NewslettersRuby Lane's newsletters are designed to celebrate the antiques and art, vintage collectibles and jewelry communities around the world. Our Past Times newsletter focuses on antiques and collectibles. Our Creative Hands newsletter celebrates fine art and handcrafted jewelry on Ruby Lane. Our shop owners are frequent article contributors, sharing their expertise and their passions for the items they collect and create. Enjoy!
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Ruby Lane's Past Times Newsletter for December 2010
In This Issue
- Video: Happy Holidays from Ruby Lane
- Krementz Family History
- Shop Spotlight: Shop Retro Daze
- Christmas Bells Are Ringing!
VIDEO: HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM RUBY LANE
Click here to see a special holiday video from Ruby Lane, or go to:
KREMENTZ FAMILY HISTORY
The Holidays are a time when many of us gather with family, for a time that is often filled with remembrance of pleasant memories from the past. We can think of no better time to remember the Krementz family, whose items have appeared under Christmas trees since 1866. The Krementz family is one that has had an amazing impact on the jewelry industry in the United States, and the world. For nearly 150 years, members of the family have been involved in the creation of jewelry items.
As a young immigrant from Germany, George Krementz became an apprentice in the New York jewelry industry in the 1850s. After the Civil War, Krementz started his own manufacturing facility, in partnership with his cousin, Julius Lebcheucher. There were some other financial partners, but the cousins soon bought them out. Krementz ran the manufacturing operation, while Julius was responsible for sale.
They selected Newark, New Jersey, for their operations, since early in the 19th century, Newark had been a center for the jewelry and accessory trade, and Krementz & Company would be there for the heyday of Newark. Arthur Hinsdale opened the country's first factory producing only jewelry items in Newark, in 1801. This firm became Taylor & Baldwin, around the time of the War of 1812. James Durand, Aaron Carter, and William Riker all worked for this concern before starting great companies of their own.
There were nearly 3 dozen jewelry factories in Newark by the late 1860s. This was the age of
mechanization and innovation, and many developments in jewelry production came from these factories. Newark produced jewelry for America's new middle class, and the range was amazing. Some manufacturers, like Larter & Sons and Carrington & Company, produced jewelry and accessories for men. William Kerr and Unger Brothers dominated the world of buckles and sash pins, for the ladies. The jewelry and accessory makers of Newark mastered the Renaissance Revival and Art Nouveau styles, and some of the finest jewelry of this period hails from Newark.
The firms worked in sterling silver, karat gold, and platinum, but rolled gold plate also had its place in Newark. By the late 1920s, there were over 120 jewelry manufacturers in Newark, and it is estimated that 90 percent of the 14 karat gold jewelry made in the United States originated in Newark.
George Krementz thrived in this environment. The firm appears to have concentrated on men's accessories, including the all important collar button. The detachable celluloid collars of the day needed to be attached to the collarless men's dress shirts of the period. The collar button of the time was a riveted arrangement. George Krementz saw how a cartridge casing could be formed out of one sheet of metal, shaping it with successive dies, and applied this process to the collar button. His one-piece collar button was far superior to any other on the market. Some say that it was the process used by Colt Firearms that inspired him, and
authoritative sources say the inspiration occurred at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, in Philadelphia.
George used a special version of the rolled gold process, creating a Gold Overlay sheet that had 14 karat gold bonded to both sides of a layer of base metal. This material was incredibly durable, and did not acquire the brassy discolored look of many other gold filled or plated products. A layer of nickel plate between the brass base metal and the gold sheets may have accounted for this quality. The product was known as Krementz Overlay and it served the company well over the years.
Krementz had to keep the one-piece process exclusive, and successfully fought for their patent rights in front of the Supreme Court. According to his great-grandson, Richard, the case was so complex that the Supreme Court chose to hear no more patent cases. By the turn of the 20th century, the collar button market was totally dominated by Krementz. Krementz was advertising their name and products nationally by the late 19th century.
During the late 19th and early 20th century, Krementz also made fine jewelry, and many ladies pins and lavalieres may be found with the well-known Krementz mark. It is a stylized profile of the ubiquitous collar button. They may have been the largest jewelry manufacturer in the world by the time of World War I.
George's brothers. Frank and Tom, split off from the company and formed the Frank Krementz Company, in Newark, around the turn of the
century. They made a wonderful line of cuff links, and moved into eyeglass manufacture after World War II. The final end of the Frank Krementz Company is a bit of a mystery. Some sources indicate that the firm just went out of business in the 1950s. Others claim that the company was actually reacquired by George's descendants at Krementz & Company in the 1960s.
