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Gustave Sherman – Jewels of Elegance 

July 18, 2024September 8, 2024

“Costume” or “fashion” jewellery became popular in the early to mid-20th century with the development of inexpensive simulated gemstones. French designer Coco Chanel declared, “I only like fake jewelry… because it’s provocative.” This lent legitimacy to non-precious jewellery, with designers conceiving new styles, materials, and possibilities. Changing lifestyles for women who were increasingly joining the workforce, the influence of Hollywood glamour, and the weakening of European influences during the war years led to the popularization of dressy and colourful North American costume jewellery.

Between 1947 and 1981, Canada’s most renowned costume jeweller, Gustave Sherman, pioneered the manufacturing of high-quality, Canadian-made costume jewellery that rivalled the best international brands. Using the finest Swarovski crystals, he became known for his sophisticated designs, colour combinations, and quality settings. The son of Lithuanian parents who immigrated to Canada to escape persecution, Sherman had no formal creative training. After working as a jewellery salesman, he established Sherman Costume Jewellery in Montreal. By the 1950s, the company was thriving, and Sherman was Canada’s most recognized costume jeweller.

Sherman’s designs were intricate and complex, full of contrasting lines, shapes, and colour. His pieces required large numbers of crystals, all of which were set by hand on double-plated settings. His work ranged from affordable to expensive and was sold through large department and jewellery stores like Birks, Eatons, and Peoples, but also in smaller independent jewellery stores across the country.

Exhibition organized by the Andrew and Laura McCain Art Gallery, Florenceville, NB