gold with ruby & clear rhinestone necklace signed McClelland Barclay made by Rice-Weiner & Co. 1938

A Rice-Weiner necklace and my shocking discovery from the maker of McClelland Barclay jewellery

Jo Stafford wearing McClelland Barclay necklace made by Rice-Weiner & Co in publicity photo; the same design with yellow rhinestones shown on right
L: signed photo of Jo Stafford by James J. Kreigsmann; R: McClelland Barclay rhinestone necklace made by Rice-Weiner & Co. 1938

This McClelland Barclay Rice-Weiner necklace was a catalyst. Shown above in yellow and worn in a publicity photo of singer Jo Stafford. I was captivated when I first saw the ruby version in the book by Fred Rezazadeh, Costume Jewelry: A Practical Handbook & Value Guide.

This necklace became the motivation behind my mission to find out more about McClelland Barclay jewellery and the maker, Rice-Weiner & Co.

Turns out, much of the information about Rice-Weiner available was incomplete or inaccurate, making it difficult to date and authenticate pieces marked with the McClelland Barclay signature.

As a vintage jewellery collector, getting verifiable sources of information is a challenge. Having jewellery designs that were quite varied over a short five-year period when they were made is part of the reason. As well, McClelland Barclay died serving during WWII, his jewellery creations were not well documented, and the Rice-Weiner & Co. story is complicated.

McClelland Barclay signature costume jewellery collection is introduced

I know the earliest McClelland Barclay jewellery pieces were made in 1938.

In chapter six of my book, McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women & More, I describe the first trade announcement of a McClelland Barclay signature 150-piece jewellery collection exclusive to Rice-Weiner & Co. in the fashion industry journal, Women’s Wear Daily. First appearing in July 1938, then again a few months later, WWD reported the collection was available at venerable New York retailer, B. Altman & Co, and promoted in a Vogue ad. 

Celebrity association probably helped elevate jewellery sales for Rice-Weiner too.

McClelland, or perhaps Rice-Weiner & Company, may have also sent gifts of his jewellery to celebrities, who might in turn promote his pieces. On page 133 of my book, we see a signed photo of popular singer, Jo Stafford wearing the rhinestone necklace by McClelland Barclay.

It was good timing. Jo Stafford (1917-2008) was just becoming a very popular singer. Cast that year in the musical film, Alexander's Ragtime Band, soon after she joined the Tommy Dorsey Band, and became famous for her wartime hits. Stafford earned three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her voice can still be heard today channelling the 1940s and '50s era in some episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

sterling silver grapes brooch signed McClelland Barclay made by Rice-Weiner & Co. 1938

Among the other items in that debut McClelland Barclay jewellery collection made in 1938 by Rice-Weiner & Co. was this sterling silver grapes brooch. Quite a different look from the necklace.

Additional brief reviews appeared in WWD each year, from 1939 to 1943, describing some of the widely differing Art Deco and Art Moderne designs in each new collection. Some in sterling silver, others gold plated with colourful rhinestones, and still others in two-tone metal. But these descriptions are maddeningly incomplete.

As a collector and reseller of authentic McClelland Barclay jewellery, I took it upon myself to do more research to try and set the record straight.

Connecting through the Providence jewellery industry

Rice-Weiner & Co. was among many American costume jewellery makers located in Providence, Rhode Island. It was a jewellery-manufacturing hub, home to companies including Coro and Trifari.

Rice-Weiner was originally founded as New England Glass Works in Providence in 1911. The company was known for its jewelled brooches and dress clips. It changed its name to Rice-Weiner & Company in 1938 in recognition of the two founding families. In 1946, there was a split in the company, with various family members continuing Rice-Weiner, while others started the Barclay Jewelry Company, in business until 1960. Rice-Weiner remained in the retail trade until the end of 1950, and then began producing jewellery for wholesalers until 1956.

With business records not readily available. I needed to connect with the family. It was through my contacts with a long history in the local jewellery trade that I tracked down a relative of Howard Weiner, former CEO of the company.

My lunch with Howard Weiner

Howard Weiner, former CEO of Rice-Weiner & Co. in 2006

Arranging a visit in 2006 with Mr. Weiner, I learned how he came into the family business was not by design. Jewellery making was not his passion or his life’s plan. But fate intervened.

Howard explained when his brother, Jerome, was killed in WWII, he stepped in to help. He joined his father and another brother, Lloyd, in the company after the war.

The war had impacted Rice-Weiner business, suffering the loss of two key people. To their credit, the company honoured the last McClelland Barclay collection with a showroom display in 1943.

McClelland Barclay also helped promote Rice-Weiner jewellery by including items in the glamourous ads he illustrated for Whitman's chocolates. These two shown below appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in April 1940 and July 1941. The second reflects a wartime sentiment.

Whitman's chocolates ads illustrated by McClelland Barclay feature models wearing his signature jewellery by Rice-Weiner & Co.

L: Whitman's Chocolates illustrated advertising by McClelland Barclay with Rice-Weiner jewellery appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. L: April 6, 1940; R: July 26, 1941

Revelations about Rice-Weiner and McClelland Barclay jewellery

By the time Rice-Weiner began manufacturing McClelland Barclay costume jewellery, the artist was already quite famous for his illustrations of Fisher Body Girl ads a decade earlier. He was sought after throughout the 1930s for Pictorial Review magazine covers and Cosmopolitan story illustrations. And he had already been designing and manufacturing metal art decor products through McClelland Barclay Art Products, Inc.

McClelland Barclay Art Products, Inc. frog on a lily pad dish in signature green bronze finish
McClelland Barclay Art Products, Inc. 1930s bronze-plated frog on a lily pad dish

Jewellery design seemed a natural extension of his product design work. Still it was a shock when I was able to confirm during my lunch with Howard Weiner that McClelland Barclay was not the designer of the costume jewellery made by Rice-Weiner & Co.

first-ever biography of the artist, McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More by Patricia Gostick

That had never been revealed before. So who was the Rice-Weiner designer of jewellery signed with McClelland Barclay’s name? Well you need to buy my book for the whole story!

Fear not collectors, this revelation just adds clarity. McClelland Barclay signed costume jewellery made by Rice-Weiner & Co. continues to be as rare and desirable as ever. This new information only serves to make it possible to authenticate the pieces made between 1938 and 1942.

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