Unger Brothers sterling silver curling iron from the late 1890s to turn-of-the-century features sinuous double handles ornately repousséd in a design of stylized acanthus leaves.
Each handle has two engraveable cartouches, one on each side; one of the four bears very faint traces of a period inscription, with the letters worn nearly smooth.
The sides of both handles are stamped “STERLING 925 FINE”, next to the the Unger Bros. intertwined initials logo. Beneath that, “PAT’D NOV 19 95” is stamped (for November 19, 1895). There is also a patent number stamped on the steel clamper mechanism, worn to illegibility.
Sterling “novelties” and vanity items became hugely popular in the late 19th century through the Edwardian period, sought after for gift-giving as well as on the dressing table, and the gorgeous Art Nouveau designs of the Unger Brothers had a great deal to do with the explosion of the trend.
Three of the five Unger brothers (German immigrants who started out with a Newark, New Jersey jewelry business in 1870 and began manufacturing silver items in the late 1870s) died long before this curling iron was made. The firm hit its stride in the years between 1897 and 1905 with the 2 remaining brothers at the helm—silversmith Herman and engraver Eugene. They teamed up with Eugene’s brother-in-law, Philemon Dickinson, to create the gorgeous Art Nouveau silver designs the Unger Bros. became renowned for (and which today are represented in major museums like the Met).
This curling iron measures 8.25” long and has a digital weight of 66 grams. Very good condition, with the lovely handles intact and richy patina’d, but darkening to the steel barrel tip and clamper from repeated heating over a flame—clear evidence that not only did this “toilet article” grace an Edwardian woman’s dressing table, it actually curled and crimped her hair!
Proud Member of the Vintage Fashion Guild