Jonas Eisenberg was born in Austria and immigrated to the USA in 1885. He settled in Chicago and founded Eisenberg in 1914. The original Eisenberg company was not developed with jewelry in mind. At first, Jonas only sold ladies ready to wear fashions. His first jewelry designs were meant to be worn with these fashions and were intended to be promotional products to advertise his designs of clothing rather than items for sale. These early Eisenberg pieces were not signed.
However, in retail, things change, and Jonas soon discovered that his customers loved the jewelry and were removing the pieces from the clothing to purchase on their own! Retailers started suggesting that the company design jewelry as well as clothing. Eisenberg heeded these suggestions and his two sons, Sam and Harold Eisenberg, began a line of Eisenberg jewelry which was marketed separately from the clothing. The jewelry company did very well and by 1958, the clothing part of the company was discontinued so that the company could concentrate on the jewelry alone.
Since the word "originals" was not unique to Eisenberg, the company couldn’t trademark the term Eisenberg originals. In 1935, they came up with the wording "Eisenberg Ice" and it was marketed this way until 1942, when it was officially trademarked with this name. To indicate the value of the pieces at the time of manufacture, when a woman’s weekly salary was $30-$40, an original Eisenberg sold for $50 – $100! As is the case now, Eisenberg jewelry pieces were very high end.
The following years showed great success for the company and Jonas’ grandson Karl took over as president in 1969. Artists such as Calder, Miro and Picasso designed some of their enamel lines. This enamel jewelry was marked "Eisenberg" (or "E") starting in the 1970s. These intricate designs required many firings and are very collectible today. All of the rhinestones were hand set up to the 1970s, when they went to prong set and/or glued in. The glue used was a space-age adhesive once used to adhere a propeller to an engine, so you can imagine that the rhinestones will stay put!
The Eisenberg company is still in production today, manufacturing very high quality jewelry. A very large part of the current production is devoted to intricate Christmas tree pins, much to the delight of Christmas jewelry collectors. The company is now called Eisenberg Classics.
The company used many marks and didn’t always retire one when a new one was introduced, so dating Eisenberg jewelry from the design marks can prove difficult. Some of the design marks include Ice by Eisenberg on paper tags or specially marked jewelry boxes, Esienberg original in script, E with a copyright symbol in block letters, E in script lettering, Eisenberg originals Sterling for their sterling silver pieces and Eisenberg in block letters on a cartouche.
The value of Eisenberg jewelry continues to remain fairly high, and they are some of the most sought after designs of vintage jewelry. Try to find pieces in the best condition you can, and look for original boxes and hang tags to add additional value. They will become jewelry pieces that will be likely to be passed down from one generation to another and should rise in value over time.
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