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From The Archives

Swoboda Then and Now:
Gem Favorites Of The Stars

Dateline: 6/28/01
[Click all images for large view]

When Hollywood stars wanted elegant jewelry with the Real Look they didn't always reach for diamonds.

They sought out the most tasteful costume jewelry and discovered this new look of genuine gemstone jewelry that gave the appearance of precious jewelry but at costume jewelry prices, as shown here on Margaret O'Brien and Teresa Soldona.

Yours truly knows why now. Once she came across a brooch that she loved more than almost any other. With amethyst flowers and carved jade leaves in a charming bouquet with tiny baroque pearl accents, she found herself reaching for it when nothing else would do.

But she had no idea who had made it.

Who would put genuine gemstones with such care in a goldplated basemetal setting?

No signature told the story either. Various experts pronounced the brooch "perhaps Chinese" but she didn't think so. The cast was definitely not Asian in origin.

A mystery no longer: This brooch was made by Swoboda, of Los Angeles, California, USA. And so were so many other fine costume jewelry pieces although the maker was not as well known on the East Coast as on the West.

Update Nov. 2001: The brooch has been positively identified by Nate Waxman as a Swoboda design he personally created in 1962.

Swoboda, Inc.:

Edward Swoboda created the jewelry company that bears his name. Mr. Swoboda's background included an extensive knowledge of gemstones which he combined in a jewelry manufacturing enterprise started in 1956 in Los Angeles.

As Mr. Swoboda loved travel his trips often took him to South America from which he imported the gemstones selected for his new jewelry line. He was a talented designer and his company grew. His polished gemstones and cultured pearls were unequalled in costume jewelry and decorative accessories. Hollywood soon caught on as did every fashionable female in California. Nancy Reagan, whose husband Ronald Reagan was then governor of California, even commissioned a special order of Swoboda miniature cypress trees as gifts to governors for the Governor's Conference in 1966.

Edward Swoboda and Mrs. Swoboda on right, Nate Waxman on left.

In 1957 Nathan "Nate" Waxman, fresh out of high school, joined the Swoboda company in a trainee capacity. Nate quickly learned the art of casting, plating and molding and created many of the designs. In 1960 Nate was drafted into military service but returned in early 1963 to Swoboda. This time he showed a special talent for running a company and roping in the top customers. Nate soon grew into a most important role as the man who knew everyone and got things done. Swoboda jewelry was in Dillard's, Goldwater's, Marshall Fields, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Gumps, Ciro's, Harrod's of London and, naturally, at Neiman Marcus.

By the early 1960s, the Swoboda company maintained three key showrooms, in Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas. By then Nate Waxman had become a partner in Swoboda, Inc.

Fast Facts:
Swoboda, Inc. operated from 1956 until 1979. Edward Swoboda, the founder, now 84, is retired and lives in Los Angeles.

The main Swoboda jewelry lines consisted of complete sets, including necklaces, individual brooches and earrings, with brooches being the most popular.

Nate Waxman was with the company from 1957 until 1978.

Swoboda jewelry was not marked but only had hang-tags until 1966 when the mark SWOBODA first appeared in the cast. If not enough room for the entire name, an alternate mark, SWO.INC., was used.

Swoboda Today:

UPDATE Oct. 2011: Today Swoboda jewelry is alive and well in Nate Waxman's company, Nate Waxman, now on a new website launched in 2010. Nate offers a smorgasboard of Swoboda, from vintage collections to limited quantity reissues. The Swoboda reissues are specified as such so as to not confuse them with vintage Swoboda jewelry.

Nate Waxman
presents Swoboda jewelry, vintage and reissues. Large gorgeous site, take your time.

Swoboda Picture Gallery:
Courtesy Mr. Nate Waxman's archives, feast your eyes on Swoboda beauties. Photos will open in new windows.

Three Brooches: Monkeys, Butterfly and Dragonfly
Floral and Figural Brooches I
Floral and Figural Brooches II
Crowns, Crosses and Critter Brooches
Critter and Bug Brooches in Jade and Pearls
Coral Rose and Jade Leaf Motifs in Pins and Bracelet
All the colorful gemstones in a potpourri of figural brooches and pendants
Jade and Pearl Brooches and Earrings
The Cypress Trees Mrs. Reagan Loved

Photos of Swoboda jewelry courtesy Mr. Nate Waxman, except for amethyst and jade brooch, three figurals brooches and SWOBODA marks by Liz Bryman.

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