Stanley Hagler began designing and crafting jewelry in the 1950s. His hand-manipulated work comprised of simulated pearls and Swarovski rhinestones are desirable collectibles today, although he didn’t personally make every piece of jewelry that bears his name. He designed many other styles of jewelry as well, including Deco inspired pieces using glass and acrylic resin components in the 1960s. These are rarely found today.
His jewelry was marked Stanley Hagler with a cartouche similar to that of Miriam Haskell until the early 1980s when he moved to Florida. His brand reportedly changed to Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. at that time, and his workshop began marking his designs with that designation. Mark Mercy, who was hired by Hagler in 1979, made the move to Florida with him. Hagler hired Ian St. Gielar to work for him as a craftsman after the move. When he passed away in 1996, the two apprentices continued making jewelry under the Hagler name.
WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO USE THE HAGLER NAME?
The truth about most Stanley Hagler jewelry being marketed today, including pieces shown in a number of well-known reference guides on costume jewelry, is that it wasn’t made by Stanley Hagler or under his direction. These pieces, which are gorgeous and collectible in their own right, were crafted by either Ian St. Gielar prior to his death in 2007, Gielar’s widow Valentina since Ian’s death, or Mark Mercy who is also still making jewelry.
After Hagler’s death, both men continued using his name on jewelry claiming they had the right to do so. So what’s the real story about who should have carried on the Hagler tradition?
Parties who spoke with Hagler’s brother reported that he sided with Mercy over St. Gielar in the late 1990s, about the same time when both men started marking their jewelry with Hagler signature plates as well as their own in differing combinations. St. Gielar went on to register the name Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. as his business name in 2002 while Mercy continued to maintain that he was the “original designer” for Hagler. Sometimes the pieces made by these talented men had only one name attached to them, others were branded with St. Gielar or Mercy plaques in addition to a Hagler mark.
With such controversy surrounding this saga, we may never fully know who Hagler intended as his successor, and identifying Hagler pieces and who made them, obviously, and unfortunately, is mucked up by all this mixing and mingling of marks. But, it’s safe to say that if you have a piece marked Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. and it is big, bold and colorful, it’s more than likely a post-1996 piece made after Hagler’s death.
USING MARKS TO DISTINGUISH HAGLER FROM ST. GIELAR AND MERCY
If it’s marked Hagler, then it’s vintage Hagler, right? Well, only if you don’t care enough to do some basic signature comparison to figure out when your piece was made and who made it. Whether you’re selling a piece, or paying top dollar to add one to your collection, it just makes good sense to know what you’re dealing with.
A number of different marks have been used on both pre-1996 Stanley Hagler pieces and those produced by Mark Mercy and the St. Gielar workshop dating after Mr. Hagler’s death. There are a few subtle differences to note in these marks when identifying and dating this type of jewelry.
Stanley Hagler Old Mark —
This is the older mark used on Hagler jewelry, a plaque similar in size and shape to that of Miriam Haskell’s well known cartouche. This style of plaque was in use until the early 1980s.
Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. – This mark was found on an older pearl piece made pre-1996 by the original Hagler workshop. Notice the spacing and shape of the C in N.Y.C. are slightly different than those shown below on newer marks used by Mark Mercy and Ian St. Gielar. The jewelry made with these identifying plaques is usually smaller in scale than later Mercy and St. Gielar pieces, although some of the same types of elements were used in original Hagler and later pieces.
Mark Mercy – Former Hagler designer Mark Mercy has used this version of the Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. mark on his recent work. He has also been known to use the M&M Designs Fla. mark shown here on jewelry made in the late 1990s and early 2000s. His solo work is usually much larger and bolder than pieces made in the Hagler workshop prior to 1996.
Ian St. Gielar – Many pieces made by former Hagler designer Ian St. Gielar in the late 1990s were marked Stanley Hagler N.Y.C (without a period behind the C) to distinguish it somewhat from pre-1996 Hagler N.Y.C. jewelry. Later pieces were marked as shown with both plaques with a period in place behind the C that is more block shaped than the one used on Mercy’s work, but they can also be labeled with just the St. Gielar mark. Like Mercy’s work, St. Gielar designs often make a bolder statement and are many times more colorful in comparison to pieces made under Hagler’s direction.
Photos by Jay B. Siegel for ChicAntiques.com
Pamela Y. Wiggins is the co-founder of Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l and author of Warman’s Costume Jewelry. Visit her at www.chicantiques.com to learn more about her work.