The History Behind J.E. Caldwell Jewelry

The origins of J.E. Caldwell jewelry date back to 1839, when watch maker James Emmott Caldwell opened the doors of his Philadelphia wearable arts emporium. His target audience was always the wealthy Philadelphia jewelry buyer who had a penchant for the flair of European-style jewels. In the course of time, Caldwell added silver and objets d’art to his lineup of goods.
It took the Caldwell name a few changes in location and of management to get established in the city. In 1868, the Caldwell location at 902 Chestnut Street was established. When the Art Nouveau fashion gripped the United States by the end of the 19thcentury, Caldwell’s artisans were instrumental in setting a tone for the trend. Their hand-made pieces were considered by many the definitive jewels of the period. In keeping with the Art Nouveau style, the motifs include examples of flora and objects rich in curvatures.
Moving the store to the corner of Juniper and Chestnut in 1916, the Caldwell firm next tackled the Art Deco craze. Once again, the artisans embraced the new style and put their own spins on it. The result was a reputation for superior Art Deco jewelry that not only cemented the company’s name at the time but keeps making it famous to this day.
By 2003, the Chestnut location became too large for the company’s shrinking bottom line. Owned at the time by Peter Bruck, Carlyle & Co., J.E. Caldwell closed down the store and hoped that the remaining six locations would do sufficiently well to support the jewelry-making empire. Closure of the store also meant an end to an 87-year run in a venue that included 20-foot ceilings and a French Regency interior specially designed by Horace Trumbauer. Sadly, the remaining stores closed in 2009. In what amounted to a fire sale, WPVI-TVPhiladelphia reported that Herend tea sets originally retailing at $12,710 were placed on sale for only $3,750.
At this time, jewelry buyers in search of J.E. Caldwell jewelry must scour the Internet for deals and steals. Although there is a placeholder for a website, it is unknown when this site will actually go live. Since Caldwell artisans built their pieces to last multiple generations, there is a good inventory of used pieces that are currently for sale online. They cover Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco and more modern pieces. This type of jewelry is not cheap. Plan on spending at least $3,000 and upward to more than $120,000 for selected pieces.
At Peter Suchy Jewelers, we are experts in vintage and antique jewelry and we often carry J.E. Caldwell jewelry so stop by and visit us in our showroom located at 1137 High Ridge Road in Stamford Connecticut.
If you enjoy browsing for antique and estate jewelry online, head on over to our eBay store where you’ll find we are top-rated PowerSellers with over 5,000 transactions to date and 100 percent positive feedback.
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