George's sons, Walter and Richard, were active in the company, as were their sons, Robert, Walter, and Richard Jr. Richard Krementz III was associated with the company in the 1980s and later returned to Richard Krementz Gemstones.
Collar buttons lost popularity by the 1930s, but the same basic design also allowed Krementz to be a major producer of men's dress sets, most often consisting of three shirt studs and a pair of cuff links. Krementz also began producing ladies jewelry lines in their gold overlay material. When the Great Depression put many of the fine jewelry manufacturers out of business, Krementz had a product line ready to fill the economic and fashion gap. Their gold overlay products were featured in Fine Jewelry stores, and they offered a practically unconditional guarantee. They would repair or replace almost any piece, and for almost any reason. The author can personally verify that a neck chain that had been chewed into numerous sections by a stylish dog was replaced by the company without hesitation. It is not unusual to see Krementz Overlay pieces with finishes still perfectly intact,
even after 50 or 60 years of wear.
It was during this period of expansion into ladies fashion jewelry, that the Krementz and Lester families, co-owners of the company, parted ways. The Lebcheucher family had changed its name to Lester, due to the anti-German sentiment in the country during World War I. They continued to work in precious metals, while Krementz & Company focused on the overlay line.
Krementz & Company moved back into the Fine Jewelry business, with the acquisition of Jones & Woodland in 1938. This company survives as Richard Krementz Gemstones today, and makes wonderful pieces. With an emphasis on fine colored gemstones. The company is run by Richard Krementz III, the fifth generation of this jewelry making family.
There were some other acquisitions and divisions over the years. The regular Krementz line did include some karat gold items over the years. Krementz acquired Abelson & Braun, a wedding and engagement ring manufacturer. They started a line of primarily 10-karat gold jewelry under the Diana name, in the 1930s. Eventually, Diana became the name associated with the bridal division. They acquired George Schuler & Co., a fine jewelry manufacturer, in 1965, and McTiegue and Co., another fine jewelry maker, in 1975. There was a separate Krementz Fine Jewelry Division in the 1980s, sometimes referred to as Krementz Gold, possibly built on the Schuler & Company base. Shiman Manufacturing was acquired and run as a line of primarily religious goods. The
date of this acquisition is not clear, but may date to the name change to Shiman Industries in 1971.
By the 1980s, Krementz had 7 divisions., with over 700 employees and $50 million in sales. The company has been described as the General Motors of the jewelry industry, with different product lines at different price points. The expansion had a price. The old plant on Chestnut Street in downtown Newark was overloaded and deteriorating. New facilities on the edge of town were built. The fluctuations in the gold markets had made fine jewelry production a cash intensive business. The Traditional Overlay business was down, with cheaper imports undercutting price points, and increased competition from poorly made karat gold imports and sterling silver pieces.
The Krementz family began dismantling the large conglomerate jewelry empire in the 1990's. The Diana Division, which made wedding bands, was sold to Fredrick Goldman, another maker of bridal jewelry. Tiffany & Company acquired McTeigue.
The Shiman division and the traditional overlay division were sold to the Colibri Group in 1997, and moved from the shops at Newark which had produced them. These companies, along with the other remnants and acquisitions of the Colibri group were sold off by bankruptcy court in 2009.
SHOP SPOTLIGHT: SHOP RETRO DAZE
Chad Flickinger is the owner of "Shop Retro Daze", a Ruby Lane shop that specializes in 40s-50s-60s glassware, pottery and vintage kitchenware.
"Welcome to Shop Retro Daze. We are your online source for vintage glassware, kitchenware and pottery. Thank you for dropping by for a visit! Shop Retro Daze is the online affiliate of our brick-and-mortar business, Retro Daze Antiques and Collectibles. We are a small mother and son owned business based in Westminster, Maryland.
First and foremost we are collectors. As with most antique dealers, collecting became more than just a hobby. Our passion for 40s-50s-60s glassware, pottery and vintage kitchenware led to the creation of our business in December 2003. We opened our first booth in the Westminster Antique Mall in Westminster, Maryland. Our beginnings were admittedly modest but sales were so good that less than one year later we expanded our business to become multi-state. In October 2004 we opened a larger booth at Yesteryear Antique Center in Hanover, Pennsylvania. When you're passing through central Maryland and southern Pennsylvania be sure to stop by and visit us. Thank you for shopping with us...I look forward to being of service."
Some examples of items from his shop include a Jeannette Light Jadite Glass Measuring Pitcher with Reamer Top ($98), a 10 Pc. Anchor Hocking Fire-King Egg Nog Set in Original Box ($65), and a Boonton Melmac Orange & Green Confetti Fluted Edge Mixing Bowl ($22).
invite you to visit Shop Retro Daze.
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