From the Vault
Reflections in Time
Depression-era custom jewelry made affordable for the masses
To increase exposure in the U.S. market, French jeweler Mauboussin
opened a store in New York City on Oct. 1, 1929. The timing could
not have been worse. Within 30 days, the stock market disintegrated
and the domino effect this disaster had on the world economy
led to the Great Depression. Enormous fortunes were lost as society
struggled to make ends meet in an atmosphere of deprivation.
The luxury markets, including jewelry, were devastated by a drastic
reduction in sales.
Mauboussin's expensive inventory was tied up in the U.S. and
couldn't be used to help the parent company in France. To stay
solvent, Mauboussin worked out a business arrangement with Trabert
& Hoeffer, an enterprising U.S. company that combined Trabert's
love of fine jewelry and Hoeffer's business and marketing acumen.
Trabert & Hoeffer Inc.-Mauboussin became the exclusive marketing
arm for Mauboussin in the U.S., allowing the French jeweler to
maintain its presence and name recognition in America while Trabert
& Hoeffer gained prestige from its alliance with an important
A New Partnership
Soon after this partnership was established, Trabert &
Hoeffer Inc.-Mauboussin introduced "Reflection: Your Personality
in a Jewel," a remarkable design concept with a built-in
marketing tool. Simply stated, the Reflection jewelry line offered
women custom- designed jewelry at a reasonable price. Before
this, custom-designed jewelry was an expensive privilege limited
to the very wealthy. By making this elite service accessible
to customers of more modest means, Trabert & Hoeffer Inc.-Mauboussin
found immediate success.
The designs for Reflection jewelry were taken from the latest
jewelry trends in Europe, making them the cutting edge of fashion.
In tune with the modern love of machinery, the hottest looks
incorporated smooth metal in sweeping expanses. Highly polished
18k gold was sculpted in curved volutes and rippling fan shapes.
To keep the cost down, Trabert & Hoeffer Inc.-Mauboussin
cleverly designed a series of separate elements that could be
integrated in a variety of ways. Mass manufactured as needed
and then hand finished, these elements were cast rather than
hand-fabricated and then hollowed out to save metal. Details
such as hand engraving, gallery work and millegrain were omitted,
making the final product more affordable.
The company's use of gems was cost-effective as well. Large,
clean and richly colored citrines, amethysts and aquamarines
were inexpensive and made a bold statement. Pale golden and light
blue sapphires were also well-priced. Usually these gems were
accented by small diamonds, rubies and sapphires to increase
their dramatic and luxurious impact.
Reflection jewels were introduced in the 1930s and remained
popular through the 1950s. Today, we can look on Reflection jewels
as the embodiment of a successful marketing and promotion campaign.
The idea of custom-designed jewelry at an affordable price seems
unremarkable to us now. But we must remember it was a new concept
for fine jewelry at the time and recognize the genius of the
by Elise B. Misiorowski
||Looking more like a floral corsage tied with
ribbons than its name might suggest, this "Fireworks"
clip brooch, set with oval yellow sapphires and accented with
small round diamonds and blue sapphires in 18k yellow gold, is
one of the Reflection series of jewels by Trabert & Hoeffer
- Mauboussin made in the 1940s. Brooch courtesy of a private
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.