"Jewelry for gentlemen": Krementz & Company's men's rolled gold plate, 1866-1940

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University of Delaware
This thesis investigates the dearth of scholarship on the subject of American men's jewelry from the time of the Civil War. It is framed by a broad inquiry into the larger cultural history of men's jewelry and anchored by a specific case study of Krementz & Company, one of the most significant manufacturers of men's jewelry during the period. Until World War II, American men's jewelry was expected to be two things: functional and "correct" in style. Cufflinks, shirt studs, vest buttons, tie pins, scarf pins, and collar buttons were all subject to judgment based on their adherence to culturally-constructed regulations. Due to this, men's jewelry deserves to be examined separately from women's, as it was held to a set of entirely different and very explicit standards that changed throughout the period. Using archival records, primary and secondary sources, jewelry, photographs, oral interviews, and material analyses, this study explores men's jewelry through a variety of lenses, including: advertising, retail, manufacture, and its relationship with men's dress. The case study presents an in-depth history of the men's jewelry produced and disseminated by Krementz & Company, a prolific but understudied Newark, New Jersey manufacturing firm. Extensive analysis of the firm's surviving business records in the archives of the Newark Museum of Art is bolstered by anecdotes shared by the Krementz family and former Krementz & Company employees. The author contextualizes men's jewelry within the larger social, material, and technological constructs of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, utilizing social history, material culture history, business history, and biography to achieve a deeper understanding the significance that men's jewelry had to those who wore it and those who designed and manufactured it.