Monday, November 20, 2017


We don't know precisely when Gustav Manz made his first ring depicting a young elephant emerging from tall grass, but the year he spent working in South Africa's diamond fields as a young man in the late 1880s clearly was formative. A version of this ring appears in an early photograph of his own jewelry designs for customers such as Tiffany & Co, Cartier, and Black, Starr & Frost, many incorporating lions, tigers, bears and other wildlife.  

After moving to New York in the early 1890s, Manz used his leisure time to sketch animals at the city's park zoos (where over time he earned enough trust from the keepers that he was permitted to borrow a mountain lion cub to study and sketch at his leisure). His miniature, highly realistic, representations of iconic species in precious metal became a hallmark and are highly coveted by collectors today. 
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Lid ornament for a hand-made copper humidor
Gustav Manz, circa 1910
Private collection

In July 2016, President Barack Obama signed a bipartisan law naming the American Bison the official National Mammal, giving our National Bird some company. Today a couple thousand bison run wild in Yellowstone National Park thanks to conservationist (and big-game hunter) Theodore Roosevelt's organized effort to stave off extinction. Sacred to the Plains tribes, buffaloes were appropriated by Gilded Age animalier sculptors including James Earle Fraser, creator of the 1913 Buffalo Nickel shown below. 

Obverse and reverse of James Earle Fraser's 1913 nickel design. Image: CoinHelp

Fraser, who taught sculpture at The Art Students League, found his model bison at the Central Park Zoo. Another artist inspired by iconic inhabitants of the American frontier was Canadian-born sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor, whose stone heads and friezes adorn entrances at the Bronx Zoo. Shaggy bovines and other large mammals also featured in the gentlemen's jewelry and metalwork created by Gustav Manz, who rented studio space at 13 E 30th, in the same Manhattan building as A. Proctor's atelier. 

Sterling and gilt plaque of a Native American chief
Gustav Manz, circa 1910-15
Private collection

As a member and occasional exhibitor at the National Arts Club, Gustav Manz was surely in the loop when the U.S. Treasury announced a competition to replace the liberty Head nickel. But Fraser, a former assistant to Augustus St. Gaudens, effectively beat all potential rivals to the punch by quickly submitting a preliminary concept and model coin that wowed officials. Fraser had early exposure to the American frontier—his father was a trainman sent to Little Big Horn to help retrieve remains of Custer's slain calvary—and had worked on a ranch in South Dakota before heading east. The Indian face on his 1913 coin was actually a composite of three chiefs, at least one of whom had met and parlayed with Theodore Roosevelt.

To announce the opening of his studio on East 28th Street, Manz produced a trade brochure advertising his product lines. Each spoke to wealthy Americans' taste for exoticism and icons of the past. A 4-color illustration plate showing designs for "The Animal" line is attached inside the folded stock 
Private collection

While there is no evidence Manz competed for the nickel, a silver Indian head he sculpted and later gave to his daughter clearly evokes the face on Fraser's coin. Like other industrial artists of his era, Manz was well compensated by Tiffany and other firms for his skills as a copycat of artifacts and emblems redolent of ancient and exotic cultures. His noble brave was likely part of his "Indian + Aztec" product line, one of a dozen he advertised in a circa 1912 brochure produced for the trade. Coincidentally in July 1912, a month after TR launched his Bull Moose party (ultimately losing a four-way race for the presidency to Woodro Wilson), Manz registered copyright on a "sculptured group of buffaloes trying to gore a bear." And we think modern politics is a rough and tumble affair!" 
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Gustav Manz LLC  

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Chrysanthemum frame for an intaglio portrait by Gustav Manz, circa 1910 

Warm days and cool nights bring out the mums—a motif, inspired by Japanese art, favored by Tiffany and Gorham silversmiths in the 19th century. Gustav Manz's circa 1910 pendant adapts the flower to frame the profile of a chignon-coiffed young woman incised in a deep yellow tablet-cut stone. Gypsy-set olivines and a reddish-purple garnet add sparkle to the chrysanthemum leaves and surmounting blossom surrounding her face—all carved by hand. The gold-work is undoubtedly Manz's, but the portrait may have been executed by Ottavio Negri, an intaglio artist renowned for his reproductions of ancient Roman and Greek carvings. 

