Historic New England acquires a jewelry design collection

Feb 1, 2023

A newly acquired collection from the Frank N. Nathan Company and the Church Company illustrates Boston’s thriving jewelry industry in the late nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth centuries

From ancient times to today, jewelry has been worn as a mode of self-expression or to convey social status, to indicate religious beliefs or political views, or for the sheer enjoyment of beautiful objects. The Nathan and Church designs complement Historic New England’s extensive jewelry collection and provide additional information about consumer taste, the design process, and the materials used in jewelry making.

This new collection contains eighty-three mounted and unmounted pencil and watercolor drawings from the two companies that beautifully illustrate designs for rings, brooches, and pendants dating from 1928 to 1960.

Many of the design drawings contain handwritten information, such as buyer names, sizing information, and metal and stone choices. A portion of the drawings are mounted. The remainder are on are brown cardstock or company stationery.

A bit of history

Both companies were part of Boston’s jewelry industry in the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. The Frank N. Nathan Company was founded in 1891 and specialized in antique and modern jewelry and silverware. It was located on Washington Street not far from the heart of Boston’s jewelry center – the Jewelers Building at 371 to 379 Washington Street. The Church Company employed jewelers and silversmiths and was located at 47 Winter Street.

Jewelry at Historic New England

Jewelry can tell myriad stories about its makers and owners, and is a collecting focus for Historic New England. There are more than 2,500 necklaces, earrings, rings, cufflinks, buckles, combs, and other items of adornment commemorating nearly three centuries of maker and family history in New England. Whether a set of costume pieces made in Providence, Rhode Island, or a pair of gold bracelets purchased from Tiffany’s for a favorite aunt, or a necklace and a cuff made by members of the Wampanoag and Penobscot tribes, items in the jewelry collection help tell the stories of all New Englanders.

Media Contact: Susanna Crampton, [email protected]