CORO – A HISTORY
CORO – COROCRAFT AND JEWELCRAFT
POSSIBLY THE MOST POPULAR JEWELLERY BRAND OF THE 1950s & 60s
When we think of vintage jewellery dating from the 1950s and 60s, the picture that will probably come to mind is a short necklace of enamel-painted leaves interspersed with tiny AB diamanté stones, or perhaps with some tiny faux pearls too – or maybe a beautiful gold brooch, with deep blue AB diamanté stones filling the centre of a huge flower… or perhaps a matching set of necklace, bracelet and earrings – the popular look of the late 1950s. As you can see the 1950s weren’t just about twinset and pearls, although these played a huge part – it was also about cold-painted enamel flowers on brooches and necklaces – hand-painted leaves and flowers, shaded with the daintiest of brushes. It was also about AB-coated diamanté stones and crystal beads, laid into all kinds of jewellery. More importantly it was about really great branding !!
There were so many really great brand names in the 1950s, all producing the most beautiful costume jewellery – Trifari, Monet, Napier, Sphinx, Hollywood, Exquisite, Sarah Coventry, Eisenberg, Weiss, Joseph Weisner etc, etc…but the name that most people know from their own personal jewellery boxes is probably Coro…
As a collector and dealer of most of the popular costume jewellery brands of the 20th Century, I can tell you that the Coro company had more brands than anyone else in the US market at the time – the Coro name comes up more often than any other, and that’s probably because they had more lines than anyone can possibly imagine !! Some of them were huge like Jewelcraft and Corocraft – the Jewelcraft line is probably the one that Brits know best, as the Jewelcraft factory was here in the UK.
Jewelcraft – Pink and red cold-painted enamel and diamanté necklace, bracelet & brooch matching set – sold for £55
Corocraft was their slightly more upmarket line using gold-plated metal and beautiful high quality Austrian crystal diamanté stones – this was sold in our high street department stores – John Lewis, Debenhams, Rackhams, Beatties, Harrods, Selfridges, etc all had Corocraft stands on their jewellery counters. I personally remember the ‘Corocraft’ name very well from my younger days, back in the early 70s, when they were still being sold in Beatties Dept. Store in Solihull, West Midlands, and in Rackhams in Birmingham.
Corocraft – Green and blue diamanté gold-plated brooch – sold for £18
So I thought I’d do a piece about this prolific brand, as they are far and away the best seller in my own Etsy Shop, and they certainly have the biggest section. At any one time, I will have twice as much Coro for sale as the nearest rival, Monet…
COROCRAFT, JEWELCRAFT & VENDOME
Both Jewelcraft and Corocraft were the names used by US company Coro. In the sixties, they were the biggest selling company of costume jewellery in the UK.
Emanuel Cohn, a New York business man founded the Coro empire in around 1902 and called it E Cohn & Company. In 1904 Carl Rosenberger became a partner and the firm was renamed Cohn and Rosenberger. The new company produced findings for several items including sautoirs and collar pins. In 1911 the original owner, Emanuel Cohn died, and his family sold their share to his partner Carl. Carl Rosenberger was responsible for the growth of the company, and by combining his and Cohn’s name the new name of ‘Coro’ was born.
Steady growth continued under his guidance. A factory was opened in New York and the line of items produced expanded. The name Coro was officially used for the first time in 1943. The company went on to become the largest costume jewellery manufacturer in the world.
Some earlier pieces from the Coro drawing board – all these were created in the late 40s/early 50s, some having Patent drawings still available on record. The Cockatiel Duette Clips were sold for £120, and the ‘Pool of Light’ brooch and earrings set were sold for £40, but the gorgeous diamanté lariat necklace is still available for £60. The Grapes brooch is £35 and the Sterling Silver Lovebirds are £30.
A quick word about the Coro use of identifying hangtags on their jewellery, particularly their necklaces. They used several very distinctive ones, so distinctive in fact, that they are used to ID an unsigned necklace, when in doubt. These are the most famous ones:-
The Peardrop – this is easily the best known hangtag for Coro and Jewelcraft alike – a teardrop shape within a outer frame (looks like a very small rodent hanging on for dear life !!)
The Heart Peardrop – a variation on the Peardrop, possibly marketed for Valentine’s Day originally but later used quite often for pretty necklaces.
The Ridged Peardrop – flat peardrop shape with three curved bars, seen almost as often as the Peardrop
The Pegasus logo – very famous Coro symbol, and usually found on the backs of early brooches, and sometimes with the Jewelcraft signature next to it instead of ‘Coro’. Also seen on the lids of their boxes and on their jewellery cards etc
The Rectangular Corocraft hangtag, used on later necklaces and bracelets – sometimes with a tiny Pegasus at the front of the name.
The Ridged Teardrop – quite a fat teardrop shape with concentric ridges. Not that well known as being Coro, but theirs nonetheless. Might have been a bit similar to other brand hangtags which may be why they stopped its use.
The Bullet – frequently seen on early 1950s necklaces, a slim bullet shape with a ball at the upper end.
There may well be several others that are not as well known as these, especially for Coros myriad smaller brands which mostly carry their own names.
