Thursday, 14 February 2013

Haskell Jewelry

With experience one can start to identify the work of many designers and manufacturers at just a glance, and the easiest of these are the jewels of Miriam Haskell. Much of the jewelry to come out of this most famous and exclusive design house is instantly recognizable, not only by its skilful and intricate design but also by the materials used. For Miriam Haskell, in the eyes of many, was the faux-pearl queen. We will discuss why this should be later but let’s look first at the lady herself.

-Haskell Blue Glass & Pearl ButterflyShe was a shy, introspective woman who had a singular talent for predicting short-term fashion trends and catering for them. The eldest of four children, born on 1st July 1899 in Indiana to a Russian father and a Prussian mother, she attended Chicago University, but dropped out during her studies in order to earn a living.

Miriam Haskell went to New York City and opened a small shop in 1924 in the McAlpin Hotel at Herald Square, selling costume jewelry. This shop prospered in the economic boom of the post-First World War years of the 1920s. One of the lines of jewelry sold in her shop was that of Coco Chanel, who at this time was making long strands of glass pearls, gilded chains, and striking pendants reminiscent of the baroque style of the Renaissance.

The government policy of the day required high import duties on imported goods, and as a result many importers started their own product ion instead. Miriam Haskell, taking inspiration not from precious real jewelry but from the outrageously colourful and obviously fake jewelry of Chanel and also from native regional jewellery, began to sell designs under her own name.

What is often hard to grasp is the fact that Haskell did not actually design the jewelry herself...

Haskell Multi-Strand Bracelet, mid-1950s 


Haskell Glass & Pumpkin Pearl Necklace & EarringsAll the construction of this bracelet was done by hand, except for the filigree backs and gilded stamping's. All of the seed pearls and roses montees (flat-backed rhinestones in little pronged settings, which can be threaded with wire) were wired onto the leaves by hand, the strands of pearls were hand-strung and knotted, and the stones hand-set into the prong settings.

Haskell Floral Brooch & Earrings, early 1960s


This is a beautiful set and is typical of the type of Haskell jewellery for which the collector would pay good money. It has the popular floral motif, a mixture of pearls and rhinestones, and a very wearable pair of earrings. Hand-wired onto the faux filigree backing are alternating lines of smooth seed pearls, rose’s montees, and faceted spacers that look remarkably like gilded pearls. Each petal of the flower is individually wired onto backing filigree along with the other components. Dating Haskell jewellery to any closer than the nearest decade is almost impossible, but this set bears a striking resemblance to the early works of Robert Clark.

Haskell Pearl Necklace, early 1950s


A quintessential piece of Haskell jewellery that is always in high demand, this necklace is in good condition, with no evident rubbing or flaking of the pearls (look very carefully at pearls near a catch, as these usually suffer greatest wear).The pearls have a nice crinkly baroque surface and a great lustre (the method of coating pearls was a Haskell company secret). Along the length of the strands the pearls are separated by faceted spacers to reduce wear. The catch is typical of Haskell in that it is also part of the ornamentation: it has a large flattened baroque pearl with two crystal-centered flowers on one side. This was intended to be worn either at the back of the neck or a third down one side in an asymmetrical manner. This necklace is valued at £250-295 (S425-500).

With experience one can start to identify many designers' and manufacturers' work at just a glance, and the easiest of these are the jewels of Miriam Haskell. Much of the jewelry to come out of this most famous and exclusive design house is instantly recognizable, not only by its skilful and intricate design but also by the materials used. For Miriam Haskell, in the eyes of many, was the faux pearl queen.

She was a shy, introspective woman who had a singular talent for predicting short-term fashion trends and catering for them. The eldest of four children, born on 1st July 1899 in Indiana to a Russian father and a Prussian mother, she attended Chicago University, but dropped out during her studies in order to earn a living.

Haskell Multi strand Bracelet
Miriam Haskell went to New York City and opened a small shop in the McAlpin Hotel selling costume jewelry, which prospered in the economic boom of the post-First World War years of the 1920s. One of the lines of jewelry sold in her shop was that of Coco Chanel, who at this time was making long strands of glass pearls, gilded chains, and striking pendants reminiscent of the baroque style of the Renaissance.

The government policy of the day required high import duties on imported goods, and as a result many importers started their own production instead. Miriam Haskell, taking inspiration not from precious real jewelry but from the outrageously colourful and obviously fake jewelry of Chanel and also from native regional .jewellery, began to sell designs under her own name.

