It may be the historian in me but I love a bit of detective work and finding out cool things. I also love a gadget, you know when a mechanism is so clever and satisfying it just brings a smile to your face?
Imagine my delight then when during a regular eBay shopping hunt I came across this charming dress clip. And I love a good dress clip.
Dress clips are great inventions, coming out and thoroughly into their own during the 1930s and 1940s. Essentially two small brooches joined together that can be worn either separately or together as a large brooch. They can also be clipped to hats, bags, scarfs or, depending on the mechanism, used to clip together two halves of a shawl or jacket.
They can be found often in diamante or rhinestone and in the mostly gorgeously typical Art Deco styles as well as both more simple and wildly elaborate fine jewels.
In 1931 Coro patented its “Duette” clips, which was answered quickly by Trifari with their “Clip Mate”. So when this one popped through my letterbox I was keen to take a closer look, and play with it.
Clearly rhodium plated and using round and baguette cut stones, with a couple of minor historic repairs it was certainly very pretty but had a mechanism I’d never seen before. It had no signature but it did have a patent number.
The internet is a wonderful thing. Not holding out much hope I Googled the patent number and it took me straight to a central repository for all US patents issued. And not only did I find details, but I found a PDF of the original.
The patent for my dress clip had been issued to Mr Ralph Polcini, Inventor, on February 1st 1936 and described as a “Combination Brooch and Clasp” along with detailed annotated drawings.
Ralph Polcini was an Italian goldsmith who emigrated, like so many, to the US and founded the Polcini Company in 1911 specialising in high quality Art Deco designs and materials. In 1949 the name was changed to “Leading Jewelry Co”. and their pieces signed “Ledo”. In 1960, his son renamed the company “Polcini” and used a name stamp on all pieces. The Polcini company ceased trading in 1980.
Polcini designs are now rare and extremely collectible. In fact, I could only find a couple of comparable items online having been for sale in recent years and precious little other information.
Ooh look at that lovely mechanism!
Now I just wish I could find a picture of Ralph Polcini, having found such a great connection to him, I’d love to see the face behind this wonderful piece of jewellery!