Benedikt NY Jewelry – Part I

Over 20 years ago I bought a Maltese cross brooch at the (late, great) Filene’s Basement store in Boston. It became a favorite and I wore it constantly and then one of the cabochons fell out and I was so crushed. One day on a whim I googled “Maltese cross” to see if something similar was available much to my surprise saw several images of a virtually identical brooch listed that was signed “Benedikt NY”! After some additional sleuthing it seems that Howard Benedikt made high-end costume jewelry from 1955 to 1973. His store was located at 389 5th Avenue in New York City and that is all I can find out about him. His pieces are considered collectible and are certainly as well made as vintage Hattie Carnegie pieces but are much less pricey. The brooch I bought in the 80’s was clearly a Benedikt knock-off and from time to time I see his designs copied by today’s high end costume jewelery brands such as Kenneth Jay Lane.  I have three of these brooches, a white/grey crystal, a blue crystal and a topaz cabachon.

Benedikt jewelry is always marked “Benedikt N.Y. (c)” and one of his most elaborate pieces is the Maltese cross. It was most  commonly made in red, blue or green with both a faceted crystal center or round cabochon center. Blue and green with crystal centers are by far the most common.  I’ve seen red and green cabochon centers but the blue only once in my research and it turned up on Ebay in 2007.  The center cabochons are colored glass and the oval cabs on the arms on the red and blue examples are colored glass or occasionally opaque pink glass or blue faux lapis (that’s what my blue one has.) This heavy brooch is 2 inches square and weighs one ounce. It’s constructed from three pieces of cast metal held together with a pin under the center stone/cabochon.

Benedikt Maltese cross brooches within each colorway are by no means identical. Sometimes the stones on the arms of the cross match the rest of the colors as in the green crystal example below. My personal preference is for clear crystals but I did make an exception when I bought the white cab cross; I think the subtle grey of the stones is actually really nice. The color of the metal is most often bright gold, only the topaz version seems to have that bronze finish.

Other variations  that are rare but do come up include these, see the  photos below:

          • White cabs with black stones on the arms and a black crystal center. There was a bidding war on Ebay for that one!
          • Turquoise cabs with amethyst stones.  This stunner has been on Ruby Lane for a while and is by far the most expensive and unusual I’ve seen.
          • The red and green cab version was on Ebay in 2008 and I have not seen it again myself.

In addition to a pin back each piece has a hook at the top which allows the brooch to be worn as an enhancer to a necklace and this looks pretty fabulous! The opening is very small though so a bail is needed to attach it. In the photo I pinned the brooch to my dress form because the hook won’t fit over my 4mm Mikimoto pearl necklace. I’ve been looking for a 14k gold bail that works with the style of the brooch.

If you love this brooch and want one here is what l’ve learned in the two years I’ve been collecting Benedikt NY jewelry:

  • Condition: generally very good to excellent. These must have been expensive pieces of costume jewelery when they were new.  I also think they may have been available ready-made and made-to-order, the latter might explain why there are so many interesting variations.
  • Most examples will not have stones in the tiny prongs circling the center cab/crystal. My white one has them but the other two don’t. I think they were made this way.
  • Condition issues to look for:
    • The stones surrounding the arms are occasionally missing so carefully scrutinize photos.
    • The baguette stones on the points are fogged about 50% of the time (visible on my blue one but the baguettes on the white one are clearer)
    • Sometimes the pin holding the three parts together has some play in it. This can be fine if it’s minor but if there is a lot of looseness the cabs may fall out because the middle layer holds them down in their prong setting. See the side view for info on how the components fit together.
    • The fleur-de-lis above the arm cabs should be straight. Notice on my blue brooch, on the left arm, one of them is bent. I also think that happened when it was made.
  • Prices: starting bids are $14.99 to $49.99 with the winning bid average in the $30 – $60 range on Ebay auctions depending on the time of year. On sites like Rubylane the prices are higher, in the $60 – $80 range. Rubylane is a antique dealer site and has the highest price I’ve seen so far which is for the $188 purple turquoise piece.
  • Availability: Still pretty good, Benedikt Maltese crosses come up maybe 10 – 12 times a year on Ebay.

 I have other Benedikt NY pieces as well and I’ll do another blog post about those.

11 Responses to Benedikt NY Jewelry – Part I

  1. PVE January 23, 2012 at 2:25 am #

    Well said posting.

  2. JustGail February 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    These are lovely! Thanks for the tips and warnings, I’ll keep them in mind should I ever run across any of these in my wanderings.

  3. Frank Gadberry February 29, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    I hit enter by mistake and off went my unfinished mail. The Benedikt Ny cross I have is green and has Napoleon coin in the center.

  4. coudremode February 29, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    How interesting! I’ve never seen that version.

  5. asi May 26, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    Fabulous, amazing costume jewelery,

  6. patricia slider September 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    have been recherching benedikt jewlery since i inhierted a piece.its a large piece with a green stone surrounded by what i believe to be emerals.any ideas?

  7. coudremode September 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    I’d be very surpsied if the emeralds were real since as far an I know Benedikt made only costume jewelry. The stones in all of my pieces are faux. Ebay is great way to research Benedikt, just search on “Benedikt NYC”. I also have a two Pinterest boards that feature his work:

  8. Christina September 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Very interesting, I was just going to post one of these with the Carnelian colored stone on Etsy. Good info!

    Thanks for posting this.

  9. Jane Morgan November 5, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    I have a Howard Benedikt pin from my mother’s collection, and can not find the exact type on the web. The one I found is similar with 8 star burst petals surrounding a large rhinestone faceted red ruby. Mine is a large rhinestone faceted ruby, 3/4″ across. The flower design is two layers of petals, five petals each, each petal has fifteen points on them. It is three inches across the entire piece and very heavy. Any information regarding this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  10. coudremode November 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    I don’t think I’ve seen that one yet, it sounds gorgeous!

  11. Bill Rezey January 13, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    Thank you for this great information. I have a green Maltese cross and matching earrings. I did not find anything on the existence of earrings either in this article nor on any of my web searches. Any information your readers might offer on the provenance covering earrings matching the Maltese cross would be appreciated.

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