Introduction

Although the company has been around for more than seventy years very little has been written about Monet. Almost everyone is familiar with the name and the jewelry, yet few people, even those who are collectors, know the real facts behind this legendary company.

When I started my search much of the information available on the web consisted of the same “facts.” Most as I later found out were incorrect. Various sites list the company as starting anywhere from 1927 to 1929. Some say it started in Providence. Others say the company changed its name from Monocraft to Monet once it started making jewelry. About the only fact everyone seems to get right is that it was indeed founded by two brothers, Michael and Joseph Chernow.

My curiosity was peaked about four years ago when I made my first Monet purchase on eBay. It was a wonderful three piece demi that reminds me of a delicate piece of lace cast in metal. It’s beautifully made, looks like new and never fails to elicit a compliment when I wear it. I was immediately determined to find out as much about it as I could …and after two years of research I finally did.

That demi started me on a long road of research, discovery, and more jewelry. Yet, as I started reading books on costume jewelry I was disappointed to find that many “experts” considered Monet jewelry to not be very collectible. I can only guess that its quiet elegance, and lack of razzle dazzle stones has caused it to be undervalued and overlooked. Hopefully this book will change that and bring a new sense of appreciation for this historic company and their jewelry.

I refuse to accept that designs of such exceptional quality, so carefully crafted and so beautiful to look at and wear, can be deemed not highly collectible. Much of it has withstood the test of time and is as wearable today as it was when it was first made.  Anyone thinking that Monet was just about tailored and classical chain link necklaces and bracelets, will be surprised by much of the jewelry shown throughout this book.

Since so little is known about the company and the people behind it, I felt it would be fun and interesting to get to know both the jewelry and the company. The first part of the book details the history of Monocraft/Monet and how it evolved. I’ve also included a separate chapter about M&J, Michael and Joseph Chernow. Both were incredibly astute businessmen with very interesting personalities who managed to keep a low profile throughout their long careers.

The complete story was pieced together with the help of family members who were happy to share their personal recollections and family mementos. Former employees, friends, long lost interviews with the Chernows, as well as some of their own written notes were used to keep the facts accurate. Hopefully this will finally clear up many of the inaccuracies and confusion that exists about the company’s history and the people behind it.

Then there is the jewelry itself…Monet jewelry has been made for over seventy years and is still being made to this day. It would be impossible to show every piece of jewelry ever made. Choosing the pieces to show in the second part of the book was difficult, but I’ve tried to present a good combination of both the well known and the not so well known styles. When the actual jewelry was not available the catalogue page from Monet’s catalogues were used instead. All of the jewelry is shown in its natural state and has not been touched up. Many of the early pieces from the 30s, hallmarked Monet Jewelers are rare and hard to come by. Yet, some have been found and are shown here. This is still a work in progress and as new pieces are discovered the pictures will be added to my blog, monetthebook.com.

This is not meant to be a technical presentation with descriptions of closures and measurements. Although that can be found in some cases, this is really a celebration of the beauty that is Monet jewelry and the heritage of this invincible company.

Vintage advertisements, old newspaper clippings, brochures, family keepsakes and an almost full set of  catalogue/mat books from the 60s, 70s, and 80s plus a few from the 50s and early 30s were immensely helpful in tracing the dates and history of  some of the jewelry. Having an almost full set of mat books was essential, as I could quickly see that some of my favorite styles actually originated much earlier, or sometimes much later than I thought!

While mat books are certainly helpful these contain only a small part of every seasons collections and at times contain only limited pieces from each series. All of the photos in the catalogs are unfortunately black and white photos.

Patents for the styles before 1955 were available on Google.com/patents and were a welcome treasure trove of information. An added bonus was the precious and now yellowed copies of hundreds of original hand drawn sketches of many early Monocraft pins and initials. Some have been included in this book, others can be found on my blog.

Of course the best items were the few preserved by the Chernows themselves. Their own story of the hooded woman advertising campaign, speeches they wrote for company gatherings during war time in the 40s, or their own explanation of the triple plating process were all interesting and fun to read. All of  which makes it pretty obvious why Monet was not just a costume jewelry company, but a company of people who had a passion for what they did and did it so well.

I’ve spent three years researching Monet and loved doing it. I loved uncovering all of the little unknown details and long forgotten stories. Meeting former employees and hearing the excitement they have, even now when talking about Monet was more revealing than any press release I read.

So heres hoping you enjoy discovering, or rediscovering this great company as much as I did. Perhaps you too, will be as fascinated by this wonderful jewelry as so many others have been throughout the last 70+ years!

And by the way…the company started in Brooklyn!

Alice Vega – 2011

 

About the Author

Alice Vega is a freelance fashion and graphic designer living in New York City. As a member of Costume Jewelry Collectors International and the Society of Jewelry Historians she has combined her long standing interest in collecting vintage jewelry with her passion for history, preservation and the arts in this her first book.

 

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