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Founded in 1909 Charlton & Co are probably best known for their fine Art Deco jewels which were the toast of 1920's New York, their reputation was secured by a remarkable French jewellery designer and enhanced by the patronage of Edward, Prince of Wales.
Charlton & Co. were an American jewellers founded in New York in 1909 by John W. Charlton. Having gained experience working with various firms, he opened his eponymous store, J.W. Charlton, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, changing the name to Charlton & Co. when business partner Robert Chapin joined him in the company. After re-locating further along Fifth Avenue to number 634, they set about establishing a reputation for offering fine quality jewellery in the styles fashionable of the period. After only ten years in business, Mr Charlton retired selling his shares to Grant A. Peacock (who had joined the firm in 1916 after graduating from Princeton) and James Todd. It was now, at the dawn of the roaring twenties and the Art Deco movement that the company’s fortunes really took off.
Americans were keen to follow European jewellery trends, particularly those of Paris which at this time was regarded as the epicentre of jewellery design and craftsmanship. Charlton had a French jewellery designer Maurice Duvalet working for them who often made trips to Paris in order to keep abreast of current styles and absorb jewellery trends and ideas. On his return to New York, he would interpret these for the American taste and produced many striking pieces often with a focus on diamonds, such as wide panel bracelets, long pendants and jabot pins, as well as coloured gem rings, all in definite Art Deco style.
The firm also retailed pieces that they imported from some of the best French jewellery workshops of the time such as Verger Freres who supplied Charlton with, amongst other things, a range of jewelled time pieces including an exceptional Chinoiserie clock with mother of pearl and lacquer dial featuring a large and very striking dragon.
Edward, Prince of Wales brought much welcome attention when he purchased a two-tone gold cigarette case from them during a visit to New York in 1924. The yellow and rose gold striped case with engine turned detailing subsequently became so popular it was nicknamed the Prince of Wales Cigarette Case and the design was soon being applied to lighters, match cases, vanity cases and other accessories.
By the late 1920’s Charlton’s success was such that they had expanded and opened branches in both Palm Beach, Florida as well as Paris’ fashionable Rue de La Paix. Unfortunately however, the depression of the following decade hit them hard and the branches were closed along with the firm’s workshop and their secret weapon, Duvalet (who went on to create masterpieces for Van Cleef & Arpels) was let go. When Todd passed away in 1943, Chapin retired and Peacock acquired ownership of the company and its archives and renamed it Grant A. Peacock.