Thursday, May 24, 2007


Mr. Charm

The attention to detail and fine craftsmanship of Lampl’s jewelry lent itself perfectly to charms. In these lovely miniatures, Walter Lampl achieved some of his most remarkable technical feats. Another undated newspaper clipping reports that Walter Lampl was granted the "sole authorization by the New York World’s Fair Corporation to manufacture the trylon and perisphere [charm] with the view of Democracy or ‘The City of Tomorrow’ seen through [a] tiny crystal in [the] sphere." A second fantastic charm developed for the 1939 World’s Fair was called "Tomorrow’s Heirloom, the Theme Charm."

Photo by Robert Day
Courtesy of Milky Way Jewels

This piece is reported to have been a "tiny movie camera 1/2 inch high" with a glass lens through which one looked to see "25 views of ‘Mr. Whalen’s extravaganza-on-the-Flushing-Meadows’." (sic) The patent for this moving picture charm was granted in 1939.

Walter’s fondness for charms extended to his personal life, as well. His beloved wife, Sylvia (whom he called "Toots"), wore bracelets heavily laden with the best Lampl charms. Walter also made special charms for Sylvia, often engraved with private messages. Many of the romantic charms later sold to the general public were first inspired by these love tokens for his wife, one lovely example being a wind-up music box charm which plays "I Love You Truly."

It was in 1938 or 1939, about the time Lampl was granted the exclusive rights to produce the very lucrative world’s fair souvenir charms, that he moved his showroom uptown to prestigious 5th Avenue.

From this prime location he expanded his distribution network. The years of hard work, dedication to quality products, and respectful relationships with consumers, employees, and colleagues had paid off for Walter Lampl.


Campaigning for Jade

In 1927 Walter Lampl wrote an article for the Keystone jewelry trade magazine in which he proposed changing the November birthstone from topaz to jade. In this article he talked about the rich history of Chinese jade and extolled the virtues of this very versatile material. He particularly emphasized the advantages to the jeweler of being able to offer a variety of pieces all made from the same type and color of jade, such as "rings, bracelets and ear-drops, carved pendants, necklaces and brooches." He pointed out that men would be likely to wear this stone as well, set in rings and cufflinks. Lampl went on to state, "Sales of jade toilet articles, ornamental clocks, pin trays, fan frames, hand bags, topped and inset with this beautiful ‘Green Gem of the East,’ will follow when once the jade ensemble idea has been established in the mind of the customer." The Keystone editors added a short article at the end of Lampl’s piece, meant to be used as a news release for local newspapers in every jeweler’s home community.

Photo by Robert Day
Courtesy of Milky Way Jewels

Obviously, this idea never caught on, and the birthstone for November remains the topaz. But Lampl’s ability to think big, not to mention his love of jade and other gemstones, is obvious in this article.

The warmth, creativity, and humor of Walter’s character were reflected in the jewelry he produced, as well as in his motto, "Creators of the Unusual, As Usual." Prime examples of these qualities are the whimsical jeweled fish pin and the enameled circus tent shown illustrated in this article. Equal care was lavished on the craftsmanship of all his jewelry pieces, from those made of gold and platinum set with diamonds to those made of gold fill or sterling and rhinestones. This respect for all the customers, no matter what their buying power, remains one of the most outstanding features of this company’s production.


by Cheri van Hoover

The History of Costume Jewelry is filled with mysteries. Companies came and went, records were not maintained, and collectors have often been left frustrated by gaps in knowledge about favorite designers and manufacturers. One of these mystery companies has been that of Walter Lampl. In its day, this wholesale manufacturer of fine and costume jewelry was a powerhouse in the industry.

Lampl jewelry has something for every collector. Looking for delicate Art Deco pieces with brilliant white rhinestones set in sterling silver? You’ll like Lampl. Does Orientalia float your boat? Lampl, again. How about huge Retro pieces set with enormous gemstones? Or charming figures in gold fill or silver? Want a bejeweled Swiss watch to wear as a brooch or on your writs? Are you a fan of exquisite enameling? Care for intricate charms with astonishing complexity and moving parts? If you can answer yes to even one of these questions, you are a potential Walter Lampl collector in search of a home.

All of these Lampl characteristics appealed to me, so I started seeking out this fascinating jewelry wherever I could find it and featured it on my commercial website. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when Lampl relatives contacted me and my absolute delight when they agreed to share precious archival materials with me so I could write this article about the innovative company that produced such treasures.

