Growing up the jewelry I remember in our home was costume jewelry. I loved the sparkly, opulent clip on earrings, cocktail rings and pins. My sister and I wore the jewelry for dress up with my mother’s perfume and high heels, it all seemed so grown-up. The thing is, I never considered the history of costume jewelry, it’s rise to popularity, or who designed it, until a couple of days ago. A client brought in a Miriam Haskell necklace for me to modify the length for her. She said, “It’s a Miriam Haskell”. I said “Ohhhh, nice” and made a mental note to look her up.
Miriam Haskell loved the glam that was Hollywood and New York City in the late twenties and thirties. Think applied beauty marks, evening gowns, cigarette holders and fur, lots of fur. The Women’s movement was a growing bud, women were asserting their personalities through government, business, and fashion. Miriam Haskell was a woman of the day, described as handsomely dressed and intelligent, she loved couture. Her most famous gal pal was Coco Chanel, the two ladies would lunch and share ideas about designing jewelry for high fashion and society.
Miriam’s family background as small town merchants aided in her business savvy. Mix in her high brow social connections and you have yourself a business plan. In 1926 Miriam Haskell opened her first boutique in the McAlpin Hotel in New York City. She employed the flamboyant, snobbish, design genius of a former Macy’s window designer, Frank Hess. Social, public and the glitterati all wore and collected Miriam's jewelry, some of the most notable were Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball, Gloria Vanderbilt and the Duchess of Windsor. Miriam Haskell’s luxury jewelry line is still all handmade at her studio in New York and ranges in price from 300. to 4000.