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The Extraordinary Stickpins of
Hans Brassler

By Arthur Anderson

Hans Brassler Egyptian Revival stickpin.
Hans Brassler Egyptian Revival stickpin, circa 1910.

Hans Brassler was a wonderfully imaginative artist, goldsmith, designer and jeweler who created fine jewels and beautiful things during the first half of the 20th century.  He was born in Germany in 1882 into a family of jewelers and precious workers who in earlier centuries engraved decorative on dress armor.  After submitting a painting of a butterfly, Brassler was accepted at the Academie Julian in Paris where he studied jewelry design.  While in Paris he is  reported to have won a medal at the 1900 Exposition Universelle.

While studying at  the Academie Julian Brassler was approached by a recruiter for Tiffany & Co and offered a position in New York.  He accepted and, despite his father's misgivings, emigrated to the United States in 1902.  At Tiffany he found success designing silverware and jewelry, while also creating cover art and jewelry designs the Jeweler's Circular and likely other trade publications.

Hans Brassler Art Deco stickpin.

By 1909 he was ready to strike out on his own and founded The Brassler Company where he served as artistic director for the next half-dozen years.  The artistic jewels he created during this period imaginatively played with the diversity of jewelry styles during the early 20th century - Victorian, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, Beaux Arts and Art Deco - while borrowing motifs from ancient and distant cultures.  The originality and uniqueness of  Brassler's jewels can be seen in the following brief survey of his wonderful stickpins.

Brassler found inspiration in a variety of sources ranging from classical mythology to the emerging design trends of the early 20th century.  This classically inspired stickpin features two profiles of Bacchus, the God of Wine, framing a rich purple amethyst.  Since the ancient Greeks believed amethyst protected the wearer from intoxication, this jewel would have been perfect for both a Bacchanalian revel and a more sedate wine tasting.

Brassler Medieval lapis lazuli stickpin. (J9519)

The British Arts & Crafts movement drew inspiration from the artifacts and arts of the Middle Ages.  Similarly, this Brassler stickpin reflects the influence of Medieval design in its cruciform top set with a striking lapis lazuli.  During the Middle Ages the rich blue color of lapis lazuli was prized by painters and used to color the robes of angels and the Virgin Mary.  Interest in the gemstone's association with the divine and other sacred symbols of earlier ages increased  in the Victorian era and persisted in the early 20th century.

Brassler worked with a diverse palette of gemstones. His creations were colored with the rich hues of amethysts, heliotropes, citrines and sapphires. Other favored gemstones included black opal, moonstones and small white pearls. Occasionally, small diamonds offered sparkling accents. Brassler was most concerned with the beauty of a gem and how it complemented the design of a jewel, not its scarcity or monetary worth.

Brassler moonstone stickpin.

A luminous moonstone is set in a  golden Greek key border. In this second Arts & Crafts, or is it Classical Revival, design the goldwork gives the jewel a mysterious, ancient feel.  You can almost imagine this jewel being excavated from the Treasury of Homer's Troy or a Mycenaean royal tomb.

Brassler took great care in the design and crafting of every aspect of a jewel.  No detail was too small or overlooked.  This is evident in the attention paid to the finish, texture and patina of the goldwork.  For example, the patina of the gold in the Bacchus stickpin (illustrated at the beginning of this note) creates a chiaroscuro affect of light and shadow which throws the rich details of the design into high relief.  Or, the soft, undulating glow of the goldwork of this moonstone stickpin which beautifully complements the luminous glow of the gemstone.  Each aspect of a jewel was chosen to enhance and reinforce the beauty of the others.

Brassler played with and challenged the prevailing design themes of the early 20th century. His vision and imagination often led him to wed elements from disparate styles to create jewels of striking originality.  This is no more evident than in the jewels he created in the Art Nouveau fashion.  This striking citrine and pearl stickpin weds the flowing curves of Art Nouveau design with a lyre shape recalling classical themes and the symmetry favored by the Arts & Crafts movement.

In this Art Nouveau stickpin the boldness of a rich blue cabochon sapphire and outsized white pearl (possibly a replacement) anticipates later Art Deco designs.  A Greek key motif recalls the artist's fondness for classical elements, while the fantastic shape and flowing curves squarely places this stickpin in the Art Nouveau tradition.  Illustrating Brassler's close attention to detail and the artist's love of beautiful gemstones, this stickpin exemplifies Brassler's ability to draw from eclectic design influences and with his imagination create extraordinary jewels. 

Hans Brassler remained affiliated with The Brassler Company until 1916. In 1933 the remaining assets of the firm were acquired by the jewelry maker Jones & Woodland, later acquired by Krementz & Co. The maker's mark of The Brassler Company is "14 B" in a double oval border. It can be found stamped on the reverse or pin stem of the stickpins.

To view these and many more beautiful stickpins, please visit the
Antique Stickpin Gallery.

You will also find other beautiful jewels from the past
in the Antique and Estate Jewelry Gallery.

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Arthur Anderson
PO Box 1448
Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA

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