“A little sparkle, a little shine, a little luxury, from the oldest handbag company in the US.” - Whiting & Davis
This is a vintage Whiting & Davis (W&D) necklace and one of my FAVORITE pieces. It screams #RockerChic and immediately creates the dramatic edge I look for in a statement piece. I scored it on an eBay dig and I'm guessing it's from the 80's.
I'm a HUGE fan of Whiting & Davis. They have been around for over 100 years and are truly fashion pioneers. They were big in the 70's and 80's, my favorite decades, and most of the handbags and jewelry pieces I own are from this era. Whiting & Davis pieces are specialized works of fashion art in metal mesh, and their items create an instant unique look whether dressing it up or down.
The craftsmanship quality of this Whiting & Davis necklace is undeniable. Heavy gold metal links hang from a slightly curved metal bar. The chain is comprised of a series of metal links connected to resemble a braid. #FRESH
Designer Marking: The necklace has a metal tag with "WHITING & DAVIS CO." across and "MESH BAGS" surrounding the main company name.
Whiting & Davis was made both in the US and abroad, and may be found with the mark Whiting & Davis International, which indicates the non-domestically produced pieces. Other W&D markings I've seen on my personal items and per my internet research:
Whiting and Davis History
Whiting & Davis has been around since 1876. Over 100 years old, Whiting & Davis is noted as one of the oldest costume jewelers in the U.S. Their history is extensive. I'll briefly summarize the company's fashion design highlights for each decade. This synopsis and pictures are from their website, which has a detailed account of their history.
The company started as Wade Davis & Company, the precursor to Whiting & Davis, founded by William H. Wade, Edward P. Davis and Louis Heckman in Massachusetts. It was a silversmith company that debuted with a collection of sterling silver jewelry and popular designs of the Late Victorian era, including stickpins, bracelets, earrings and bar pins.
Charles Whiting joined the company in 1880 and in 1892, Charles Whiting wove the first Whiting & Davis handbag by hand, transforming the ancient art of chainmail into an exquisite fabric. The small purse was crafted in plated ring mesh, roughly three inches square and featured a delicate twist closure and a simple leaf motif on the frame.
By 1896, Charles Whiting partnered with Edward Davis and the name Whiting & Davis was born. By the year 1914, Whiting & Davis had opened an office in Quebec and had a presence in New York City and #Chicago.
20's: The Twenties brought in Art Deco and geometric designs. Whiting & Davis began stenciling applied patterns to create colorful patterns on the mesh handbags. The designs were adored by women across the country, from Hollywood to the everyday woman.
30's: Whiting & Davis' first Ready-Wear designs were seen in the early 1930s. Mesh scarves and collars became popular styles, worn around the neck, head, shoulders or waist. Art Deco influences continued into this decade with bright reds, oranges, blues, black and white often on geometric and zig-zag patterns.
In 1937, Whiting & Davis teamed up with Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli to create a collection of daytime and evening handbags. The styles were pouch-shaped finely crafted in flat and beadlite mesh, featuring rhinestone clasps with finishes in gold, studded silver and iridescent pearl white.
During World War II, Whiting & Davis experienced the shortage of brass and aluminum and as a result, shifted the focus from designing metal mesh jewelry and accessories to assist with the war effort. The company subcontracted with Raytheon Manufacturing and produced electronic equipment for radar and electronic equipment.
40's: Whiting & Davis' primary focus became fashion. Since metals were sparse, jewelry and handbag styles were often designed with alternative materials such as Bakelite. Cocktail parties were a growing trend and with it, brought bold, showy designs known as cocktail jewelry.
50's: Whiting & Davis' fashion jewelry was growing in recognition as the brand remained true to their dedication to fine craftsmanship and detail. Popular styles included cameo pendants and earrings and charm bracelets.
In this photo, Jane Russell wears a sleek dress of Whiting & Davis mesh, weighing a purported 21 pounds, while romancing Robert Mitchum in the 1952 movie Macao.
