Napier jewelry was quite fashionable in the mid-20th century. Celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Mamie Eisenhower wore the avant-garde Napier designs. Now a jewelry collector and a former Napier salesman have collaborated to publish a definitive history of the company. A lot of the jewelry company's popularity can be traced to Frederick W. Rettenmeyer, head designer for the firm from 1907 to 1964.
At work, Rettenmeyer had the space and materials to let his imagination run wild—which is how he came with some of Napier’s most popular pieces such as the company’s first 1950s charm bracelet.
“One of the things a jewelry company does, particularly Napier, is accumulate thousands of pieces like stampings, beads, and stones,” Meoni says. “Because Mr. Rettenmeyer was such a fool of a guy, none of that stuff ever got thrown away. If we had to buy 10 gross of beads, which would be 1,200 to 1,400 beads, and we only used 200 because it was a limited production, the remaining would go into a box and be put up in the attic storage.
“Rettenmeyer’s genius was that he would wander through this storage area every once in a while and grab one of these beads, one of these stampings, and one of these findings. He’d take them to his office and monkey with them until he’d created an interesting piece of jewelry.”
Read about the company that drove fashion more than it followed fashion at Collectors Weekly. Link
(Image credit: Courtesy of The Napier Book/Melinda L. Lewis)