At a time when women were virtually unheard of in the jewellery design business, talented goldsmith Charlotte Newman was bravely stamping her trademark “Mrs. N” into her coveted designs that ranged in style from Byzantine to Renaissance. The aquamarine necklace below is one of our favourites:
Aquamarine necklace by Mrs. N, 1890. Image: The Jewelry Loupe
Charlotte attended the Government Art School (now the Royal College of Art) in South Kensington, beginning her education in goldsmithing and jewellery design at just 14 years old. She then went on to study in Paris before getting her professional start with jeweller John Brogden in Covent Garden, and many of her pencil and watercolour designs can now be found in the collection at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
Some of Charlotte Newman's jewellery designs, circa 1860s, in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection. Images: Victoria and Albert Museum
Charlotte was awarded the Médaille d'honneur as a collaboratrice when she attended the Paris world's fair in 1878, and ultimately started her own business after John Brogden’s death. Her shop, called “Mrs. Newman’s”, employed many of John Brogden’s workers and quickly garnered much media attention. In 1893 she exhibited pieces at the Chicago World's Fair, and in 1899 she was commissioned by the French government to design gold medallions for the Empress of Russia. Designs like the sapphire cameo below now sell for thousands of dollars at modern-day auction houses:
Cameo pendant featuring gold and sapphire, sold for $12,500 at Sotheby's. Image: Sotheby's
Despite being a leading goldsmith in London, Charlotte was often excluded from many arts and business organizations because she was a woman. Charlotte persevered, however, and went on to lead lectures and discussions with the Royal Society of Arts and the International Congress of Women. She was also a proud member of the Women's Guild of Arts and the Lyceum Club, which were both set up as a reaction to its founding members being denied membership of the male-dominated organizations such as the Art Workers' Guild.
While she might not have been the first woman to work in the industry, Charlotte is certainly one of the first to work under her own name. The fact that she used her married name might seem a bit old fashioned now, but some dealers and historians point out that the “Mrs.” in her trademark was actually a clever way to let people know that the jewellery was designed by a woman.
Although International Women's Day is just one day, Skyjems is celebrating all month! Join us next week as we learn about more trailblazers in the jewellery industry.