A striking machine age design brooch in chromed metal and Galalith
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 1¼ x 2 ins (3 x 5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1930s
MATERIALS: chromed metal, Galalith
Here is a beautiful brooch/pin made by Jakob Bengel for Fabon of Paris. It is made in a classic Modernist style and is signed on the back “Fabon ESF Paris”.
Most Bengel items were unsigned by the maker and were exported in great quantities. Many of these items were subsequently sold in high end fashion houses and jewellers and appeared with the signature of the vendor.
Bibliography: "Rascal Art Deco decoration", W. Lindemann, ed.: Arnoldsche Art publishers, 2007 A similar pin appears on the catalog page which is reproduced in the final picture.
Founded in 1873 in Idar-Oberstein by the inventive locksmith Jakob Bengel, the company first produced pocket watch chains. With great foresight they ventured into making costume jewelry in the 1930s. At this time ‘material snobbism’ was rejected by young designers, who spurned imitating ‘real’ jewelry. The new materials of Galalith and chrome were ideally suited to the severe lines of Bauhaus and Art Deco designs. Avant garde designers such as Auguste Bonaz had added Galalith to their range. They united it with chrome in unusually elegant necklaces often combined with bakelite, in designs strongly influenced in the 1920s by the ‘Wiener-Werkstätte’
Jakob Bengel combined the influence of Parisian taste and the French avant-garde jewelry designers with Bauhaus purity of form to create his own jewelry designs. This addition of ‘experimental’ jewelry in the then-avant-garde styles was greatly successful. The combination of the already versatile brass and chrome chains with different geometric elements of coloured Galalith in distinctive designs and pure forms corresponded to the taste of the modern woman of the time.
The formal severity of Jakob Bengel jewelry does adhere to the Bauhaus dictum ‘form follows function’. However contrary to the further principle that ‘decoration weakens structure; the simple designs are perfected by the clear colours and versatile material malleability of Galalith.
Most of the company's jewelry was exported to Europe and around the globe. For this reason most Bengel jewelry is unmarked except for a Germany stamp on the back. Exclusive Paris department stores included the Jakob Bengel lines in their collections, but under their own labels. The Bengel company had its own manufacturing mark but many of the pieces by his world-wide clients were unrecognised and un-credited as such from the Bengel provincial Germany company.
The use of Galalith for jewelry was prohibited in 1939 at the outset of WWII to save raw materials, and Jakob Bengel’s signature jewelry production sadly came to an end. However, production was prolific during the 1930s, with thousands of pieces stored away in the Bengel factory until the late 1970s. Many have surfaced to the vintage market in recent years, and have become some of the most sought after bakelite jewellery to wear and collect.
None of Jakob Bengel’s jewellery were signed, and the authenticity is often questioned; especially now, as new pieces are being produced with Bengel’s original tools and machinery. These modern pieces are, however, produced with certification and distinctive markings.
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Jakob Bengel modernist style rectangular brooch for Fabon Paris