“A little sparkle, a little shine, a little luxury, from the oldest handbag company in the US.” - Whiting & Davis
This vintage Whiting & Davis (W&D) necklace is 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 my guess is that it's from the 1980'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 extraordinary 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: This 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 also be found with the mark "Whiting & Davis International," indicating non-domestically produced pieces. Other W&D markings on pieces from my personal collection 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 most 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 wove the first Whiting & Davis handbag by hand in 1892, 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.
1920's: The 1920's 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.
1930's: Whiting & Davis launched its first Ready-Wear designs 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 handbags 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. As a result, Whiting & Davis 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.
1940'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.
1950'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.
1960's: In 1963, Whiting & Davis collaborated with Vogue, Twentieth Century Fox, and several other high-end designers and promoted the film Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Whiting & Davis also launched the Cleopatra Collection inspired by Cleopatra's dramatic accessories for the woman daring to "dress in an exciting mood, to be a femme fatale, provocative but discreet." The Collection included serpent bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and jeweled pins with real stone representatives of the Egyptian period.
1970'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 designer Anthony Ferrara as the in-house Ready-to-Wear designer.
1980's: The 1980s adored Whiting & Davis. Mesh cowl necklaces and halter tops became every woman's must-have pieces 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 several new designers were commissioned to design pieces for the campaign, including Whiting & Davis' Ready-to-Wear designer Anthony Ferrara, Marc Jacobs, and David Cameron. Ferrara designed a then-$532,000 18-karat gold mesh dress and a $100,000 sterling silver version.
1990's: Whiting & Davis began to receive widespread recognition for architectural and specialty designs, a division that had been fashioning their mesh into Broadway and theater curtains since the late 1920s. The company continued to thrive with metal mesh drapery for interior designers and architects throughout the years. The division gained popularity for the luxurious and dramatic material by the 1990s and early 2000s.
Whiting & Davis celebrated its 100th Anniversary with the Heritage Collection, a limited series of handbags called the Stars with painted designs in the likeness of the actors: Charlie Chapman, Renee Adoree, Clark Gable and Marion Davis. The bags initially sold at wholesale for $10, but Charlie Chaplin the bag sold at auction for $1,000 by 1992.
In honor of its 135th Anniversary in 2013, Whiting & Davis announced the brand was returning to its roots in fine jewelry. Each piece of the collection was crafted in sterling silver or 18-karat gold exquisite fine mesh celebrating its rich heritage as silversmiths.
Whiting & Davis remains the recognized leader in metal mesh handbags more than 120 years after it produced its first mesh handbag. W&D 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 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. Thanks, W&D!
Deluxe Redux® is a vintage fashion blog based in Chicago celebrating fashion history. I feature designers, vintage boutiques and fashion historians..