Liberty & Co.

(1876 - present)

Liberty & Co.jpg

English jeweller famous for popularizing the Arts and Crafts style. In 1876, A.L. Liberty opened a shop that sold exclusively “exotic” objects from India, Japan, and other parts of the East.[1] The inventory attracted artsy types, and the store prospered. In 1890, Liberty opened a Paris branch. In 1899, the firm presented a line of Celtic-revival “Cymric” jewellery to the public. Designed by artists with ties to the Arts and Crafts movement like Archibald Knox and Arthur Gaskin, the “Cymric” jewels were not handmade specimens; they were mass-produced. The pieces were therefore affordable. Because of this, as one jewellery historian put, “Liberty & Co. had the merit of bringing ‘art jewels’ to the public at large, combining the design ideal of the Arts and Crafts movement with high quality mass production, thus producing beautiful and fashionable jewels which were at the same time affordable.”[2] Both at home and abroad, Liberty successfully marketed the jewels, making his company’s name synonymous with the Arts and Crafts style. The jewels were mostly produced in silver and featured hand-hammered surfaces. Semi-precious stones like blister pearls and citrines, as well as brightly colored enamels embellished them. The pieces often featured whiplash lines, flowers and vines, or Celtic knots as well as geometric and linear interlacing.[3]

Knox for Liberty.jpg

Archibald Knox Designed Opal and Enamel Comb for Liberty & Co. c.1900.

Liberty & Co. Buckle.jpg

Liberty & Co. "Cymric" Arts & Crafts Silver Buckle.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.


Notes

  1. Bell, 428.
  2. Cited in Bennett & Mascetti, 193.
  3. Becker, 158.

Sources Consulted

  • Becker, Vivienne. Art Nouveau Jewelry. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1985.
Becker’s discussion of Liberty and its designers is more detailed than any of the other sources here.
  • Bell, C. Jeanne. Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry: 1840-1950. 5th ed. Iola, WI: Krause, 1999.
  • Bennett, David & Daniela Mascetti. Understanding Jewelry. Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors' Club, 1989.
  • Sataloff, Joseph. Art Nouveau Jewelry: A Practical Guide to Its History and Beauty with Pictures of Over 150 Pieces of Jewelry and a Compendium of International Jeweler’s Marks. Bryn Mawr, PA: Dorrance and Co. Inc., 1984.

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