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Article: Ciner - A 129-Year-Old Costume Jewelry House With Glittering Craftsmanship

Ciner - A 129-Year-Old Costume Jewelry House With Glittering Craftsmanship - DSF Antique Jewelry

Ciner - A 129-Year-Old Costume Jewelry House With Glittering Craftsmanship

Established in 1892 by Emanuel Ciner, Ciner is the only surviving fine costume jewelry company left in the US that designs, manufactures, and produces each piece by hand in an NYC atelier.

Born in Austria in 1864,  Emanuel Ciner came to the US in 1886 and opened the Ciner Jewelry Company six years later in Manhattan, making jewelry pieces from the traditional precious gems, gold, and platinum.

Over the years, the Ciner House created highly artistic pieces. The fundamental difference between Ciner and other jewelry manufacturers is in innovative technologies (including a patent for an "Improved Ear-Ring") and rich experience with precious materials in parallel with the commitment to hand-crafting pieces in the traditional way.

Highly sought after among Ciner jewelry are the chokers and bracelets with tiny turquoise seed pearls or crystal squares in interlocking zigzag patterns, the sculptural pendants and cuffs, the hefty chains, the crystal-studded drop earrings, and the brooches in stylized human shape jewels with enamel, rhinestones, and faux pearls.

Ciner Jewelry - A 129 Old Family Business

Though specialized in crafting precious metals and gemstones, in 1929, when the Great Depression changed the Americans' priorities and the demand for expensive jewelry decreased dramatically,  the company - led by Emanuel Ciner's sons -  turned its attention to costume jewelry.

In 1930, the Ciners created their own line of fine costume jewelry, first in silver, then in other white metals, with glass cabochons and rhinestones instead of diamonds, and other stones such as marcasite. They stood out among the other jewelry companies due to their innovative technologies and vast experience with precious materials. This technology, in particular, allowed Ciner to make artificial pearls similar to natural ones. Thus, many of the designs rivaled fine jewelry pieces.

Throughout the 1930s, Emanuel, Irwin, and Charles Ciner came with a variety of technical innovations in costume jewelry including perfecting the use of white metal, a strong but workable blend of tin and other metals. With the help of the family dentist, a specialist in molding perfectly smooth inlays, the company developed a higher-quality jewelry molding method than the ones existing at the time. They also contributed to the development of induction casting and helped develop a special kind of vulcanized rubber that could withstand heated molten metals, Ciner NY says.

They drew inspiration from nature and created graciously, colorful jewelry shaped like animals, insects, and flowers, all crafted with perfect attention to detail.

The Ciner House Survives During The War

During  WWII, when the use of metal was severely restricted, the Ciner House adapted its business and came with unique molding technologies, which the company offered to the US military to produce munitions and tools.

This arrangement gave the house access to the heavily rationed metals it needed for its jewels and this kept the company alive until it could resume making complete lines of jewelry.

Even after war restrictions lifted, Ciner continued to make limited edition jewelry using sterling silver settings, as they mastered the technique. 

In the late 1940s, Jolie Gabor, the mother of Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor, began carrying Ciner jewelry in her Madison Avenue boutique in New York. In the next decades, more and more department stores began to work with Ciner and sell their jewelry to their clientele.

Stars Loved Ciner Jewelry

By the 1960s, the company hit its stride. Ciner jewelry was sold at some of the most fashionable stores and was worn by stars like Elizabeth Taylor, a long-time client of Ciner House, Jacqueline Kennedy, and the Duchess of Windsor. In the famous 1957 Joe Shere Photo of Sohpia Loren sneering at Jane Mansfield's decolletage, Mansfield wears splendid shoulder-grazing Ciner earrings.

In 1979, Pat Ciner Hill, the daughter of Irwin Ciner and granddaughter of Emanuel Ciner, assumes control of Ciner together with her husband, David Hill, who sometimes designed jewelry for the firm, assisted her with operations through 2008 when he passed away.

Along with producing some of the classic styles that consecrated Ciner, he also created bold costume jewelry, such as torsade necklaces and animal bangles. Ciner’s jewelry sold very well during this decade, according to Nasvete.

In 1984, Jean Hill becomes the fourth generation of Ciner to join the family business, leading the company with her parents.

The Hills completed their conservative classics line of costume jewelry like torsade necklaces with clasps that coordinate with a bevy of jeweled and enameled animal head bracelets, bold cuff bracelets, semi-precious beads, pearls, and crystals for younger and slightly less formal looks.

Ciner Jewelry Is in Vogue Even Today

Today, 129-years later, Ciner remains family-owned and operated, and the only surviving fine costume jewelry company left that manufactures all its pieces entirely in-house. Ciner's costume jewels aren’t imitations.

Each piece of jewelry begins with dozens of elements that are cast in rubber molds and then individually filed and polished, plated in a particularly thick layer of 18-karat gold or rhodium, assembled on the bench, and painted with enamel or set with stones. This process that most costume jewelers gave up to as is too time-consuming or costly is nearly identical to the one used by the most famous Maisons in Paris. But Ciner kept making its jewelry this way as they aren't willing to compromise.

As the jewelry is handcrafted by a team of artisans, this allows complete control of the process as well as customization.

"We’re stubborn enough to keep it going. What the stones are shouldn’t matter. It’s about how it looks and how you feel when you put it on," Ciner Hills says.

Ciner Jewelry Distinctive Marks

- The company’s early jewelry was not labeled, but after 1945, it marked its products "CINER".

- CINER with and without ©️

- ©️MMA CN Ciner

- Pre-1955 Ciner jewelry contained the 'Ciner' logo in a capitalized, san serif font. Rhinestones and glass beads were favored materials.

- Post-1980's uses the serif font.

- Not all Ciner jewelry pieces contain the copyright symbol

- Ciner Sterling

View Our Collection of Vintage Costume Jewelry 


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