Some believe that it was Florence Ziegfeld who coined the term ‘costume jewelry’ when he collaborated with William Hobé. He used the term to describe the magnificent jewelry worn by gorgeous ladies in the Ziegfeld Follies show. The connection between Ziegfeld and Hobé set the course to the huge success of Hobé jewelry that not only graced the upper class woman but also dressed Hollywood.
The Hobé (Hoe-Bay) Company was founded in Paris in 1887 by master craftsman Jacques Hobé. He was a jeweler to the French court who created affordable jewelry using fine jewelry techniques with non-precious materials. When his son, William Hobé, moved to the US, he started out as a sales rep for a German theatrical costume maker. In the mid 1920s, William provided the costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies Broadway productions. During that time, Ziegfeld commissioned William to create inexpensive but realistic-looking jewelry to accessorize the costumes. This launched William’s prestigious career as a jewelry designer and led him to open American Hobé Cie jewelry company in 1927.
Hobé jewelry was featured on stage and screen. William worked with costume designer Edith Head on many movies, capturing the elegance and glamour of the period. Leading Hollywood actresses, such as Bette Davis and Ava Gardner not only modeled for Hobé advertisements but they also commissioned jewelry pieces. The popularity of costume movies, such as Gone with the Wind, showcasing grand ball gowns and evening dresses fueled the trend of antique style costume jewelry. Women could purchase these high-end pieces in boutiques and upscale retailers. They were advertised as “Jewels of Legendary Splendor”.
From the 1930s to the 1970s, aside from jewelry designed by Lou Vici, the jewelry was designed by members of the Hobé family. Hobé is known for high quality and unique designs, some replicas of European royalty pieces. Their creations included beading, tassels, enamel, woven meshes or filigrees of expertly crafted twisted wire. Some of the materials, in addition to more commonly used costume metals, beads and rhinestones, included vermeil, platinum, sterling, 14K gold, and semi-precious stones. They also artistically carved cinnabar and ivory pieces that looked to other cultures from around the world for inspiration.
In the 1960s, William’s sons Robert and Donald took over the business. Then in the 1980s, his grandson, James continued on in the business. The Hobé family sold the original business in the early 1990s, but Hobé jewelry marked with the Hobé symbol is still being produced today.
In our Etsy shop, we have three spectacular Hobé pieces, an elegant Hobé Black Crystal Necklace, an exotic Hobé India Inspired Necklace and Earrings (sold), and a glamorous Hobé Pearl and Gold Mesh Necklace and Bracelet set (sold). I bought the Pearl and Gold Mesh set from my antiques teacher, Karl Gates. He’s a certified appraiser and runs his own estate sale business. He purchased the awesome Hobe jewelry set from a lady who had inherited C.D. Peacock’s daughter’s jewelry. C.D. Peacock is a fine jewelry maker in Chicago. The set is splendid!
I’m already dreaming about the next Hobé jewelry I’ll find. It’s spectacular! Some of the photos used in this blog are from the inpsiring costume jewelry book Costume Jewelry (DK Collector’s Guides).