Thursday, November 6, 2014

Whiting and Davis - Masters of Mesh

By Mandy Heth, owner of VintageBaublesnBits

I absolutely adore Whiting & Davis. ADORE it! I first learned about this brand when starting my vintage purse collection. Whiting & Davis is best known for creating metal and mesh purses, of which I own several. Since is brand is synonymous with
Classic W & D Mesh Bag from Vintage Cravens
purses I was pleasantly surprised to found out that they made really high-end costume jewelry as well.

Whiting & Davis (W & D), was based in Plainville, MA and started producing metal mesh in the late 1800s. My research indicates that the company started as a chain-making firm, Wade, Davis & Co., owned by William Wade, Edward Davis and Louis Heckman. In 1907 the company added a partner, C.W. Whiting who had risen through the company ranks.  He created the company's first woven metal handbag by hand in 1892 and by 1912 the company had created a machine that allowed them to mass produce what became their most popular items, mesh purses, scarves and handbags.  

W &D Art Deco Mesh Bag from Refined Ruffian

In addition to the bags the company was also celebrated in the costume jewelry world.  Their iconic snake bracelet  was launched in the late 1800s and it has been a continuing motif through the years.  At left is an ad the company ran in connection with the 1963 movie Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor.

W & D were also know for their cameos, which they made from both glass and hand painted porcelain. What makes their cameos so beautiful is the use of iridescent glass. Cutting the cameo heads out of this material gives them a shimmer and glow that is irresistible! In the 1950s the company introduced a reproduction line that created cameos and other jewelry sets that looked like museum pieces and proved highly popular.

Porcelain Cameo Earrings from Zephyr Vintage

The company was also inventive in the coloring of their glass and cameo settings. They created a line of "Topaz Glass" where cream colored iridescent glass was placed over a black glass background to create a brown, topaz-like color. 

Whiting Davis Topaz Glass Bracelet from Renaissance Fair

They reinvented the cameos using frosted glass against a black glass background making the pieces look red, pink or purple depending on the lighting.

W & D also created other unique designs. Using their their skills in metal working and chain mail, they designed gorgeous mesh bib necklaces and earrings, stunning metal bracelets with intricate designs and textures and gorgeous glass stone earrings, bracelets and necklaces that highlighted their unique glass techniques.

Gold mesh scarf by VintagObessions

This brand is one I personally believe is a great investment. I trust the quality of the materials that Whiting & Davis used and I love the craftsmanship. All Whiting & Davis products are signed.  Marks include Whiting & Davis Chain Co., first used Nov. 1926, W & D, an early mark discontinued after 1915 and Whiting & Davis Co Mesh Bags.  You should be able to find that mark on the inside metal frame of purses, on the fabric within the purses and on the backs of all jewelry pieces.   

Whiting & Davis is still in business today making purses and metal mesh fabric. They had stopped production of their costume jewelry in 1991 but recently restarted producing jewelry in metal mesh, and enamel.

If you find any Whiting & Davis pieces at an estate sale, auction, flea market or antique shop be sure to scoop them up!

Enter our Whiting and Davis Collection

Beautiful Whiting and Davis pieces from Vintage Jewelry Sellers on Etsy

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