How the daughter of Russian immigrants made American women fall in love with jewelry: Miriam Haskell
How the daughter of Russian immigrants made American women fall in love with jewelry: Miriam Haskell

The costumes and jewelry of the wife of the 44th President of the United States, Michelle Obama, have always been the subject of discussion and controversy, but vintage earrings from Miriam Haskell were once recognized as the perfect choice. Miriam Haskell herself many years ago became a guiding star for many women in jewelry design, once and for all changing the idea that creating jewelry is a man's job.

Necklace with pendant leaves and a brooch with pearls

Miriam Haskell was a jewelry designer, but the jewelry is of the highest quality - every piece she created could be called a work of art. In the 1920s, Haskell pioneered the introduction of stylish "costume jewelry" from non-precious materials. She was born in 1899 to a Jewish family who emigrated to the United States from Russia. Miriam's parents kept a small dry goods store and were able to provide their daughter with a study at the University of Chicago.

Necklace by Miriam Haskell Necklace by Miriam Haskell

At twenty-five, Miriam moved to New York - of course, in pursuit of the "American Dream." In addition to the American dream, she had five hundred dollars in her pocket and … exceptional talent. After a couple of years, she managed to open her own business - the production and the boutique were located in the building of the old McAlpin Hotel. In the same year, a jeweler named Frank Hess became her creative and business partner.

Brooch with turquoise and a set of brooches and bracelets

There are conflicting views among collectors and fashion historians about Hess's role in Miriam Haskell's venture. On the one hand, his participation in the development of jewelry contributed to the formation of a more sophisticated, refined style - Haskell herself, apparently, preferred things that were rather catchy and extravagant. His valuable advice and recommendations allowed the Miriam Haskell brand to stand practically on a par with real jewelry houses, to conquer the hearts of not only actresses known for their love of jewelry, but also representatives of the aristocracy. On the other hand, the joint work of Hess and Haskell, coupled with the lack of markings on their early jewelry, causes many problems with attribution and attribution. And the designers themselves often argued over which of them was the real creator of this or that little thing … Be that as it may, it was Hess who kept the company afloat for many years after the sudden end of Miriam's career - however, about this sad story later.

Miriam Haskell jewelry

The Haskell case not only survived the Great Depression, but flourished during these troubled years. It was the Miriam Haskell brand that became one of the leading brands in the American fashion industry in those years, and it was she who took the lead in the jewelry market of the 1930s. Haskell was very bold in her choice of materials and pioneered the use of plastic in jewelry. While jewelry houses cut production, went bankrupt and closed, new Miriam Haskell boutiques appeared in the most prestigious areas of the United States - and then necklaces with grape leaves and brooches with Murano glass began their triumphant march across Europe. Among the fans of her work were Joan Crawford (who collected an impressive collection of Haskell jewelry), Gloria Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Windsor …

Jewelry sets with corals

Haskell was very scrupulous about the quality of materials and production technologies. All jewelry was created exclusively by hand.Together with Hess, she traveled the world in search of the most perfect imitation pearls (she chose, of course, Japanese), the purest imitation diamonds and rhinestones (of course, Austrian). And, of course, not without Swarovski crystals. Miriam Haskell's jewelry was complex, multi-colored and voluminous. Rows of beads, berries and fruits, flowers and leaves, Sumerian and Egyptian motifs, dark gilding and refined shades of crystals …

Miriam Haskell jewelry with pearls

Miriam Haskell was remembered as a woman who is not indifferent to other people's troubles - she was engaged in charity work and volunteering. During the Second World War, she generously donated funds for the needs of the front. In addition, at this time, the brand stopped producing metal jewelry, since the metal was spent on military needs. During the war, Miriam Haskell unexpectedly made a breakthrough by using wood and plastic in jewelry, and, unlike many of their competitors, they stayed afloat.

Brooch with crystals and necklace with crystals and pearls

However, World War II caused Miriam Haskell to leave the fashionable Olympus. She was never in good health - and always watched him closely. After the war, her strict approach to nutrition and regime became almost fanatical. But this only postponed the sad ending - which dragged on for thirty years. In 1950, realizing that her mental and physical condition was poor, Haskell left the company. She lived with her mother for some time, and every year Miriam's signs of dementia became more evident. Later she lived with her nephew and in a nursing home in Cincinnati, where she died at the age of eighty-two.

Brand advertising illustrations

Back in the late 1970s, the Haskell family began sorting through archives and discovered a huge number of gorgeous hand-drawn advertising posters and sketches that had not previously been presented to the general public. All originals and reprints of Miriam Haskell's posters were auctioned off, which allowed the family to pay for Miriam's nursing home nursing services. Now these graphic works are collectible and are hunted by fans of vintage graphics.

Advertising poster and jewelry set

“It was a man's world. The designers were men. The owners of the companies were men. The staff were men. The sellers were men. All were men”- this is how fashion historians describe the jewelry market of those years. And Miriam Haskell was among those who paved the way for women in the fashion industry along with Coco Chanel.

Michelle Obama and Jean Shrimpton wearing Miriam Haskell jewelery

Despite the fact that the brand exists to this day, vintage Miriam Haskell jewelry is of particular value - brooches with clusters of pearls, gilded petals, as if alive, rows of corals and scattering of shining crystals on the surface of maple leaves. Presidents' wives and Hollywood stars still choose Miriam Haskell - as they did in the 1930s.

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