Patriotic jewelry is a term for works that are inspired by national symbols like flags or their colors. In the United Sates, the American flag, “Old Glory,” along with the American eagle and Uncle Sam, have been among the most popular motifs. While patriotic jewelry in both precious and non-precious materials has been around at least since the late eighteenth century, large-scale manufacture began with the First World War and reached a peak during World War II. While there were luxury examples made of precious gems and metals, production consisted mainly of inexpensive costume jewelry available to everyone. The Women’s Wear Daily issue of June 14, 1940 reported, “Wave of Patriotism brings sudden demand for American Flag Lapel Pins, Patriotic Jewelry….”
This ca. 1940 American flag brooch was manufactured by Calvaire, Inc., a New York-based costume jewelry and novelty firm probably founded in the early 1920s. In its early years, Calvaire both imported and produced its wares, but during the war years the company sourced its materials and goods in the United States. This flag boasts a field of forty-eight tiny blue glass paste “stars,” on alternating stripes of ruby- and diamond-like faceted glass pastes in a gilded base metal setting. The gilt metal flagpole is topped by a red glass finial with two metal tassels on free-swinging fine link chains. The tassel fringes are hinged to move as well. At about three inches square, between the glittering “gems” and moving parts, this emblem made a bold and fashionable patriotic statement.
Cynthia Trope is Associate Curator in the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum