The first time I had ever heard of a jewelry company called Lisner, I was on a road trip with my husband, Michael. We had pulled over in Hico, Texas to stretch our legs and check out an antique shop called Sugar Moon Antiques.
It is located in an old brick building on the main square and is filled with a large variety of wonderful vintage treasures!
We walked inside and I immediately noticed a mid-century, emerald green beaded necklace which was being sold as a set with matching clip earrings. I was happy to see it was very reasonably priced and surprised to see the set also had a signature.
LISNER was stamped on each piece in large capital letters. Without hesitation, I bought the necklace and matching earrings, excited to find out more about the company…
D. Lisner & Company
The Lisner family emigrated from central Germany to New York City in 1864. David Lisner, his father Selig, and brothers, George and Abraham, were merchants who began importing wholesale goods from Europe in 1904. That is when they established D. Lisner & Company. Their goods included fine items such as jewelry, hatpins, clocks, and crystal giftware.
David Lisner (c. 1910) 1846-1923
Just before the outbreak of WWII, Lisner began importing and distributing French-made jewelry in the U.S. for designer Elsa Schiaparelli. They also licensed her name for U.S. distribution and production.
Fascism swept over Europe during the 1930s, making it increasingly difficult to import jewelry for their business. It was during that time that a man by the name of Urie Mandle partnered with Lisner to create a jewelry line that would be domestically produced in Providence, Rhode Island.
There were many jewelry manufacturing facilities throughout the city to help with production including Whiting & Davis, known for their metal-mesh purses. Lisner never even needed their own factory.
It was not long before they began creating and selling their own designs using the newly developed, colored acrylic plastic that could be shaped and molded, also known as Lucite. They incorporated clear and colored rhinestones, Aurora Borealis, and japanned or enameled metal. After the Lisner mark was first used in 1938, the company became more well-known.
The look of Lisner jewelry was created around geometric or abstract shapes and they also included designs derived from nature such as leaves, fruits, and flowers. Their jewelry was considered both affordable and of good quality.
Here is a pair of signed floral Lisner clip earrings from the 1960s:
David Lisner’s first cousin Saul Ganz became president of D. Lisner & Company in 1916. After Saul passed away, his son Victor took over in 1953 as the final president.
Victor Ganz became involved in all areas of Lisner jewelry production. He traveled every week between New York and Providence, R.I. to oversee the creative side of it as well as the manufacturing processes. By the 1960s, he was also helping with the design duties.
Victor Ganz is actually best known for his art collection. He owned one of the finest collections of Pablo Picasso’s work. In 1997, after Victor’s wife died, some of these works were sold at the record price for a single-owner sale of $206.5 million!
Victor incorporated his personal style into the jewelry he created. Collectors appreciate Lisner costume jewelry for its art-inspired beauty and mid-century modern appeal. It was produced in large quantities, so it is not hard to find today. Recently, the value has increased but it is still quite affordable.
One of my favorite finds is this stunning 1960s Lisner matte gold and rhinestone brooch I repurposed into a cuff which makes quite a statement:
Ganz purchased the Richelieu Pearl Company from Joseph H. Meyers and Bros. during the mid-1970s and renamed it Lisner-Richelieu Corporation. Pieces marked RICHELIEU were more expensive and higher quality than those with the Lisner mark. If you can find any today that are still in good condition, they will command a high price.
In 1979, Ganz sold Lisner-Richelieu and jewelry production ended.
You never know what kind of treasures you are going to find when you are on a road trip and stop to stretch your legs in a small Texas town. Quite a story of success for that German family who came to the city of New York long ago to stretch their imaginations and fulfill their big dreams.
*Photo of David Lisner courtesy of David Lisner Jacobs & Illusion Jewels.
Kimberly Moore is a vintage costume jewelry expert, blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com.
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