Photo by Robert Day
Courtesy of Milky Way Jewels

Walter Lampl, Sr. was born to an impoverished family in New York City in 1895. From boyhood, Walter was ambitious. He wanted more and better. As a child he sold newspapers on the streets, and then in his teenage years discovered that it was more lucrative to buy lengths of chain, cut it to length, add findings to the ends, and sell watch chains. In 1921, at the age of 26, Walter became the sole owner and manager of a wholesale jewelry company named for himself. The offices and showroom were located on New York’s 47th Street.

Lampl’s jewelry was designed by women employees who produced drawings which were then approved by Walter. Two of these designers were Nat Block and June Redding.

From the beginning, Lampl meant quality. The company’s jewelry often included gemstones set in sterling or gold fill.

Frequently used materials included jade, garnet, moonstone, coral, turquoise, pearl, ivory, amethyst, blue topaz, chrysoprase, aquamarine, zircon, citrine, and others. This same idea was adopted many years later by the Swoboda Company and enjoyed great popularity again, more than 30 years after Walter Lampl made his name with the same concept.

A jewelry history


Students of the natural sciences are in agreement when they say that of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, only humans seek to adorn themselves. Even as far in the past as primitive man, jewelry took on this role in a variety of forms.. Small objects were of primary importance, with some examples being found in the early Neolithic strata of the caverns in mas d’avil. It was here that many pierces stags’ teeth were discovered, often still in the shape of a necklace with its holding twine long since disintegrated. (Jewelry objects have now been found in pre-historic Africa that date back about 75,000 years.)

Closely related to the human need for ornamentation was the use of jewelry as amulets endowed with magical powers. For a true understanding of the growth and history of the importance of jewelry and precious stones, one has to be aware of the indelible belief that precious stones could affect the fortunes of the wearer.

Jewelry was made with certain convictions in mind, to meld into, conform to and strengthen beliefs. This was particularly true when religions began to form an important sociological bond.

Early in its inception, jewelry was associated with religious rites. Gold and jewels were used as gifts for the maintenance of worship. In accordance with this began the presumption that benefits could be derived from their wear and soon began the development of a complex network of fictitious powers being attributed to them. Curiously, many of these legends surrounding the benefits of certain stones were generally held all over the world. Gold and certain gems common to many parts of the globe were believed to yield similar virtues.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sterling effort:

To share good fortune, 'Extreme' family designs jewelry for fundraiser.

Source: Times Union (Albany, NY)
Publication Date: 05/16/2007
COPYRIGHT 2007 Times Union
Byline: Amber Mile

May 16--Debbie Oatman walked into Northeastern Fine Jewelry, keys in hand, eyes scanning the room, slight smile on her face, eager to find the person or people in charge.

Her four sons trailed behind: one walked with a hop, ready to see what all the fuss was about; the other three were nonchalant. After politely turning down offers for chocolate chip cookies and drinks, the boys perched in front of the store's television while their mom took care of business.

In March, the Oatman-Gaitan family was the recipient of a new 3,700-square-foot home, courtesy of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and other gifts estimated at $1 million. Now was their chance to give something back.

The family was invited to team with Northeastern Fine Jewelry's master jeweler, Olivier Francois, to design a brooch as a fundraiser for Camp Heartland. The camp, with locations in Carmel, Putnam County; Malibu, Calif.; and Willow River, Minn., is free for children with AIDS and the human immunodeficiency virus, and also caters to their siblings and family members. For more than a decade, the Oatman-Gaitan family has attended the camp because two of her four sons are HIV-positive.

Northeastern Fine Jewelry planning to sell about 100 brooches for $30 each. All proceeds from the purchase of the jewelry will go to support Camp Heartland, which depends on donations to keep running.

"There's no way we can thank the entire community enough for all of their love and support, but when people help you, you in turn want to help others," said the 49-year-old Colonie mother.

Giving back to Camp Heartland is twofold, not only because the family has benefited from the services, but also because Neil Willenson, founder and CEO of the organization, nominated the Oatman-Gaitan family for the makeover show.

"This is definitely a way to pay it forward," Oatman said. "I'm excited because Camp Heartland will benefit, and, as a result, more children will benefit."

Making contributions

Francois and other members of Northeastern Fine Jewelry wanted to contribute to the Oatman-Gaitan family because of its inspirational story -- a divorced single parent with four sons, three adopted with multiple disabilities, including the two who are HIV-positive. The company is one of many that, since "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" made a local stop, has extended a hand to the family.

There was a time when Oatman and her family weren't readily accepted by all. Years ago, ignorance about their situation caused some people to avoid them. And Oatman knows there are still those who aren't educated about the daily struggles her family and others in similar situations face, but she's hoping they will learn.

"I hope when people see the brooch, it will serve as a reminder to accept people for who they are, but also give everyone a better understanding about HIV/AIDS, whether they have it or not," she said.

On the afternoon the Oatman-Gaitans arrived for their jewelry design appointment, Francois emerged from the back of the store with a piece of paper and pencil in hand. His original idea, a sketch of an Adirondack chair, wouldn't be the final design, but the brainstorming process flowed freely from that moment.

"I want something that's not gender-specific, because I want anyone to be able to wear it," Oatman said.

Something special

She also wanted the piece of jewelry to mean something special -- as do her ruby-centered Italian gold earrings, left to her in her grandmother's will; the star sapphire ring her father gave her in high school; and the orange plastic bracelet in remembrance of Seana, a young family friend who died of leukemia.

"It doesn't have to be the typical red ribbon, does it?" she asked Francois, breathing a sigh of relief when he answered no.

After all, if they were going to design a piece of jewelry, they wanted it to be unique. With a few quick moves of the pencil, and after only about 15 minutes, the design was complete. The family liked Francois' sketch of the chair, but they wanted something that caught potential buyers' attention. Francois marked an X through the chair, and the wheels continued to turn. A tree?

"I don't know. I'm not good with my imagination," said 10-year-old Scout Oatman-Gaitan. His mom suggested a leaf. "Whatever kind of leaves you'd find on a tree in New York," she said.

But no one could think of the right type of tree. After surfing the Internet on the store's computer, they found it: sugar maple.

The piece of jewelry would be in the shape of a sugar maple tree leaf, representing the state tree and the rustic, Adirondack theme of Camp Heartland's New York site, and the same theme of the made-over home.


They also decided the piece of jewelry would be versatile. It would be a brooch with a hook attached for those who want to add a chain for a necklace. An inscription on a scroll below the leaf will read "miracle/believe."

Each of the boys said they would prefer to wear the jewelry as a necklace rather than a brooch.

"With the pin, you could probably forget it and accidentally leave it on your clothes and it would get washed," said 16-year-old Kevin Oatman-Gaitan.

But it was the inscription that brought the biggest smile to Oatman's face. "It's a true miracle these kids survived," said Oatman, who months before the show wondered how she and her family would continue to live in their home with its sinking foundation, cracked walls and harmful mold and mildew.

"You have to believe in God and believe things will work out. And it will. I know."

The leaf will be silver, but an option for a silver or gold scroll will be available. The boys and their mother nodded their approval.

"It's pretty cool," Scout said. The rest of the Oatman-Gaitan brothers -- Kevin, D.J., 20, and Brian, 15 -- agreed.

Francois stood back and smiled. The master jeweler, who has designed and supplied jewelry for royalty, including the royal family of Belgium, said this project was just as special.

For Francois, it was important to express the family's personality.

"I tried to find a symbol that went with the Adirondack theme, but I didn't want to create animals or anything common," he said. "I wanted to find something unique."

When Willenson nominated the family for the home makeover, he never dreamed the pay-it-forward concept would unfold like this.

"We're truly thankful to Debbie and Northeastern Fine Jewelry for this noble effort," Willenson said. "More than 80 percent of our families that attend Camp Heartland live in poverty, and this is a free camp, so we rely on fundraisers like this for help. These efforts will absolutely transfer over to helping more kids and families."

Amber Miles can be reached at 454-5460 or by e-mail at

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jewellery (also spelled jewelry, see spelling differences) is a personal ornament, such as a necklace, ring, or bracelet, made from jewels, precious metals or other substance.

The word jewellery is derived from the word jewel, which was anglicised from the Old French "jouel" in around the 13th century.[citation needed] Further tracing leads back to the Latin word "jocale", meaning plaything. Jewellery is one of the oldest forms of body adornment; recently found 100,000 year-old Nassarius shells that were made into beads are thought to be the oldest known jewellery.

Although in earlier times jewellery was created for more practical uses, such as wealth storage and pinning clothes together, in recent times it has been used almost exclusively for decoration. The first pieces of jewellery were made from natural materials, such as bone, animal teeth, shell, wood, and carved stone. Jewellery was often made for people of high importance to show their status and, in many cases, they were buried with it.

Jewellery is made out of almost every material known and has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings and many more types of jewellery. While high-quality and artistic pieces are made with gemstones and precious metals, less-costly costume jewellery is made from less-valuable materials and is mass-produced. New variations include wire sculpture (wrap) jewellery, using anything from base metal wire with rock tumbled stone to precious metals and precious gemstones.