Barry Weber, president of Edith Weber and Associates, regaled us with stories and slides of his years in the antique jewelry business that his mother started some fifty years ago. Barry has also been with “Antiques Roadshow” for ten years. The Roadshow is a traveling televised program that allows people to bring their treasures and baubles to be examined by experts in all fields. As Barry said, “It’s all about the stories.”
He began with the story of how “Edith Weber” came to be. His grandmother, Doris, had an antique business that dealt in everything but jewelry. One day a lady came into the store with a box of jewelry she inherited but didn’t want. Neither did Doris. Her daughter Edith kept looking through the pieces and telling her mother that she “really ought to take a look.” When asked what the lady wanted for the lot, she replied “$500.” Doris wouldn’t buy but offered to lend Edith the money, and that’s how “Edith Weber” started. The $500.00 was paid back with the sale of a few pieces and the rest, as they say, is history. The present location of “Edith Weber” is at 994 Madison Ave. in New York City.
Barry showed us slides of what he calls “Edith Weber’s Greatest Hits” with accompanying stories. First was a group where the centerpiece was a snake necklace with green and colorless paste stones that appeared to have a Boucheron stamp. She contacted Boucheron and they claimed that they would never create a piece with fake stones. There was however a real piece in existence with real diamonds that had been created for a client and this was most likely a working model because it was stamped “FB” (for Frederick Boucheron). It now resides in the Toledo Museum of Art.
This was followed by photos of a ring that contained the hair of George Washington and General Lafayette as well as one that contained just Washington’s, both with records of provenance. The George Washington Memorial Ring is the only known one in existence even though five were thought to have been commissioned as mementos for his heirs.
Then followed an enameled and gold portrait piece of the French Princesse de Lamballe, one of the first noblewomen to be executed at the start of the French Revolution. Barry reported that because the guillotine was not in existence, she was dismembered and her body parts were shot out of cannons!
Courtland Lee with specimen
Next were examples of Napoleonic jewelry, including a ring that was worn secretly by supporters of the French leader in which his likeness “popped out” of a hinged compartment.
Barry showed slides of Victorian jewelry that were typical of the era as well as jewelry that belonged to Her Majesty Queen Victoria and one that portrayed Prince Albert in a death repos� cameo.
His slides included Edwardian and Georgian jewelry as well as a collection of Faberg� pieces. He has since stopped dealing in Faberg� because there have been so many reproductions as a result of the “Russians moving to New Jersey” that the authenticity is too difficult to prove.
One of the Georgian offerings was a group of “Lover’s Eye” jewelry. These were portraits of just an eye with perhaps some hair that were to represent the wearer’s love. This was done to conceal the lover’s true identity. One was of Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s older brother, who had been put in charge of Italy and Spain and even lived in New Jersey for a time.
There was a fascinating piece with several hinged “lockets,” each with a picture of Frederick William and Victoria of Germany with their children. The hinged front had the first initial of the name of the person concealed.
One of the last and most interesting pieces was an object that proved to be a mystery. The mainstay was a carved coral lobster holding an ivory skull on an enameled anchor base. The back had letters and a heart. It was determined to be a betrothal piece from a seaman to his beloved.
All in all, it was an entertaining evening of stories and pictures that both delighted and educated. We all have stories to tell of our jewelry and Barry’s talk showed how important it is to future generations that the stories are preserved.
Text: Sherlene Bradbury
Photos: Doris Voigt