Jewelry in the United States



This is an opportune time to mention the growth of jewelry manufacturing in the United States, for it was in the manufacture of jewelry, not the design, that the U.S. made its greatest strides. Not until after the revolution of 1776 did the manufacture of jewelry, accompanied by shops where one could buy ready-to-wear jewels, become established. It is thought that sometime between 1790 and 1795, the first shop of this kind was opened in Newark, New Jersey by a man named Hinsdale. 

Providence, Rhode Island followed closely behind when in 1800 there was offered a display of "filled work." This consisted of an inexpensive jewelry, in which a small amount of gold was made to go a long way. This catered to the less wealthy, for the rich still imported their fine jewelry from abroad.

One fine example of the typical Horatio Algier story began in 1837 with one thousand dollars and the partnership of John B. Young and Charles Louis Tiffany.

It was in that year that they opened a stationary and fancy goods store. Ten years later they decided to expand into jewelry, so John B. Young voyaged to Europe to buy their first few pieces of stock. While there, Europe was rocked by the revolutions of 1848. France, Hungary and many of the capitals of central Europe were wrought with middle and lower class revolts. Many wealthy Europeans were forced to sell their jewels and diamonds, most for half of their original cost. With the agreement of this partner, Tiffany, young was a willing buyer. This was the beginning of the growth of American fine jewelry.

Design was still established in France, but the innovations of American manufacturers helped to make these styles available to more people. It was costume, not synthetic jewelry, that was produced. The accessibility of jewelry made it possible to be worn on all occasions, even if it was just a trip to the market.

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