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Henry Bogoff Jewelry History

Posted on 15 June 2014


by Stephen Bogoff

Henry Bogoff was born in Poland in 1908 in a rural area not far from Warsaw. Slim his entire life, he liked to tell the story of how, as a youth, his older brothers fitted him with a vest with multiple pockets to smuggle vodka. Like many Eastern European Jews, he emigrated to the US to escape persecution and advance economically, arriving at Ellis Island at the age of 16 with only a few dollars to his name. He spent the next years in New York City where he married a recent Russian emigrant, Yvette Glazerman.

In the late 1920's Henry and Yvette moved to Chicago where they started Spear Novelty Company which manufactured belt trimmings, buttons, and other fashion accessories made with rhinestones. Spear Novelty was very successful, and their experience naturally lead them to the costume jewelry business.

Bogoff necklace Jewels by Bogoff was founded in 1940 and eventually became one of the country's leading designers and manufacturers of costume jewelry. Henry was responsible for the designs and styling. In addition to original creations, Henry's exceptional memory enabled him to visit upscale jewelers, particularly in New York City, and then return to Chicago and translate their diamond and precious stone designs into his own rhinestone creations.

Model makers translated the design from paper into a hand-made prototype. These were duplicated and used to make a vulcanized rubber production mold. Molten white metal was centrifugally cast in these molds, and the raw castings were then polished by hand. Earring and pin backs were soldered on, bracelets and necklaces were assembled using foot powered swedging machines, and the assembled pieces were then plated with either rhodium or gold. Finally, each rhinestone was glued into place by hand. Jewels by Bogoff had a reputation for very high quality, and every piece was guaranteed for life.

Bogoff earrings Yvette was one of the first women to head a major sales organization. With the end of World War II and the country's almost insatiable demand for luxury consumer goods, Jewels by Bogoff prospered.In addition to the factory showroom at 31 South Franklin Street in Chicago, the firm had showrooms in Los Angeles and on Fifth Avenue in New York. By the early 50's there were more than 200 employees working hard to keep up with orders from major retailers including Sears, J.C. Penney, Saks Fifth Avenue, Carsons, Hudsons, and Zales. Jewels by Bogoff was a regular advertiser in the leading fashion magazines of the time including Harper's and Vogue, and for many years was reportedly the country's third largest costume jewelry manufacturer after Trifari and Coro.

The Bogoffs resided in Highland Park on the North Shore of Lake Michigan. Yvette continued to work full time in the business until the birth of their third child. Yvette was an active member of the community and they were both very supportive of philanthropic and service organizations, particularly those having to do with the State of Israel and the plight of Jews after the war. Henry was very handsome and quite charming, and he always loved to tell a good story. He was an avid fisherman and during summers he spent as much time as he could spare away from the business at his rustic fishing lodge in Wisconsin. He also loved gardening, and time spent in his vegetable patch was a welcome relief from daily business pressures.

Bogoff earrings Jewels by Bogoff prospered until Henry's untimely death in 1958. Yvette tried to keep the business going, first in Chicago and then in New York, but changing consumer tastes and the loss of Henry's participation lead to the closing of the business in the early 60's.

Thanks to Stephen Bogoff, son of Henry Bogoff, for sharing the story of his parents and Jewels by Bogoff.

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