Those of you who have been following my ‘Brooch of the Month’ posts will know I have a giant spreadsheet of all the brooches in my collection where I log various details about every brooch I own.  I spent some time working out how best to describe the shape of this brooch by Jakob Bengel and eventually settled on ‘stylized canon’.  This brooch is made of Chrome and Galalith.  For more on Galalith check out my August 2013 Brooch of the Month, Bear by Pavone.

Jakob Bengel (1848-1921) was a master locksmith and founded his factory in 1873 in Oberstein, southern Germany making chains, in particular watch-chains.  In 1900 he married the daughter of Ernst Hermann Hartenberger, a cosmopolitan and prosperous iron-goods dealer.  WWI kickstarted the wearing of wristwatches by men.  It was far easier for soldiers at the front to have a watch on their wrist to keep track of time than suspended by a chain in a pocket.  Abraham-Louis Breguet is credited with having created the first wristwatch for Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples in 1810. With the decline in demand for watch chains the factory moved into jewellery production.  In the 1920s Coco Chanel made ‘fashion jewellery’ what we would call ‘costume jewellery’ acceptable. Chanel had jewellery designed to match each new collection, using non-precious materials.  There was a free exchange of ideas between Paris and London, pattern-sheets could be easily purchased and the Bengel factory used these as the basis for many of their designs.  During the 1920s and 1930s there was a strong emphasis on design rather than ornamentation.  The Bauhaus, a German art school (1919 to 1933) focused on geometric designs with spheres, cones, cylinders, cubes and rhombi shapes spurning any form of decoration.  And in France The French Union of Modern Artists (established 1929) stated – “The characteristic feature of modern life is speed.  Even the composition of a piece of jewellery must be quickly and easily comprehensible.  For that, simple lines are required, free of gimmickry or superfluous embellishment.  The basis of every piece of jewellery must be clear design, in which proportion and colours are harmoniously turned to one another.”  With the outbreak of WWII jewellery production ceased.   Today there is a Bengel Museum at Oberstein, established in 2001 to preserve the history of the industrial legacy of Jakob Bengel.

A small section of the original factory showing the various machines used in production

I described this brooch in my catalogue as a ‘stylized canon’, and by happy coincidence during my research on Jakob Bengel I found the 1930s factory mark in the book ‘Jakob Bengel, Oberstein: From Art Industry to Jewellery Design’ is this image.

Some would call this serendipity.