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RESEARCHING COSTUME JEWELRY
originally created and published by Dotty Stringfield on IllusionJewels.com
On July 30, 1926, a business permit was issued to Miriam Haskell for a gift shop in the The McAlpin Hotel, 103 Sixteenth Street, New York City. This event launched decades of sales of the finest handmade fashion jewelry ever created. From that moment to the present, celebrities as well as ordinary people from all walks of life have sought this dazzling jewelry to treasure and wear.
Shortly after the opening of the Miriam Haskell Gift Shop, Frank Hess, a young window dresser from Macy's, joined the business as the jewelry designer. The team proved to be a perfect combination of business skills and artistic taste. Throughout the ensuing years, the story of this woman with the great business sense and this man evolved, his art carrying out a clear vision of what this jewelry would be about and who would appreciate it.
One of the questions most frequently asked today by collectors is, "Did Miriam Haskell ever design her jewelry?" No one alive can say for certain, but in interviews with former employees and owners, the belief is that she may have designed a few pieces in the early days of the company's history...However, those who inherited the stories of the early years remember her business skills and Hess's designing talents. By the early 1930's the popularity of their jewelry proclaimed they were a dynamic team.
Miriam Haskell was considered a handsome, intelligent, and elegantly dressed woman, who was a bit aloof. She was born on July 1, 1899, in Tell City, Indiana, one of four children, from parents who were small-town merchants...By the early 1930's, her career was well established with friends and clientele in the elite societies of New York, Hollywood and Europe. Throughout the years, public figures such as Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball, Gloria Vanderbilt and the Duchess of Windsor amassed large collections of her jewelry. Photographs of celebrities wearing her jewelry, design credits in movies and theater productions, newspaper ads and interviews attest to her status in these circles.
Frank Hess was a private man with a complex personality. He preferred to work in the seclusion of his office and limited his employee contacts to a select few. His private thoughts and personal affairs were seldom open to his business associates. Yet, he was flamboyantly sophisticated, arriving at work every day in a top hat and carrying a silver-tipped cane. He maintained tight control over his work and the entire design process to the end of his career with the company. Even people who worked in the showroom had to have the Frank Hess stamp of approval for the way they dressed and presented themselves and Haskell jewelry. The few who remember him recall a great artist with an uncanny sense of color and design.
Autographed copies of Miriam Haskell Jewelry can be purchased from the authors at The Glitter Box. Unsigned copies are available from Schiffer Books or Amazon.
See additional information and pictures of marks used on Miriam Haskell Jewelry at Researching Costume Jewelry - H.
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by Dotty Stringfield with the assistance of research contributor Pat Seal
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