Thursday, February 09, 2006


Large Miriam Haskell Pearl & Rhinestone Pin

Miriam Haskell (1899-1981) is recognized as a very important American costume jewelry designer. She had a penchant for the unusual with her ostentatious accessories.
She was born in 1899 in Tell City, Indiana to immigrant parents… a Russian father and a Prussian mother.
At the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, Miriam Haskell moved to New York City with $500 in her pocket, opening a small boutique in her own name in the McAlpin Hotel. She sold costume jewelry that she designed. In the early 1920's, Haskell advertised "colored glass necklaces, one for each outfit, are considered a necessity this year.”
Miriam Haskell first began making jewelry commercially around 1924. Like her design predecessors in the Art Nouveau era, she designed and manufactured jewelry that evoked nature in their subjects and construction. She began to create the pieces using organic materials in her jewelry. Not only was Haskell riding the wave of the Roaring Twenties, she was creating a wave of her own. The Twenties were the years that all of the fashion rules were broken. Haskell's unbounded creativity met with enormous popularity. The prices for her costume jewelry were much lower than the cost of precious metals and stones, so anyone could afford to look fashionable. The popularity of her costume jewelry continued, even after the stock market crash. Her sales did not drop significantly until 1931
Frank Hess joined her in 1936 as the head artistic designer. He was a master of new and technically complex production techniques that allowed their vision for the jewelry to come into being. Hess worked as the lead designer until he retired in 1960. In August of 1950 ownership of the company goes to Joe Haskell. Design, production and promotion remained the responsibility of Frank Hess.
Quality was always evident, with the use of finer quality materials and all prong set in the design. Haskell jewelry is known for its use of elaborate filigree and careful wiring, all handmade and accommodating a variety of designs. Haskell filigree was typically electroplated gold tone metal in an antique gold finish. The beads were bought from France and Italy. Most of the crystals came from Bohemia.
During World War II forced Haskell to use alternative materials including plastics. She had to purchase more of her beads and crystals from sources closer to home. Production did continue during the war years. She introduced patriotic designs to contribute to the war effort.
After the war, styles changed. Clothing was made of more luxurious materials. The designs became more vibrant, colorful, and feminine as the 1950s approached. Haskell designs became more elaborate including larger pieces and necklaces of multiple bead strands. In the late 1940s as fashion returned to the pages of the newspaper designers began marketing their creations and growing their businesses.

Joe Haskell sells the company to Morris Kinzler in 1955. Hess is still a major force within the company.

In 1958 at Hess’s suggestion Robert F. Clark joins the company and Sanford Moss becomes general manager.

1960 Robert Clark takes over from Hess and Hess becomes vice president. Clark continued the traditions and incorporated some of his own ideas into production. He also used new materials such as mother of pearl. Clark leaves the company in 1967.

1968 designer Larry Vrba joined the company. In 1970 he becomes chief designer. He introduced completely new and more exotic designs that reflected the times of the 1960s and 1970s.

Millie Petronzio became the first woman to lead the design department at Miriam Haskell in 1980, continuing to make some of the old designs, often with archived older materials, but as those before her continues to introduce new designs and design elements in their lines.
Haskell jewelry has always been noted for the detailing thus the cost. The jewelry is known for the asymmetrical designs. In the early years, Haskell jewelry was not marked and production was limited. Many of "unsigned" Haskell pieces are questionable as to authenticity.
Haskell never registered her designs. She began to sign her pieces in 1950. The Miriam Haskell trademark was not received until 1988, 64 years after she began designing. Because there were no marks to identify her work prior to 1950, it is difficult to verify many of her pieces.

Several signatures including an incised "Miriam Haskell" on the hook, "Miriam Haskell" in a crescent shaped cartouche, and an oval stamp "Miriam Haskell" on the clasp. Some designs during the fifties were incredibly elaborate, combining stones, pearls, beads, and filigree in new and exciting ways.
The company was sold to Frank Fialkoff in 1990 and is still producing today, making some of the older designs such as the Retro line introduced in the early 90s as well as doing custom work.
A must for the Haskell collector are the books “Miriam Haskell Jewelry (Schiffer Book for Collectors)”by Cathy Gordon and Sheila Pamiloff and “The Jewels of Miriam Haskell” by Deanna Farneti Cera.

References for this Bio:
Miriam Haskell Jewelry (Schiffer Book for Collectors) by Cathy Gordon and Sheila Pamiloff

The Jewels of Miriam Haskell by Deanna Farneti Cera

Miriam Haskell Pieces for Sale

Miriam Haskell Flickr Album

Haskell Ads Flickr Album

Find this designer at Designer of the Week & FauxJewels

Many thanks to Dotty Stringfield & Pat Seal for all their hard work at Illusion Jewels.

No comments: