Help Needed to Solve a Jewelry Mystery

Two tie bar pins, 400 miles apart. One is in the Pi Beta Phi Archives in St. Louis. The other is in Columbus, Ohio in the Delta Gamma’s Frances Lewis Stevenson Archives.

The Delta Gamma tie bar also has a matching necklace.

Little is known about who sold these tie bars and if other designs were available. Was it perhaps a Balfour design? Was it one of the tie-bar convention favors Lloyd G. Balfour provided to the GLOs who were his clients? In a pre-Etsy world, was it something a lone jeweler sold to members in a selected area?

The tie bar with the Pi Beta Phi crest

Another archivist friend sent me this picture of a similar necklace with an Alpha Tau Omega crest on it. She added, “Do you think that these items were marketed as favors for guests at formals? Hence, the women’s crests on the tie bars, and the men’s crest on the necklace.” Maybe that’s it!

A necklace with the Alpha Tau Omega crest.

A friend who is knowledgable about antiques sent this message: 

Fran – these geometrically themed necklaces/tie bars were made during the Art Deco period, circa 1930s. The silver and colored enamel versions were often imported from Czechoslovakia. Jewelers could purchase them in bulk and then customized them by attaching various crests and other organization logos. (These crests very well could have been made by Balfour.)

Another reader sent this note:

I’ve definitely seen these in various jeweler catalogues including Balfour. Stock base, upon which you ordered your choice of coat of arms.

The mystery of the Art Deco fraternity jewelry has been solved, thanks to my Kappa Alpha Theta archivist friend, Noraleen Young. The bar-pin cost $3.50 in 1932, equivalent to about $60 today.  I also learned that Alpha Delta Pi has one of the items in their collection. 

The 1932 Balfour Blue Book which was printed in black and white.

A close-up of the items




This entry was posted in Fran Favorite and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.