces can still be picked up relatively easily and are fairly affordable to buy. They are therefore the perfect items for new collectors, with brooches ranging from £15 to £50 depending upon quality and detail.

If you're a collector of vintage costume jewellery, or even if you have simply admired these fabulous fakes with heritage from afar, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’ll have witnessed a decorative element that owes its development to the craftspeople and artisans of Czechoslovakia. A hotbed of industry, the Republic produced decorative jewellery and accessory components for export across the globe, but also prolifically created distinctive and aesthetically appealing jewellery in its own right for an extensive period of time.

The Bohemian town of Gablonz was once the premier area of Czech jewellery manufacture. Here, the features which typify Czechoslovakian design – quality glass beads, ornate metal, lustrous enamelling – were industriously created by a highly skilled population. Glass bead making in this northern part of Bohemia, according to expert Sibylle Jargstorf, dates back to the 1600s; however it was in the early 19th century that the town’s bead industry really came into its own, developing the drawn beads technique to allow mass production and handle competition from Venice. Indeed, from around 1800, beads in Bohemia were no longer made one by one, but were cut from groups of glass tubes. There was a huge Cottage Industry where thousands of families worked out of their homes as pressers, grinders, cutters, trimmers and polishers.

Read more in Issue 37 - available here.