Van Craeynest, 86-year old San Francisco Victorian & Art Deco Jewelry Manufacturer, acquired by Emerson Family.

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Who: Emerson Family and Van Craeynest What: Emerson Family acquires Van Craeynest, vintage Victorian/Art Deco jewelry manufacturer Where: Van Craeynest, San Francisco, CA Why: Sustain and grow iconic San Francisco jewelry manufacturer. Continue legacy of finest American artisan jewelry available.

The Van Craeynest Family, circa 1918. Roger Van Craeynest Sr., 1st person on the left, founder of Van Craeynest.

The Emerson Family of Redlands, CA announces the purchase of the 86-year old San Francisco vintage Victorian jewelry manufacturer, Van Craeynest. The Emerson Family has purchased the highly respected family-owned Van Craeynest studio workshop, including the factory and manufacturing facility.

“The opportunity to keep the Van Craeynest tradition alive has been both humbling and invigorating,” said Paul Emerson II, spokesperson for the family. “To serve as stewards for an American institution in the fine jewelry industry is a privilege. The Van Craeynest family has embraced the Emerson family and we are working together in true partnership to not only keep the apprenticeship model of workmanship, but to expand the Van Craeynest line of fine handcrafted Victorian and Art Deco jewelry to more and more independent jewelry stores across the United States. The Van Craeynest line represents the finest American artisan jewelry available. The Emerson family is delighted to be guiding the future of this fine line.”

The Van Craeynest story is the story of America, of California and a story of devotion to living one’s dreams. Van Craeynest is the mingling of many traditions, cultures and artisan craftsmanship culminating in San Francisco during an era of excitement, adventure and innovation. “Just imagine the frenzy of the Gold Rush throughout Northern California and the hustle and bustle on the docks in San Francisco,” said Emerson. This is where the Van Craeynest story begins.

Nearly a hundred years ago, a ship, full of hopeful and brave immigrants, including the Van Craeynest family entered the San Francisco Bay, all seeking a better life, seeking to live their dreams. Roger J. Van Craeynest at the age of 13 began apprenticing for Shreve & Co (jewelers, est. 1852) in Union Square in San Francisco. He learned his craft from some of the finest European Master Craftsmen in America and ultimately became his own master die cutter, designer and engraver.

Bringing his dream into reality, Roger founded Van Craeynest in 1926 continuing the apprenticeship tradition, which is still in place today, directed by Larry Van Craeynest who joined the company in 1960 after studying art in college. He is dedicated to training the young artisans employed at Van Craeynest and passing on the traditions and jewelry making techniques developed in the Victorian era. .

Celebrating 86 years, Van Craeynest produces premier handcrafted Victorian and Art Deco jewelry made in the USA. The designs and tools reach back to the late 19th century, both in origin and inspiration. Many of the machines and special tooling employed are over 100 years old, however, the exquisite work and design intricacy spring from the knowledge of line, form and composition, as well as the solid command of the tools and techniques used by Van Craeynest artisans.

In keeping with the embracing of tradition and nostalgia, the Emerson family acquired this historical treasure, Van Craeynest, a San Francisco Victorian and Art Deco jewelry manufacturer that still handcrafts Victorian and Art Deco jewelry employing original models and traditional hand tools and artisan techniques perfected in the mid to late 1800’s. “How exciting it is to add such a jewel to our business family, especially one that shares the same high standards of quality that I have,” said Emerson.

Continuing the legacy of the original founder, Roger J. Van Craeynest, and Larry Van Craeynest, who joined the company in 1960 and is still involved with the business today, the Van Craeynest team is a true family affair as son Paul Emerson III manages the factory on Mission Street in San Francisco, son-in-law Kyle Cummings directs the marketing and operations efforts and daughter Kerry Cummings provides accounting support and serves in a myriad of other roles. “I’m so grateful to my children for their efforts and the resulting success in expanding the Van Craeynest legacy. What an honor it is to breathe life into such a cornerstone of San Francisco’s Victorian history and an American jewelry icon. We are humbled and honored to be the keepers of the Van Craeynest history and future,” said Emerson.