60's: In 1963, Whiting & Davis joined in on a collaboration with Vogue, Twentieth Century Fox and a number of other high-end designers of the time to promote the 1963 film Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Whiting & Davis launched the Cleopatra Collection in conjunction with the event, crafting jewelry for the woman of that day who dared to "dress in an exciting mood, to be a femme fatale, provocative but discreet." The styles inspired by Cleopatra's dramatic accessories, in serpent bracelets, earrings, necklaces and a stunning collection of jeweled pins with real stone representatives of the Egyptian period.
70's: As the disco era approached, Whiting & Davis enamored women with brightly polished gold and sterling silver mesh accessories and jewelry. Cameos returned and statement rings, mother of pearl and colored mesh scarves were big sellers. In 1976, Whiting & Davis hired the up-and-coming Anthony Ferrara as the in-house Ready-to-Wear designer.
80's: The Eighties adored Whiting & Davis - mesh cowl necklaces, halter tops and other Ready-Wear apparel became every woman's must-have for an evening out. Handbag styles were pouch-shaped often featuring jeweled frames with long shoulder straps.
In his 1983 music video for "Beat It," Michael Jackson wore his infamous red leather jacket inlaid with Whiting & Davis ring mesh in the shoulders. #WhoKnew
The widely publicized Absolut Vodka campaign took place in 1989 when a number of up-and-coming designers were commissioned to design a few pieces for the campaign, including Whiting & Davis' Ready-to-Wear designer Anthony Ferrara, Marc Jacobs and David Cameron, among others. Ferrara designed two dresses with Whiting & Davis fine ring mesh: a then-$532,000 18-karat gold mesh dress and a $100,000 sterling silver version.
This is Ferrara's 1990 Absolut Vodka Absolut Fashion ad featuring a $500,000 dress made of 18k gold Whiting & Davis mesh.
90's: Whiting & Davis began widespread recognition for architectural and specialty designs, a division that had been fashioning their mesh into Broadway and theatre curtains since the late 1920s. The company continued to thrive with metal mesh drapery for interior designers and architects throughout the years and by the 1990s and early 2000s, the division had gained popularity for the luxurious and dramatic material.
Shimmering gold mesh drapes by Whiting & Davis. Architect and designer Alexandra Loew.
Here, Kim Cattrall in sequins and zebra print Whiting & Davis at the height of her Sex and the City fame.
Whiting & Davis celebrated the 100th Anniversary with the Heritage Collection, a limited series of handbags called the Stars with painted designs in the likeness of the popular actors: Charlie Chapman, Renee Adoree, Clark Gable and Marion Davis. The bags initially sold at wholesale for $10 but by 1992, the Charlie Chaplin bag sold at auction for $1,000.
In honor of the 135th Anniversary in 2013, Whiting & Davis announced the brand was returning to its roots in fine jewelry. The intimate collection celebrated their rich heritage and founding as silversmiths, as each piece was crafted in sterling silver or 18-karat gold exquisite fine mesh.
In these photos. Lady Gaga incorporates a Whiting & Davis gate-top bag into one of her fabulous outfits.
Whiting & Davis remains the recognized leader in metal mesh handbags more than 120 years after its first mesh handbag was produced. W&D regularly introduces new styles with an eye toward both trend and functionality. Whiting bags now come in a variety of shapes, colors and mesh styles with trims such as snakeskin, studs and Swarovski.
For Whiting & Davis collections, bracelets, necklaces and earrings, see their website at http://www.whitinganddaviscollection.com/fashion. For Whiting & Davis handbags and accessories, see their website at https://whitinganddavisbags.com/.
Got a vintage Whiting & Davis piece? Share it in the comment section with a link or photo. I'd love to check it out! #W&DForever
I contacted Whiting & Davis to authenticate my necklace. They confirmed that it is definitely a vintage W&D. It is not part of any collection on file and they noted it was most likely a sample design that never made a final collection. #RareScore Thanks, W&D!
Deluxe Redux® is a vintage fashion blog based in Chicago celebrating fashion history. I feature designers, vintage boutiques and fashion historians..