From 1933, Coro planned to sell jewellery across Europe from Sussex, but firstly had to fight a famous court case with Ciro Pearls. Ciro (a UK company) did not want the US company to use the name ‘Coro’. It was too similar, but eventually, after years of wrangling Coro agreed to use only the name ‘Corocraft’ & ‘Jewelcraft’ in the UK. So in 1948 production of Corocraft finally got started.
Corocraft was Coro’s high-end range. Many pieces were in sterling silver with a gold plate, particularly during WW2 and in the 1950s, when other metals were in short supply.
Surprisingly there are less signed Corocraft pieces here. Mostly because they were produced unsigned and distributed on cards or boxes with the logo on.
These lovely pieces are all specifically ‘Corocraft’ and carry a hangtag with the Corocraft signature on, or came on their original card with the Corocraft name in gold on black. The 1970s orange plique-á-jour earrings and the pretty diamanté earrings both sold, but the rest are still available to buy from VintageJewelleryFun
Adolph Katz is a name well known to Coro collectors because of the many design and mechanism patents he filed, and certainly well known to all who did business with Coro, but surprisingly, he was not actually a jewellery designer.
This gorgeous amethyst diamanté necklace has a patent drawing with it dated as being applied for in July1955 and granted in January 1956 – a good six months later – it was this reason that the copyright symbol became such a useful tool as it was much quicker protection against theft for design property. This sold for £50.
In several reference works, Adoph Katz has been listed as a Coro designer but he did not do any design work. It was assumed that he was the designer because he signed his name on the patent applications. However, from 1924 on, he was the man in charge of selecting the designs Coro would manufacture, or commission to be manufactured.
A beautiful rhodium-plated pale blue diamanté brooch dated 1953 and signed by Adolph Katz on behalf of the company. This brooch is available to buy for £35 – and you get your own copy of the patent drawing with it !!
Adolph Katz choose the designs from a large pool of designers, many of whom went on to become known by their own names in their own or other companies. Other designs were picked from portfolio drawings sold by unknown artists. As the design director for Coro, he was probably the single largest influence in creating the look for which Coro became known and popular with the jewellery buying public.
This is a gorgeous gold-plated diamanté necklace with its patent drawing, dated 1952 and signed by Adolph Katz. Sold for £60.
‘Jewelcraft’ branding by Coro had started in the 1920s in the US. By the 1950s, it was produced in England, and was sometimes signed “made in England”. Today, vintage jewellery collectors will find many ‘Jewelcraft’ signed pieces in the UK, quite often single pieces but also occasionally, the original full four-piece matching sets – perhaps the full parure, ie necklace, brooch, earrings and bracelet. What’s more likely is that you might find a necklace with matching earrings or bracelet, or maybe a brooch and earrings set in its original box like my red box set here:-
All these pretty pieces are signed with the famous Jewelcraft script signature and are all available to buy from VintageJewelleryFun
It has to be said, the gold-coloured plating on the Jewelcraft pieces has not stood the test of time. Many of the pieces are showing rubbing to the plating, particularly on the back of the panels or on the chain fastening.
VÊNDOME by CORO
This brand was created by Coro in 1944 and ran up until 1979, and was used for higher end beaded sets mainly, and higher end gold-plated cabochon and diamanté sets later on. With their beaded jewellery, they used multi-facetted glass, Lucite, silvertone & goldtone spacer beads, and sometimes sparkly diamanté for accents. Their designs usually came in matching sets, as was usual for the period up until the 70s – necklaces, bracelets and matching cluster or chandelier earrings.
This beautiful beaded necklace has the interestingly ornate finials and flower clasp associated with the Vendome brand, and are an identifying feature as they are rarely signed – this sold for £30, the Modernist gold-plated brooch sold for £25 and the pretty Blue earrings sold for £16.
The Vêndome brand is very highly sought after today, with the best pieces fetching pretty high prices online, mainly because it absolutely epitomises what we think of as the beaded jewellery of the 50s and 60s and the high end Modernist gold-plated brooches of the 70s. Interestingly, the department stores that were permitted to stock the Vendome pieces were not allowed to stock the other cheaper Coro brands as well, and vice versa, thus creating an aura of desirability around the name, what we call in the retail trade a reassuringly expensive brand !!
In 1957, the Richton International Corp. of New York bought the American assests of Coro, Inc., and continued producing jewellery in Providence.
New fashion trends in jewellery in the early 70s included chains and beads. Although Coro jewellery was still well represented in stores and purchased by many women who liked it, the company was heavily invested in stampings, castings, rhinestones and accompanying components, thus not ready for a such a drastic switch for something that could be just a passing trend.
So instead, Coro imported bead jewellery from other countries to compete, but the U.S. casting manufacturing production suffered as a result. By the early 1970s Coro had lost its market dominance to bead fashions and to other competition such as Monet, a company that had the world market cornered on so called ‘tailored jewellery’, i.e. plain gold styles without stones, suitable for every day and business wear. In the 1970s, competition from the Asian countries China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, also cut deeply into Coro’s market share.
Coro, still by owned by Richton International, tried everything to recoup its market share but finally called it quits in 1979, after 78 years in business.
For my complete inventory of Coro pieces currently for sale in my Etsy shop, click here:-