Jakob Bengel - Idar Oberstein


German necklaces and choker made from chrome or nickel plated metal and galalith in the thirties by the company Jakob Bengel are hard to find and are collected world wide.

Founded in1873 for the purpose of manufacturing watch.- chains in base metals, the company Jakob Bengel in Idar Oberstein changed very early from hand crafting their product to making them industrially by machines, thus being able to produce large quantities.
Since of course also watch-chains for ladies were produced the making of necklaces was only a small step away.

In the short period of the 1930ties the company Jakob Bengel designed and manufactured fantastic Bauhaus influenced costume jewelry. This had become possible through various reasons:
For one the relatively new technical possibility to chrome plate or nickel plate brass, another reason is the development of the new material galalith – a synthetic material produced from casein plasticized with water- which could be produced in many cololurs. A third reason is the economically very difficult time where women had to pinch and scrape but didn’t want to give up their individuality.

The pattern book of 1932/ 1933 shows very clearly that a pattern by many combinations of the single elements could be produced in endless variants.
Again and again galalith triangles, semicircles or polygons in combination with metal plates in the same shape are used. Generally the galalith was attached to the metal plates with srews. Usually these elements were used in the center of the necklace, also galalith spheres and semicircles very used.

Especially eye catching are the so called brickwork necklaces and bracelets which were rarely matched with galalith. The flat or rounded solid links were mounted in such a way as to create a brickwork effect. Very often the surface was lacquered in different colours.

The necklaces, bracelets, bangles and pins were hardly ever signed but were furnished with paper labels since most of the jewelry was produced for retailers. So it is not always easy to attribute a piece to the company.

The jewelry pieces made of metal and galalith were produced until the outbreak of the war, after that the company had to pass on galalith because due to its mechanical and insulating properties the material galalith was needed by the arms industry.
This was different concerning the brickwall necklaces and bracelets which were produced a long way into the fourties.

After the war it was not possible to replicate the old production due to shortage of basic materials on one hand and removal of machines through  the occupation on the other hand.

The jewelry by Jakob Bengel was forgotten after the war and only discovered by collectors in the last 20 years.
An exhibition dedicated to Bengel jewelry taking place in Idar Oberstein in 2002 and the catalogue which was released on that occasion attracted worldwide.
attention from collectors and women interested in costume jewelry. They became fascinated by the german necklaces, bracelets and pins which had such clear colours and designs.

Costume jewelry by Jakob Bengel is up to today modern jewelry which can be worn on many occasions.


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