In 1907, the famous watchmaker and jeweler from the town of Pforzheim Germany, saw the establishment of a small hair jewelry company that would go on to become a household name and would bring about some of the most sought after designs in the fashion and jewelry world. Heinrich Henkel and his brother-in-law Florentine Grosse established the South-Germany Gold and Hair Jewelry - Heinrich Henkel and Co, now known as Henkel and Grosse.
At the time, the firm specialized in producing jewelry and watch chains made of woven and plaited hair. The pieces were surprisingly popular, and they picked up momentum at the outbreak of World War I. The practice of remembering loved ones with mementos made out of their hair dates back to the Victorian era. Henkel and Grosse genuinely understood the sentiment behind this tradition and tried their best to accommodate their clients. The company saw sales as far out as India thanks to grateful clients spreading the word.
Jewelry Designs Consistent with Social Trends
Many fashion historians attribute the firm’s tremendous success to their consistent molding of their designs to fit in with social and economic trends at every time period. Their designs were traced from the themes of the beginning of feminism, the avant-garde movement and both world wars back to centuries-old traditional themes and timeless elegance.
After World War I, the firm explored designs utilizing new materials such as bronze, aluminum, wood, bakelite and galalite. Signing contracts with Lanvin and Schiaparelli in Paris, Harrods in London, and Saks in New York provided financial security and ensured the company could continue employing the best jewelry makers of the time.
The company’s unique designs and outstanding craftsmanship even attracted prominent Paris designers. However, the advent of the Nazis that led to WWII made it impossible to market German wares abroad.
Near the end of World War II, Pforzheim, where the company was headquartered, was bombed a number of times. An estimated 83% of the town was destroyed including the Henkel & Grosse company headquarters. The company would take almost a decade to recover, but the exceptional workmanship, innovative jewelry designs, and attention to clientele needs brought Henkel and Grosse to new heights.
The Glamorous 50s: Elaborate Designs for Dior
Eight years after Christian Dior presented his first haute couture collection, Corolle, better known as New Look, in 1955, the legendary designer insisted on working with Henkel & Grosse. It was a cause for a lot of controversy at the time, as French fashion houses commonly worked with their own local artisans and jewelers. Christian Dior argued that the German company Henkel & Grosse had a proven track record of producing consistently high quality pieces, on time, and in the quantities Dior needed. The deal was signed; Dior would design and Grosse produce whatever Dior would envision.
The half a century-long cooperation was something unprecedented in the whirlpool of the fast-changing fashion world, and the Dior and Grosse seal, carried by every piece, is still a representative of the innovative design, technical advancement, and outstanding quality behind each piece. For the next 50 years, Henkel & Grosse, led by four generations of the Grosse family, working side by side with Dior, would produce truly stunning, highly sought after pieces.