Established in 1888, Udall and Ballou grew to become one of the best known and most prosperous jewellers in New York during the second quarter of the 20th Century. Best remembered for their wonderful Art Deco designs, the company started as jewellers and silversmiths selling a range of items from diamond rings and gentlemen’s dress sets to silver candlesticks and tea services. The shop was located on 5th Avenue and as their success grew they expanded and opened branches in Palm Beach Florida and Bellevue Avenue in Newport Rhode Island, as well as an office on the rue Lafayette in Paris.
The firm were known not only for the beautiful quality and craftsmanship of their jewellery but also for being up to date with current trends and styles and ensuring that their jewels would compliment and enhance all the latest fashions. During the Belle Époque period, exquisite seed pearl sautoirs with elegant tassels shared window space with sparkling diamond rings in simple platinum settings. However, it was the 1920’s that really sealed their position as one of the preeminent American jewellers retailing a wonderful array of pieces by some of the best craftsmen and jewellery manufacturers in New York including William Scheer and Oscar Heyman Bros who supplied them with the now famous gem-set pansy brooches and clips. Contemporary advertisements reveal wide strap bracelets worn stacked upon the wrist in multiples of two, three or more; geometric openwork double clips which could be worn on dresses, coats and hats; and long drop earrings with emerald cabochons. Alongside jewels they also sold accessories such as vanity cases, compacts and cigarette boxes as well as a selection of watches from fine diamond set ladies cocktail watches, classically elegant wrist watches for gentlemen in yellow and white gold and striking evening pieces such as an unusual gem set lapel watch in the shape of a birdhouse. A collection of charmingly whimsical top-hat wearing bird brooches were pavé-set with diamonds and had wings of carved coloured gems such as ruby and emerald.
In 1939 they were one of only five firms to exhibit jewellery in the sumptuous House of Jewels at the New York World’s Fair. An undoubted sign of the high regard in which they were held, their fellow exhibitors were Tiffany & Co.; Cartier; Black, Starr & Frost and Marcus & Co. The centre piece of their display was a stunning pendant necklace which was surrounded by wide diamond set strap bracelets, double clip brooches and rings. The accompanying brochure described the wonders of the House… “The House of Jewels dramatically presents jewelry and diamonds at the New York World’s Fair, and amazing indeed is this concentration of value and beauty. Craftsmen have worked for months to design and create the jewels displayed – jewels both beautiful in execution and authentic in fashion. Pearls, Diamonds, Emeralds, Rubies, Sapphires, and precious stones of every variety are on view in the jewelers windows.
The 1940’s necessarily brought a change in style with yellow gold and coloured gems such as aquamarine and topaz set in large bold jewels. However as the decade progressed and the War continued, Udall & Ballou sadly suffered in the way so many companies did at this time and as their financial situation worsened they were unable to continue and were forced to close their doors. Their jewellery lives on however and remains as collectable and wearable today as it is always has been.