A Brief History of The Napier Company
Originally founded as Whitney and Rice in 1875 in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. At that time the company specialized in silver products, such as silver watch chains for men. Later, the company became Carpenter and Bliss, then the E.A. Bliss Company. In 1890 the company expanded and moved to Meriden, Connecticut. During the World War I years, jewelry production was suspended as the company manufactured war-related products, such as medals and medallions.
After the war the company focused on producing jewelry. James H. Napier became the company’s president and the company was renamed to the Napier Bliss Company. In 1922 the name was changed to The Napier Company. James Napier continued as head of the company until 1960. In 1999 the company was purchased by Victoria and Company, which closed the plant in 1999. Napier jewelry is still produced today overseas as part of the Jones Apparel Group.
Jewelry Styles in the Pre-World War II Era
As mentioned, after World War I, the company focused on jewelry production. In 1925 James Napier attended the Paris World’s Fair, and was greatly influenced by European and Paris fashions. He brought back many of those designs, which were incorporated into the company’s jewelry. During the 1920s and 1930s, many Napier pieces featured Egyptian inspired themes, with symbols such as scarabs, cobras, King Tut, and Osiris and Isis. The company became highly successful and Napier jewelry was worn by movie stars, such as Lana Turner and Sonja Henie.
Mid Century Magic
During the 1940s and early 1950s Sterling Retro jewelry was all the rage. Because of the need for base metals during World War II, costume jewelry manufacturers produced Sterling Silver pieces, often plated with a gold vermeil finish. The photos below show a lovely Napier Vintage Jewelry Rose Brooch made of Sterling Silver with Rose Gold Vermeil and a Napier Sterling Silver Circle Links Bracelet with a Yellow Gold Vermeil finish.
During the 1950s Napier promoted their jewelry by presenting gifts to contestants of the Miss America Pageant. The company also presented a bracelet with an elephant design to First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, which she wore often and considered one of her favorite pieces of jewelry.
Napier Vintage Jewelry Goes Bold
Reaching its peak of popularity in the 1950s and 60s, Napier vintage jewelry pieces span a wide array of styles. Some feature faux pearls and beads, large gold or silver plated chains, and colorful enamel. Napier also created earrings, necklaces and bracelets with milk glass beads or art glass charms. The company also produced a line of sterling silver pieces. Napier vintage jewelry is known for its modern designs incorporating geometric shapes and floral motifs, similar to popular mid century Mexican and Scandinavian designs.
Chunky bracelets, large brooches, and bold button style earrings were also manufactured by Napier. The chunky Lucite set below features bold Lucite beads with a beautiful color and glow, which simulates Tortoise shell.
Here’s the link to this fabulous set in my Etsy Shop: Napier Vintage Jewelry Bold Faux Tortoise Lucite Necklace and Bracelet Set at My Classic Jewelry Etsy Shop
Recommended Reading for Napier Vintage Jewelry
If you’d like to learn more about Napier vintage jewelry, here is a wonderful book.
This book has become an essential reference and guide for both collectors and sellers of Napier vintage jewelry. Published in January 2013, it details the history of the Napier Company and its beautiful costume jewelry.
With 1012 pages, 250,000 words of text and descriptions, and over 4,000 pictures, it explains how the company developed its jewelry style over the decades and provides details on findings, materials, and designs, so that collectors can properly date Napier pieces.
Not simply a reference book, you will also thoroughly enjoy the story of the Napier company and its people.
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