Van Craeynest is an oasis of design, an originator in creating jewelry from the inside out. The unique combination of original design, with skill and knowledge to execute the design produces breathtaking jewelry with unsurpassed quality. Van Craeynest is Poetry in Metal. Each Van Craeynest piece is literally hand-crafted with the forgotten arts of chasing, carving, engraving and die-striking to create heirloom signature originals. The antique design styles employed are rendered from original designs from the 1800 and 1900’s. The Van Craeynest line is known for its exquisite Victorian and Art Deco engagement and wedding rings.

The Van Craeynest line continues to be produced using the European style apprenticeship system where aspiring artisans are trained in traditional jewelry craft techniques. “We believe in preserving the knowledge and skills, rather than considering them dead arts,” said Emerson. “It is a condition of employment that all knowledge is passed on to the up and coming members of our team.” This is the third generation of artisans to be trained in techniques that would otherwise be lost to the industry.

When you step into the Van Craeynest studio workshop, you enter a world preserved through the dedication of passing forward the knowledge, skill, sensibilities and philosophy that embodies the jewelry created. Some of these techniques include:

Chasing is a technique of modeling and moving gold and platinum in the same method that clay is modeled. No metal is removed during chasing. The craftsman uses a small chasing hammer and tiny hardened steel punches to squeeze, move, mold and shape the metal. The hammer handle is about the same length as a carpenter’s hammer, but very thin and the head is only ¾” long. The steel chasing punches are about half the size of a conventional pencil and each artist has a personal collection of about 200, each different, each designed for a specific punch imprint. Chasing is used in conjunction with carving to make patterns and deep texture in the metal. “Chasing and the corresponding carving require a very high skill level and an enormous amount of patience,” said Emerson. “One wrong punch and the entire piece is ruined. That is a very rare occurrence. Our artisans are meticulous and their patience is renowned.”

Piercing is the removal of metal by cutting it away with a hair-sized saw blade. This is done by drilling very tiny holes into an area of metal, threading the saw blade through the hole, assembling the saw blade into the saw frame and cutting out each section by hand. “This is a remarkable skill and requires intense focus, “said Emerson. “I am in awe of the integrity with which our artisan jewelers create these intricate and delicate designs.”

Die striking involves forcing gold or platinum into shape between hardened steel dies with 2-10 tons of pressure. The metal is struck “cold” and the molecular structure actually changes during the process, becoming much harder and tougher. Each design requires its own set of dies. The die-making process involves hand-carving and original base-relief of the ring into solid steel. This original positive carving (a hub), is then hardened and all the dies and other tools required to make the ring are derived from it.

“You can make beautiful jewelry by casting,” said Emerson, “but you cannot pierce the metal, which means the metal is porous and not strong enough to support the intricate signature Van Craeynest designs.” Die striking compresses the metal, whereas casting expands the metal. Die striking provides the extra density for the finer detail. In addition, die striking provides durability to the timeless pieces produced by Van Craeynest.

Van Craeynest designs are available at the Van Craeynest Studio Workshop in San Francisco, and these retail locations throughout the U.S. To learn more about Van Craeynest, visit the website at http://www.vancraeynest.com.

Van Craeynest                    
657 Mission Street, Suite 404            
San Francisco, CA 94105-4115            
(415) 362-1025                    
http://www.vancraeynest.com    

Paul Emerson II is available for in-depth interviews. Please contact at (909) 289-5898 (cell) or by email at gemflight(at)mac(dot)com.

Tours of the Van Craeynest studio workshop and factory are available upon request. Please contact Paul Emerson III directly at the Van Craeynest Studio Workshop, (415) 362-1025 or by email: rings(at)vancraeynest(dot)com.

Where to find Van Craeynest Creations

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Greenwich Jewelers
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The Clay Pot
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Clarksville Pottery
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Craig Coyne
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SILICON LABS
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Von Bargens
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Von Bargens
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Hummingbird Jewelers
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Davidson and Licht
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Tiny Jewel Box
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Belenky Brothers
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DeLuca Jewelers
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Gribitas and Sons Jewelers
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Gabrielle Ferrar
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Grinstein Jewelry, Inc.
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(248) 647-4414

Jewelry Atelier
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