Norma jewelry, corp. Oreste Pennino
Oreste Pennino was born in Naples in 1888. He was his father Pasquale’s child by his first marriage. His father’s second marriage to Giuseppina Vergati produced four more children: Maria, Anselmo (later called Frank), Gennaro (called Jack), and Carmela. In 1904 Pasquale Pennino with his sixteen year old son Oreste emigrated to New York on the Vincenzo Florio ship, arriving in the States on 14th November. The profession indicated by both on the immigration form was goldsmith. Father and son settled in Brooklyn, with Pasquale’s brother-in-law, Domenico Migliaro, at 604 Hicks Street. Then, after a while, they moved to 211 Hamilton Avenue.
In 1908 Pasquale’s second wife and four children also emigrated to America on The Cedric ship. On 17,h May 1908, a few weeks after the arrival of the family, Pasquale died and Oreste, aged twenty, had to take on the role of father to his younger siblings. In 1927 Oreste, by then an American citizen, founded the Oreste Pennino company which, when his two brothers Anselmo and Gennaro joined the company (1930?), was renamed Pennino Brothers, with offices in New York, at 38 West 48,h Street. Practically at the same time as the company was established, a trademark with the nine Zodiac signs (Sagittarius, Virgo, Aquarius, Taurus, Libra, Cancer, Gemini, Capricorn and Scorpio) was registered. On 14Ih August 1928 Pennino patented two designs: a brooch with the Libra sign (des. pat. n. 73,039) and a bracelet with the Virgo sign (des. pat. n. 73,040), respectively.
WWD, on 8th August 1931, reported that the Pennino Bros, had presented a 14/k gold brooch collection entirely made by hand in the “French Colonial” style, that had become fashionable on the wake of an exhibition with this theme held in Paris that year. A line of rings completed the collection. There is, unfortunately, no trace of this or any other collections up to 1939 on the antique market.
On 23rd May 1939, Pennino patented a novelty brooch made of rhodium-plated metal with red and green enamel details, rhinestones and baguettes of a pre-Disney Pinocchio inspired by illustrations in Collodi’s book (PI.); it was one of very few figurative subjects made by Pennino. A fourth patent obtained on 20th February 1940 was for the design of a tree with a rhinestone-studded trunk and round pearl blossoms on the branches (P2.). Although Pennino’s sterling production was rather plentiful, having started during wartime, (at the end of 1942), no patent was submitted by Pennino between 1940 and 1946, therefore any unpatented pieces can be attributed with good approximation to that period.
On 12th February 1946, designs of two sterling brooches with floral motifs were patented (P8. and P9.) and on 26th February a “jewelry finding” reproducing the motif of one of the two brooches was also patented (des. pat. n. 143,988). Then, in 1947, a shining sun made of sterling or gold-plated metal was patented, followed, in 1948, by a sterling tree with rhinestone-studded trunk and red rhinestone flowers (which were also reproduced in other brooches made in the same year), “Sunburst” and “Tree, ” respectively (P5. e P3.). In 1948 another tree similar to the 1940 design (des. pat. n. 149,833 of 1st June 1948) and a sterling brooch with a watch (des. pat. n. 151,529) were patented.
The last six Pennino patents are designs of watches with sterling bracelets and rhinestone and baguette details (11th January 1949 from des.pat. n. 152,352 to des. pat. n. 152,357). This line was advertised with the slogan “The Pennino Look,” in “Jewelers’ Circular Keystone,” October 1948.
Oreste Pennino is the only known designer for this company.
All items are marked “Pennino” in small block letters with the addition, whenever it was the case, of “Sterling. ” In the period herein reviewed the trademark had not been registered.
Production continued throughout the early 1950s and was always characterized by good quality items made of rhodium or gold-plated metal with stones and rhinestones.
In 1964 the Pennino Brothers company was quoted on the stock market and the three brothers were its major shareholders. However, they no longer worked for the company, which a few years later ceased business.
In spite of its excellent design and manufacturing quality, costume jewelry designed by Pennino was somehow repetitive with its mainly floral or plant motifs and constant tendency to imitate precious jewels in the so-called “real look” style.
Marked Des. Pat. 114905.
The subject was inspired by traditional Pinocchio iconography, the puppet character in Carlo Lorenzini’s (known as Collodi) book of 1883, which at the time was well-known and much lovec in Italy, but was not so famous in the States, was only in 1940, after Walt Disney made the famous cartoon movie of the same name, that the story and the characters in the book became famous abroad. In the movie version however, the imagery of the story was completely altered. Except for the Zodiac signs of 1928, this is the first and only patent issued to Pennino for a design of a human subject.
Rhodium plated metal brooch with rhinestones and grey pearl essence, depicting an apple tree. 4.5 x 5.8cm.
The patent refers to a pin clip and has an additional downward facing branch on the right. This model was manufactured both in a larger pin clip version, and in a smaller brooch version.
Rhodium plated sterling brooch/pendant of a tree in bloom with rhinestone pave trunk and branch, and flowers made of four small red stones with central rhinestone. 4.5×5.5cm.
Marked Pennino Sterling Des. Fat. Pend.
These flowers, made of four stones with a central rhinestone, are typical of Pennino pieces of this period and thus allow for the dating of the items in which they featured.
Gold-plated sterling brooch with white baguettes, citrine stones and rhinestones, depicting a beaming Diameter 4.5cm.
Marked Pennino Sterling.
See P6. for the spiral version of this brooch and relative references.
Gold-plated metal brooch/pendant of a beaming sun with a cluster of blue stones in the center and a double row of arrow-shaped rays with rhinestones. Diameter 6.5cm.
The design was patented in 1947, however the application, and therefore production, date from 1946. In the spring of 1946 the industry met with and complained of serious difficulties in purchasing sterling, which accounts for the presence of metal and sterling jewels. The center of the various “cluster” models, i.e. a central convex mound of stones, is a trademark feature of Pennino products.
The “Sunburst” motif became popular between 1945 and 1946 following a design by the Duke of Verdura for a platinum and diamond jewel selling for $13,500. This design proved to be inspirational and various versions were made by Sandor, Trifari, Coro, Reinad, Reja, Nettie Rosenstein, Donna (David Grad) and others.
Gold-plated sterling brooch, pink stones, white baguettes and rhinestones, in the shape of a sunburst. 7 x 4.5cm.
Marked Pennino Sterling.
The same design was produced without the spirals both with center stones and a watch in the centre. This last one was reproduced in WWD. 31st October 1947 as “Sunburst Watch.” and was specified as a lapel watch.
Norma jewelry, corp. Oreste Pennino
Caesar and Cleopatra Inspire Jewelry
September 13.1946. “Cleopatra” and “Ibis.” by Providence Jewelry, Inc.
Gold-plated and rhodium-plated sterling brooch, red and black enamel, pearls and rhinestones, depicting a Cleopatra who resembles Vivian Leigh. 7.5x4cm.
The brooch featured in WWD, 13th September 1946, which reported that: “In conjunction with the forth coming premiere of “Cesar and Cleopatra, ” the much-heralded motion picture. Providence Jewelers. Inc., have produced a complete line consisting of 15 items all of which are either a replica of jewelry worn by Vivian Leigh or are significant of some scenes in the motion picture. The “Head” is an authentic reproduction of Miss Leigh as Cleopatra in full headdress.” The motion picture Cesar and Cleopatra of 1946, taken from the comedy of the same name by George Bernard Shaw, was directed by Gabriel Pascal and starred Claude Rains. Vivian Leigh and Stewart Granger.