The art of Léa Stein


Léa Stein’s creations have gained a constant, reputable high profile amongst her many fans. Her unique and colourful designs not only appeal to adults but any child would cherish the magic in these brooches, particularly the animal pieces!

Born in Paris in 1931, little is known about her childhood, she entered the fashion industry in 1957 and began working in textiles. Léa Stein is known as an artist and accessory maker, well known for her brooches, buttons, and bracelets. Considered by many followers as the most innovative designer of plastic jewellery of the late 20th century.

Léa began making jewellery in the late 60s. Her husband, Ferdinand Steinberger, invented a process consisting of laminating layers of Rhodoid (cellulose acetate) to form a multi coloured sandwich of plastic, each baked for a long period of time and then cooled and cut into shapes. This process could take as long as six months! The technique meant Lea could insert different fabrics such as brocades and lace, including different colours and textures into the plastic, turning these simple products into beautifully captivating pieces appealing to all ages and tastes.

Léa’s brooches were created in two periods. Firstly vintage (1969 to 1981) which became increasingly popular in the late 80’s and then the modern period from 1991 onwards. Her brooches mainly consist of animals, cars and celebrities with some of her pieces thought to resemble a more Art Deco style which are often wrongly dated to that of the late 1920’s. Each piece features a distinct trademark to identify its roots and obvious value, carrying a unique v-shaped metal clasp (Shown below) and most importantly inscribed is the name of the famous ‘Léa Stein’. Some collectors may use this to determine the era in which a piece was created. Whereby ‘vintage’ brooches feature clasps that were heat mounted onto the plastic, the more modern brooches, although the same clasp design, were riveted on. Some earlier brooch designs have had the clasp but do not hold the designers key inscription.

Controversially some collectors believe that one can only distinguish between vintage and modern purely by having an in depth knowledge of her designs.

Léa’s most valuable pieces include the Serigraphy pins and buckles, a plastic / celluloid version of Victorian miniatures. Serigraphy is a fine art, produced by colour stencil printmaking process, creating what looks like fine miniature paintings.

By Naming each of her peices, Léa gave her designs their own unique personality. The cat for example, she named ‘Quarrelsome’. Other examples, such as the fox, ‘famous fox pin’ and the frog, ‘Rhana the leaping frog’, featured below. This made the brooches come alive and gave them that whimsical, romanticised sentiment that they truly deserve. She would often create each design in a multitude of different colours and patterns, thus appealing to extensive target market.

Lea’s enchanting and magical Jewellery is sought after worldwide by collectors and individuals alike who simply aspire to own one of these highly desirable creations.

Images courtesy of Kitty Kat Accessories:

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