The Roman-born Negri studied with Augustus St. Gaudens, and counted gem collector J.P. Morgan among his acquaintances (both were members of the New York Mineralogical Club). Negri supplied carved gems to other jewelry designers who like Manz favored classical and historical forms: such as Elinor Evans Klapp (another Manz client); he was also mentor to mid-century gem engraver Beth Benton Sutherland, whose subjects included the children of modern industrialists. Sutherland, who in turn became a champion of the ancient art, used moonstone to set her contemporary work apart from the sardonyx and carnelian engravings favored by the ancients. 

The model or inspiration for the young woman in the stone portrait in Manz's piece has not been identified, but the pendant passed to his eldest daughter, whose birth flower was a chrysanthemum. It and two other jewels by Manz were featured in the 2012 exhibit "Finer Things" at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, which highlighted the fashions and pastimes of an era that looked back one last time before plunging headlong into the modern age.  

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Gustav Manz LLC  

Monday, March 13, 2017


This gouache rendering of a personalized signet ring comes from a trove of early 20th century jewelry designs left by designing goldsmith Gustav Manz. 

The entwined snakes allude to Mercury the messenger, and are often used as a symbol of medicine, though strictly speaking a single snake wrapped around a rod known as the staff of Asclepius was the image ancients associated with healing. 

Sticking with a medical theme, the initials 'PRN' on the left shank could be an abbreviation for pro re nata ("use as needed") which was invoked by medicos of yore along with primum non nocere ("first do no harm"). And the initials 'LH' on the right could refer to Lenox Hill hospital, where one of Manz's daughters received her R.N. in 1924. Originally known as the German Hospital, the clinic on Manhattan's Upper East Side was renamed in July 1918, as antipathy toward the city's sizable population of German-born immigrants revved up during WWI. 

Of course, the letters may have had nothing to do with doctors and nurses and simply been a token of love, from one set of initials to another. 'JAN' and 'U' tucked into openings between the twining serpents suggest a month that may have had significance to a prospective buyer—another jewelry mystery yet to be solved.
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Gustav Manz LLC  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


"The world must be peopled..."
—William Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing

...also elephanted, lioned, and rhinoed!
Which is why we share proceeds from our special edition bracelet with the wildlive conservation and environmental organization Tusk

To place an order or learn more more about Gustav Manz jewelry for Tusk, please contact 

We welcome your comments, and invite you to follow Gustav Manz on this Blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

Copyright (C) 2017 All Rights Reserved
Gustav Manz LLC

Saturday, December 10, 2016



Our coin pendant is handcrafted in sterling — and every sale supports TUSK!


Check out the posts on this blog and Instagram for other examples of Manz's jewelry and sculpture. 


Sunday, November 13, 2016


The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) monument 
Kamakura, Japan, 1923. The statue was originally gold-plated and housed inside a temple 
Image courtesy

One of Gustav Manz's popular mountings features a Buddha seated inside a lotus decorated pavilion. An 18k gold version shown here was modeled, cast, chased, set, finished and polished in Manz's New York studio at 2 West 47th Street. The center ruby was furnished "on memo" by an antiques dealer named Barkhy H. Mirzy, a former jeweler and Armenian-Turkish emigre from Lebanon who specialized in oriental goods. 

"Just... breathe..."
  Water-color on parchment rendering for a 1923
finger ring; image from Manz & Co costbooks
(Winterthur Museum, Joseph Downs Collection)

According to a notation in Manz's stockbook, Tiffany & Company bought the ring on September 25, 1923, just three weeks after a major earthquake struck Japan. The quake rocked the ancient city of Kamakura, where an enormous bronze statue of the Buddha—weighing 93 tonnes—shifted a distance of two feet! Whether the timing of the Tiffany purchase was an act of karma or just coincidence, the piece was just one of hundreds of rings, brooches, bracelets and cufflinks Manz designed and his artisans crafted for the store's jewelry department in the post-World War I decade.

Below, lotus detail from one of Manz's
 jewelry renderings from the 1920s
(Winterthur Museum, Joseph Downs Collection)

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