Collecting and Caring for Nambe Timeless Designs Headquarters in New Mexico
Nambe Serving Pieces
Original Eight Alloy Nambe
For many people, the first time that they encounter pieces of Nambe is when they register for, or shop for wedding gifts at better Department stores such as Macy's, Bloomindale's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, or Dillards. The designs are timeless and modern, even though some of the designs were created in the 1950s era. At this time, Nambe is described as mid-century modern intended for use with early Danish Modern, for those who appreciate the designs of Eames, vintage 1960s chic, for use in Santa Fe or Southwestern designs, and the list continues. Nambe designs and the materials the pieces are made from have continued to evolve.
Back in 1951, the owner of Winkler Mills company which had specialized in copper and gift items, retired and the business was passed to Pauline Cable a former secretary at Winkler Mills. Pauline hired Martin Eden a former metallurgist with the Los Alamos National Laboratories. Eden developed an eight alloy metal whose main component is aluminum that could be used to cook in to temperatures of 500 degrees, to freeze in and to serve in. Nambe pieces could retain heat or cold, making them functional as well as beautiful. The alloy resembled silver but did not contain silver and never tarnished in the manner that silver does.. Richard K Thomas, a designer was hired to create a modern line of cooking and decorative pieces from the new alloy. The company was then named Nambe Mills after the small town about 16 miles North of Santa Fe New Mexico and close to the company headquarters at Pojoaque, New Mexico. Forty pieces were designed and marketed.
By 1956, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, selected two pieces of Nambe ware to be a part of a design exhibit of Progressive American design. While Nambe alloy pieces never need polishing, the downside of their use is that they stain and appear pitted if acidic foods are left in them for long periods and scratching occurs if hard metal serving utensils scrape the Nambe piece. NEVER put Nambe alloy pieces into a dishwasher. Pieces develop a more dull apperance or natural patina over time that makes the Nambe finish resemble a pewter. To keep the original shine, a Nambe Polish is available.
Caring For and Different Types of Nambe
Nambe Mills has a unique program for re-polishing alloy pieces that have suffered scratches or pitting or stains. The company has a program whereby pieces can be mailed to customer service for regrinding and polishing. The charge varies according to the value of the piece with a minum charge of $35.00. The piece is reground by hand, and then the last finishing steps are a company secret process. I personally have had two pieces from my collection re-ground and they did indeed look brand new. **One caution about this re-grinding process is that it does remove any engraving that may have been done on the piece. Pieces should be occasionally cleaned with a damp soft cloth to keep them at their best and while Nambe does not tarnish in the same manner as silver and silver plated items, I suggest buying Nambe polish which removes surface dirt and fingerprints at least twice a year..
Since 1951, and the original 40 pieces, countless pieces have been introduced. Pieces produced in the alloy are marked on the bottom with Nambe and the number of the piece and sometimes the date of the year. Some of the most popular are still the serving dishes and trays, but picture frames, salt and pepper shakers, flatware, candle holders, vases, bowls, salad servers, wine coasters, ash trays, baby rattles, Christmas ornaments, nativity sets and menorahs have also been produced. In 1998 a line of Nambe designs produced in crystal was introduced, and the latest material line introduced is the Heritage Bronze Collection. Beautiful pieces have also been crafted in copper, wood, porcelain, glass, stainless steel, and enamel.
I recently visited the Nambe outlet in Tucson Arizona on River Road and discovered an entire line of kitchen utensils and other kitchen items I had not seen before. There is also specials on certain products at certain times of the year, and often in the Spring, Christmas ornaments from the previous year are often deeply discounted.
Collecting Nambe is not inexpensive; however, the collector's rule of buying the best you can afford applies as the pieces have a timeless and lasting quality. Looking for a sale in the better department stores, shopping at Nambe outlets for seconds, or looking at on-line sites provides a wide ranges of prices.
Since posting this hub on Nambe, I received a comment from a Hub reader that Nambe is no longer made in New Mexico or the USA. This fact was verified on 11/2/11 by a Nambe LLC customer service representative who cited EPA concerns was the reason the products were being made overseas.. I don't have permission to quote her, but that information can be obtained through contacting Nambe Customer Service. Not only am I upset that Nambe isn't made in New Mexico, but also that their web site makes it sound like it is. I'll continue to collect older Nambe pieces, but....
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