“The Jewelry City”
Cincinnati in the late 19th Century was a bustling industrial landscape. Strategically located on the Ohio River, Cincinnati was the gateway to the South and West. From this time period grew a jewelry manufacturing renaissance. This renaissance was fueled by classically trained German jewelry artisans who came to Cincinnati with the promise of employment with the finest manufacturers in America. It is out of this time period that Cincinnati became known as “The Jewelry City.”
Whitehouse Brothers was founded in 1898 by Joseph C. and William H. Whitehouse. The brothers quickly developed a reputation for manufacturing finely designed and crafted platinum jewelry. The jewelers at Whitehouse Brothers were truly renaissance men. By the early 1920’s Whitehouse Brothers had grown to become the largest manufacturing jeweler in America, employing over 100 craftsmen. Among those employed were designers of precious metal jewelry, who were being classically trained in Cincinnati as metal sculptors.
Frederick William Kolde, born in 1870, began as a designer in Breslau, Germany at the age of 15. He came to Cincinnati in his early years and remained employed as a designer and jeweler for nearly 50 years at Whitehouse Brothers until he retired at the age of 80. Frederick studied art under the masters such as Frank Duveneck and Vincent Nowottny. Other than a metal sculptor, Frederick is known in the art world as a landscape painter, featuring floral and naturalistic subjects.
Frederick designed some of the filigree mountings you see in our catalog. The timeless styles are sculptures reflecting Frederick’s years of drawing, painting, metal working and perception of the world. One example of his work, style #8136, was designed to commemorate the return of Halley’s comet in 1910. Other styles include Victorian, Floral, and Naturalistic motifs. Frederick is just one of the many artists of Whitehouse Brothers who have contributed to our catalog of wearable art.
In the early 20th century, platinum was an unpopular choice for many jewelry manufacturers because of its complicated workability. Whitehouse Brothers’ master platinum craftsmen had developed processes for manufacturing platinum, achieving a superior product compared to gold. To promote the use of platinum, Whitehouse Brothers developed a five part series to be printed in the Jeweler’s Circular-Keystone (JCK). In 1919, Whitehouse Brothers released a series of ads known as “The Romance of Platinum.”
It has always been a concern of Whitehouse Brothers to build quality jewelry based on fine designs. Platinum has allowed not only the craft of fine detail, but of lasting perfection. Platinum is the king among metals that allows the craftsman’s hands to raise it to the plane of the jewel itself. It becomes more than a mere setting. It is an essential part of a real master work of artisanship.