Lea Stein is renown for making beautiful elegant jewellery… from plastic. But what exactly makes her work special?
Lea Stein (born 11 February 1936) is a French artist and accessories maker. She is often cited as being ‘the most notable and innovative designer of plastic jewellery of the 20th century’.
Lea Stein jewellery is commonly made up of brooches and bracelets, which resemble an Art Deco style. Its elegant designs often depict animals, flowers and everyday objects feature using an innovative technique as developed by Stein.
Who Is Lea Stein?
Stein first entered the fashion industry in 1957 working in textiles, but by 1965 had developed an interest in plastic. Working with her chemist husband, Fernand Steinberger, she developed a process of layering sheets of cellulose acetate to form pieces of plastic. This technique allows different fabrics, such as brocades and lace, colours and textures to be inserted into the plastic.
Each piece is baked, cooled and cut into shapes. The process can take as long as six months to complete!
Stein’s brooches, which feature animals, cars, household items and even celebrities, are all named. Sometimes simply ‘Fox’ as well more descriptive names like ‘Quarrelsome Cat’. Each design can be produced in dozens of different colours and patterns.
Lea Stein brooches are made in two periods: vintage (1969 to 1981) and modern (1991 —). Each brooch has a distinctive v-shape metal clasp with ‘Lea Stein Paris’.
We stock a selection of Stein’s jewellery at St Cyr Vintage, which you can now buy online! Shop here
Words by Emily B