The Many Faces of Elegance:
In 1866 George Krementz founded the venerable jewelry firm Krementz & Company. Over the next 125 years the Krementz family was involved in nearly every aspect of jewelry manufacturing - from costume to gold jewelry, colored gemstones to colorful enamels, cufflinks to tiaras. The jewels created by Krementz & Company were retailed by carriage trade jewelers of the day, like Tiffany & Company, as well as small town mom-and-pop jewelry stores throughout North America, if not the world.
Among the more mesmerizing of the firm's many creations was a wonderful group of cufflinks that have become known as the "Krementz doubles." Victorian cufflinks often consisted of beautifully decorated oval fronts attached to smaller oval backs with a curved bridge. The oval backs somewhat resembled small beans, so this style of cufflink is sometimes referred to as a "bean back." Unfortunately, the bean-shaped backs were often left unadorned or merely engraved with the wearer's initials. This left the backs looking plain and somewhat unfinished.
Around 1900 Krementz & Company addressed this situation by introducing a small collection of figural cufflinks with decorated bean backs. The backs either reproduced the design of the front on a smaller scale or were decorated in a similar theme. Known as "Krementz doubles" these cufflinks are a testament to the Krementz family's dual passions for innovation and beautiful, imaginatively designed jewelry.
Krementz doubles were created for only a brief period around 1900. The cufflinks are richly detailed and impeccably crafted. They are relatively rare and often sought after by collectors. This note illustrates some of the Krementz doubles I had the pleasure coming across over the past 20 years. I hope you find them as enjoyable and intriguing as I do.
Krementz doubles are figural cufflinks. They feature wonderful scenes of roaring lions, mermaids, writhing serpents and other subjects drawn from myth, nature and history rendered in detailed relief. I have not yet come across a pair of Krementz doubles embellished with an abstract or merely decorative design. This cufflink of a Native American in song is a nice example of the artistry and rich detail with which Krementz created the doubles.
During the late Victorian period fierce lions were a favored motif prowling the cufflinks and other fine accessories in a gentleman's kit. The roaring full-faced example illustrated earlier in this note is one version. Krementz also offered a menacing lion in three-quarter profile framed by windblown grasses. The lion is beautifully sculpted with fierce eyes and a jagged, fanged maw. Also, note the rich details in the lion's flowing golden mane and the windswept grasses. At the end of this note is a third lion inspired cufflink, one created by another eminent cufflink maker of the early 1900s, Link & Angell.
In the years around 1900, the free flowing, fantastic designs of Art Nouveau jewelry flourished and Krementz & Company was one of the first American jewelry makers to embrace the new style. Krementz doubles often reflected the prevailing enthusiasm for Art Nouveau design as witnessed by the dream-like Mermaid and Swan cufflink illustrated above. The exotic princess or priestess cufflink at the top of this post is another striking example of l'Art Nouveau.
In other Krementz doubles the Art Nouveau influence is more subtle, as in the flowing mane and windswept grasses of the preceding leonine cufflink. Both the Art Nouveau style and fashion for Krementz doubles were relatively short-lived and largely coincided.
This final example of a Krementz double features entwined rattle snakes. Among the Victorians entwined or coiled snakes were often symbols of good fortune and the promise of eternity. However, I suspect this interpretation may not apply when the snakes have venomous fangs and ominously rattling tails. The influence of Art Nouveau is seen in the scaly, twisting bodies of the two snakes, as well as the sinuous vine that is intertwined with them. As with all Krementz doubles the scene is beautifully and richly rendered.
Krementz & Company was not the only maker of figural cufflinks with decorated bean backs. Pictured above is a leonine example created by Link & Angell. I can not say for certain that Krementz was the first cufflink maker to employee decorated bean backs: the origin and first use is yet to be determined. But, what is clear is that Krementz & Company with its passion for innovation and beautiful design was the leading maker and popularizer of these captivating cufflinks during the late 1800s and early 20th century.
Additional photos and details of the above cufflinks can be found by clicking
the photographs. These and other fine cufflinks from the past
can be viewed in the Antique Cufflink Gallery