What is often hard to grasp is the fact that Haskell did not actually design the jewelry herself...

Miriam Haskell's genius lay not in design but in the prediction of fashion trends and the identification of a good seller. The designing was left to designers such as Frank Hess (1926-60), Robert Clark (1960-8), Peter Raines (1968-70), Larry Vrba (1970-8), and Camille Petronzio (1978-present).

In order to discover what makes Miriam Haskell

Haskell Blue Glass & Pearl Butterfly, mid-1960s


Little "animal" or figural jewelry was produced by Haskell, and the pieces that do survive can fetch premiums. This butterfly brooch, which has a layered construction, almost certainly dates from the Robert Clark years. Of all the figural jewelry made by the firm, the butterfly motif was probably the most common. One occasionally sees bees and the rare cherub, but the main design theme used by Miriam Haskell throughout almost a century of production was the organic forms of flowers and leaves.

Haskell Glass & Pumpkin Pearl Necklace & Earrings, late 1920s


Until the mid-1990s, few collectors or dealers valued or even knew about the coloured glass pieces the firm produced. Now these are the very items that are in the greatest demand. This necklace and earring set shows the mastery of shades of colour, texture, and form that Haskell’s designers exhibit. It also hints at the great lengths that were gone to find the unusual colours and shapes of bead used in their designs.

Haskell's Faux Baroque Pearls


The most striking element of Haskell's jewelry is the faux baroque pearl. Seen close up, these nugget pearls have uneven surfaces created by coating an uneven glass bead many times with nacreous lacquer. These pearls were produced in sizes varying from tiny seed pearls measuring just 1mm (1/25in) wide to large pearls that measured 3cm (l1/4 in) across.

- Haskell Floral Brooch & Earrings
Simple faux pearl necklaces consist of a single strand of baroque pearls, each of which is protected by filigree caps on each side and faceted brass spacers. These detailing are included not only for effect but also to keep the pearls from rubbing against each other. From this basic design many variations spring, each more complex than the last. Strands multiply to sometimes as many as 20 in a single necklace and the sizes of the pearls can be graduated from small to large within the same strand. Decorative motifs usually appear in the centre of the necklace, although sometimes they are on the side so that it may be worn asymmetrically.

• Although at the time the use of unusual materials, such as shells, wood, cork, nuts, felt, mother of pearl, plastics, and bone, was seen as innovative and unusual when combined to make jewelry, these pieces are not as popular today as either the classic pearl or colour Haskell pieces.

• One of the most important factors in value, condition, is especially important in the case of Haskell. Check for rusting of metal parts, integrity of threading, and, most important, the condition of the faux pearls' coating, as this cannot be replaced or repaired.

Haskell Multi-Strand Bracelet, mid-1950s


All the construction of this bracelet was done by hand, except for the filigree backs and gilded stamping's. All of the seed pearls and roses montees (flat-backed rhinestones in little pronged settings, which can be threaded with wire) were wired onto the leaves by hand, the strands of pearls were hand-strung and knotted, and the stones hand-set into the prong settings.

Haskell Floral Brooch & Earrings, early 1960s


Haskell Pearl NecklaceThis is a beautiful set and is typical of the type of Haskell jewellery for which the collector would pay good money. It has the popular floral motif, a mixture of pearls and rhinestones, and a very wearable pair of earrings. Hand-wired onto the faux filigree backing are alternating lines of smooth seed pearls, rose’s montees, and faceted spacers that look remarkably like gilded pearls. Each petal of the flower is individually wired onto backing filigree along with the other components. Dating Haskell jewellery to any closer than the nearest decade is almost impossible, but this set bears a striking resemblance to the early works of Robert Clark.

Haskell Pearl Necklace, early 1950s


A quintessential piece of Haskell jewellery that is always in high demand, this necklace is in good condition, with no evident rubbing or flaking of the pearls (look very carefully at pearls near a catch, as these usually suffer greatest wear).The pearls have a nice crinkly baroque surface and a great lustre (the method of coating pearls was a Haskell company secret). Along the length of the strands the pearls are separated by faceted spacers to reduce wear. The catch is typical of Haskell in that it is also part of the ornamentation: it has a large flattened baroque pearl with two crystal-centered flowers on one side. This was intended to be worn either at the back of the neck or a third down one side in an asymmetrical manner. This necklace is valued at £250-295 (S425-500).

Writer – Steven Miners
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