What Does Radio and ‘Imitation’ Costume Jewellery by Stratton of London Have In Common?
20th Century And Costume Jewellery
Most of us own a piece of costume jewellery, whether it’s a watch; a ring or necklace made out of metal, plastic and semiprecious stones; a badge or pin. Even Monarchs, and other upper echelons of society, occasionally wore paste jewellery, as one wouldn’t want the ‘unwashed masses’ to steal our priceless jewels, would one? But when did costume jewellery become fashionable?
Costume jewellery is not a new phenomena, it has been around since at least the 18th Century, when Jewellers began to fashion pieces from glass and semi-precious gemstones enabling the well off nobleman, merchants and tradesmen to own pieces that were previously only available to the Royal Courtiers.
However, costume jewellery reached the zenith of its popularity in the 20th Century, partly due to the industrial revolution enabling jewellery to be made at lower cost, two World Wars leading to the partial demise of the class system and advent of the new middle class, and the emancipation of Women. Women, and later Men, wanted access to the same styles and fashions of their richer peers and now had some spare cash to afford the lower price costume jewellery.
Of course the rapid change in fashion during the last century also had a big part to play as jewellery was there to accessorise rather than be a statement of ones’s wealth. The rise of Hollywood Movie stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis and Audrey Hepburn, also had their part in popularising costume jewellery, and, unfortunately in my humble opinion, causing our obsession with ‘celebrities’!
In the 21st century, this trend has also extended to our pets but I’m not going out to buy our cat a diamante cat collar just yet…..
There are several recognised costume jewellery periods in the 20th Century:-
- Art Deco (1920s-30s)- stylised by free-flowing curves and led by Coco Chanel, Tiffany, Lalique. This period followed on from Art Nouveau, which commenced at the latter part of the 19th Century.
- Retro (1935-50)- geometric and symmetrical design, diamante (rhinestones), and the advent of plastic based jewellery e.g. bakelite.
- Art Modern (1945-60)- less lavish sophisticated designs in the 1950s before moving to the types of design we are more familiar with today e.g charm bracelets, and the arrival of Hippy Chic and body jewellery.
Today, vintage costume (fashion) jewellery is in big demand, especially those with a maker’s mark such as Tiffany and Cartier. However, most of us mere mortals cannot afford these hefty price tags and are more than happy with the more affordable pieces, made with less expensive materials or with unusual design.
One company designing and manufacturing imitation jewellery is Stratton of London. I thought I would share some of their unusual history with you.
What Does Eddystone Radio and Imitation Costume Jewellery by Stratton of London Have In Common?
‘Stratton of Bromsgrove Street, Birmingham and 22 Castle Street, London, EC1. (1922) and of Balmoral Works, Lower Essex Street, Birmingam. Telephone: Midland 3768. Cables: “Stratnoid, Birmingham”. Showrooms in Hamsell Street, Jewin Street, London. (1929)’
In 1911 George Abe Laughton was running a small section of Jarrett and Rainsford, selling coronation badges and flags but was suffering component supply problems at the hand of an erratic alcoholic supplier! Undeterred, Laughton acquired the business for £50, along with four hand presses and two girl workers. He named this enterprise Stratton, reputedly after the hero in a novel his wife was reading!
As with most industries, WWI saw a diversification in product range, and Stratton were no different. The firm manufactured parts for the famous SE5 British fighter plane and acquired much experience in the use of aluminium and duralumin alloy. This was to be of great value in the radio business.
After WW1, Stratton continued to produce hair pins (Bobby pins) but the ‘Roaring Twenties’ put paid to that business almost overnight with the introduction of the sleek page-boy hairstyles. This is when the company entered into the field of radio components, closely followed by complete radios! They even had shares in the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) under the trade name ‘Eddystone Radio.’
Stratton continued to serve the two diverse markets and even appeared in a 1929 British Industries Fair Advert for Expanda Cuff Links.
Stratton were Manufacturers of Gilt Jewellery (All Classes) and “Stratnoid” Photo Frames and Novelties, Knitting Pins, Thimbles, etc., Gent’s Jewellery, Collar Pins, “Expanda” Cuff Links. “Eddystone” Short Wave Wireless Receivers and Component Parts. (Fancy Goods Section – Stand No. J.80). A very ‘strange’ product mix!
They were also well know for their makeup powder compacts. Over half of those sold in the UK in the 1930s were made by Stratton!
In 1940, disaster struck. Germany’s WWII blitz of Britain claimed four of the five Stratton factories. Production was forced to a halt. Manufacture resumed after the war, but British shortages meant that raw materials, particularly metals, were in short supply. Compacts of this time can even be found made from aircraft alloy.
Manufacturing resumed after WWII and saw the innovation of the self opening inner compact lid, and the ‘Glamorizer’ brand.
George Abe Laughton died in 1964 and the company reached a crossroads. Eddystone Radio was the odd man out in a family company that produced goods for the cosmetic market and the “Woolworth’s” trade. The family felt that the communication business had grown in complexity beyond their understanding. They sold the radio business to Marconi…and there lies another story!
Vintage Stratton Cosmetic Jewellery is sometimes also marked on the back with ‘Made in England, Imitation.’ Imitation referring to the range of cosmetic jewellery and also included badges, pins, tie clips, cufflinks to name just a few of the range of eclectic giftware.
Today, the Stratton of Mayfair brand has been revitalised in the premium giftware arena.
Please click on this link to see what we have in the Mullard Antiques & Collectibles store!