Miriam Haskell established her Miriam Haskell Company in New York City in 1926. From the get-go, her handcrafted floral-themed costume jewelry was a hit with the stylish women of Manhattan, who adored her intricate necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and pins. Haskell loved gilt findings and filigree, faux pearls, Austrian crystal beads, blown glass beads from the island of Murano, and, above all, rose montées
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Haskell was not a designer herself, but she was an excellent talent scout. Frank Hess was her first find. Where Macy’s saw only a hired hand to create its window displays, Haskell saw her young company’s first chief designer, a position Hess held from 1926 until 1960, when Robert F. Clark took over.
Perhaps because Haskell was not a designer, she almost never signed her pieces. Indeed, until 1950, when her brother Joseph took over the company due to Haskell’s health, about the only signed Haskells around were those sold at one New England shop that had agreed to carry the Haskell pieces on the condition that they were signed. Those pieces, which one Haskell family member estimates account for less than one percent of her pre-1950s output, came with a horseshoe-shaped plaque with Haskell’s name on it. Needless to say, they are very rare.
Some of the stars who loved Haskell jewelry included Lucille Ball, who wore Haskell pieces on her TV show. Joan Crawford was another loyal customer. She collected Haskells from the late 1930s through the 1960s. In 1978, a year after the actress’s death, her collection of vintage Haskell costume jewelry was auctioned off to great fanfare, partly because of Crawford’s reputation, of course, but also due to the quality of the pieces themselves.
Like a lot of collectibles, the value of a vintage piece of Miriam Haskell costume jewelry depends a great deal on its condition. Because her pieces are so intricate, it is difficult to replace a missing rhinestone or faux pearl. Look for metal that has not corroded and avoid pieces that have been chipped due to careless handling or wear.
Vintage necklaces are among her most sought work. Some have only a single strand of faux pearls. Others have multiple strands in matching or different sizes and hues — from traditional white to smoldering dark brown. Even the clasps are opportunities for embellishment, with pearls, rose montées, and filigree decorating their ends.
Bracelets are another favorite. Vintage Haskell bracelets often feature beaded flowers and leaves mounted on gilt or silvered hinged bangles. Other bangles are open at the back and many Haskell bracelets dispense with an armature altogether to remain loose and alluring...
Vintage Haskell earrings, either on their own or as matching pieces for a necklace, continue in the floral vein. The gilt, crystal, and pearl combos are considered the classics of this form. Finally, Haskell pins are perhaps the freest of all Haskell jewelry types. Besides the floral themes, Haskell pins incorporate a number of animal and shell designs.
Key terms for Vintage Haskell Costume Jewelry:
Rose montée: A precut crystal (the rose) mounted in a silver setting (the montée) that has either a tab with a hole in it or a channel in its back so that the mounted stone can be sewn to a garment or attached to a piece of jewelry. Comes in wide range of colors.
Finding: The functional part of a piece of jewelry such as the clasp on a necklace.
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BARBARA BERGER/MUSEUM OF ARTS AND DESIGN. If just looking is enough, some of the 3000 pieces in Barbara Berger's jewelry collection are on display at the Museum of Arts and Design, including sparkly things from Balenciaga and Miriam Haskell...Read more