If we are talking about market leaders in 20th century costume jewellery then Coro would have to be at the head of the queue.
In much the same way that the big supermarkets pit themselves against each other, in the 1930s to 1950s costume jewellery was at the height of its popularity and Coro was holding its own against Trifari, Monet, Haskell and others. They were certainly the most prolific, launching sister brands such as Vendome, Francois and Corocraft – higher end lines that would be stocked in the "better" department stores only. Corocraft even found its way over the pond to here in England.
From its advent in 1901 by businessmen Emanuel Cohn and Carl Rosenberger (The Co and Ro of the name), the brand had started providing accessories in a little shop on Broadway and risen to be a major creator and distributor of costume jewellery, being incorporated in 1943.
Coro’s secret to global domination was to hire a stable of top designers such as Francois, Gene Verecchio, Oscar Placco, Robert Geissman and Mass Raimond. All went on to find fame as individuals but they all worked for Coro under the watchful eye of Adolph Katz.
Whether he was a designer or not is still under debate but Katz started in 1924 managing the designers and choosing the lines that would be made, and ultimately the overall look and feel of the Coro style that would be found on the shelves. It is his eye and his influence that has created the Coro style that can be recognised despite the great variety of items they produced.
Katz’s name is all over the patents which were created, including the famous “Duette” double dress clip which was patented in 1931 (and swiftly copied by Trifari). In turn, Coro brought out a range to rival the Trifari “Jelly Belly” brooches with figural forms around a central Lucite body, expanding into faceted glass. The “fruit salad” brooches so popular in the 30s and 40s also were taken on by Coro whose innovations made them far more spectacular than their rivals.
Always with an eye to an opportunity, Coro launched in 1947 the patriotic Emblem of the America’s brooch, a symbol of friendship and unity between North, Central and South Americas with proceeds going to the Interamerican Scholarship Fund supported by Eleanor Roosevelt.
Even the Wall Street Crash couldn’t keep them down – in 1929 stock options were offered to the public and they expanded to a new factory in Rhode Island, at their peak employing 3500 people.
The post-war styles of feminine and floral jewellery gave them endless sources of inspiration, particularly with the Francois’ famous floral brooches and the Quivering Camelia Duette clip by Verecchio but the individual designers names never featured on the jewellery stamp as they were part of the Coro brand which was internationally recognised. (In much the same way the great Archibald Knox’s pieces for Liberty, are merely signed “Liberty”)
But as fashions and times change even the great are brought low. As the 1960s went on fewer people except loyal fans wanted the older styles as jewellery became, along with attitudes, far freer and less constructed and formal.
Like many giants, Coro couldn’t adapt their colossal production to bend to the new styles, they were deeply financially invested in their signature look. They limped through the 1970s until finally closing their doors in 1979. Canada still held a following which operated until the 1990s.
Their competitors who had managed to follow the trends, such as Monet who kept their look far simpler carried on, along with Trifari for a few more years. Early Coro pieces, particularly the famous lines recognisable from advertising and from their designers are still highly collectible but many items can be found at online auctions for reasonable prices. The Vendome and Francois ranges are the ones to keep an eye out for.