Thursday, December 9, 2010

COINCIDENCES: The Tale of a Journey of a 1950's Pair of Earrings!

the "double-decker" earrings we sold to Laura
In the “believe it or not” category, picture this: 

We list a pair of amazing hand-painted 1950’s porcelain earrings for sale that has even has its original manufacturer’s sticker on the back. 
Immediately, we get an email from someone in California who is floating on a cloud because she collects these apparent rare examples of “Milvern Originals” earrings.

And WHY does she collect them? Because her mother was one of the original artists who painted them back in the 1950’s! ! What are the chances?

She wrote :
 “Hello!! I woke up this morning to no water because the pipes froze overnight. But these earrings instantly warmed ME up! My mother created this design when she worked for Milvern Originals of Beverly Hills back in the 1950s. They produced very few because Vern, the boss, said they were too labor intensive to be selling for $1. Yes, $1. Can you believe that?? I have collected over 300 pairs of Milvern earrings, but only 3 pairs of these "double-deckers". You don't know how happy I am to get them.

Interesting, we could find absolutely no research on this short-lived company on the web aside from a brief mention: “There is very little information available about this company and their pieces are very difficult to come by”.  

Happily,  the designer’s daughter Laura shared what little she learned after questioning her mother.

Apparently, the Milvern Originals jewelry company was founded by Mildred and Vern Schervem in 1954 in Beverly Hills.

Vern Schervem rented out part of his building to a manufacturer of plastic bubble bath bottles that were shaped like cartoon characters,. They occasionally show up in antique stores but though they also have the Milvern name on them, they were not connected to the jewelry business.

a pendant and earring set
The company made earrings, cufflinks and pins and rarely, a pendant. No two sets of earrings were ever alike, even if it was just an added decorative dot of gold.

Since hand-painting was costly, towards the end of the “Malvern Original” reign the company started using a repetitive feather gold edge in lieu of the costlier hand-painted patterns.

There were “single” piece earrings and “double-pieced” rarer earrings, with two porcelain pieces attached on top of each other (which was what we sold to Laura). In her vast collection, Laura only had 2 doubles, so she was delighted to buy ours to add to the others!
above and below, examples of the double earrings Laura had already in her collection - notice how those and the ones she bought from us are so similar!

The pieces were made by pouring the slip into molds.  Without exception, the molds were always slightly concave -  no matter what the shape, they were never flat. Sometimes the piece was turned over so the finished  jewelry piece was convex.  Pressurized air was used to get the pieces out of the molds. 
another earring and pendant set

Since they were still somewhat soft when they came out of their molds, Laura’s Mom claimed that they threw many pieces away because they didn’t always retain their shapes.

They were dried, and after a powdered color was sprinkled on the top they were fired.  The painters on staff then painted unique designs on each piece after they came out of the kiln.
the back of the earring

The most popular shape, by far, was round with the edges "pinched up" to resemble a square or triangle (like the pictured pair we sold).  There were squares, rectangles, quarter moons (these were rarer), painter's palettes, leaves, teardrops, dishes, diamonds (like the second part of ours), amongst others.

All the clips, pins, screwbacks, or cufflink attachments were then glued on, a little Milvern sticker was put on the back and the pieces were put on cards.

It was Laura’s Mom who took the idea of making cufflinks to Vern, but the boss answered that no man would wear such feminine cufflinks!

So…….her mom took a pair of earrings, painted beer mugs on them, took them to the bar next door where the co-workers congregated and asked if anyone thought people would buy them if they were cufflinks! Oh, yeah!

They turned out to be such a big hit that they put those into production, and  it turned out that business women were even greatly attracted to them!

Laura has about 25 sets of cufflinks in her collection, but they were not nearly as popular as the other pieces. 

Her Mom had kept only 3 pairs of her handiwork all those years ago and Laura initially thought these were the only ones that survived, but about 20 years ago they started surfacing every now and then in antique stores and online sites. Laura’s theory is that the women who bought them on the 50’s are now sadly passing away and their offspring are selling their possessions.

Should you come across any to sell, Laura would love to hear from you to add to her collection and honor her Mom's work! You can email her at


OvertheTop said...

What a great story, Helen! I've never seen these earrings before but will keep an eye out for them when I am out shopping for vintage components.

Anonymous said...

I found a pair of screwback earrings made by Milvern Co. they were my mom's. They are off white in color with a gold paint design on them. The shape is almost "fan" shape. If intested in them u can contact me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a great post. I had no idea about Milvern Co. jewelry. I am going through my Grandmothers treasures and just found a pair.