Miriam Haskell was a New York-based American Jeweller. In 1924, at the McAlpin Hotel, where she sold her jewellery, Haskell opened up a small gift shop. Her key designer became Frank Hess, a display artist at the nearby Macy’s department store. They worked on antique-quality glass-bead and simulated-pearl jewellery. By the 1930s, their enterprise had expanded to include separate production facilities. Some products were distributed via Saks Fifth Avenue and other retail outlets. Much of their jewellery had floral motifs which in the 1940s became more elaborate. Haskell introduced leather, wood and seashells into realistic representations.
New York Socialite
Haskell was a stunning beauty. She lived an active social life and was romantically related to Bernhard Gimble (whose family owned Saks Fifth Avenue) and Nelson Rockefeller and had a stormy relationship with the rent-a-car magnate John D. Hertz before he married Myrna Loy.
As opulent as her private life was her design path. She sourced the finest machine stampings, imitation pearls, pastes and handmade glass beads from brands such as Rouselet and Gripoix, who made Chanel’s jewellery. She travelled around the world to make these discoveries.
Developed new techniques
For the style she wanted, she designed new techniques and methods, and nothing was spared to achieve the fresh, exciting pieces bearing her name.
A panoply or seashell, butterflies, seed-pearl apples or a rococo filigree arrangement are the motifs that she often created based on floral designs or classical styles.
In the 1950s, Haskell’s “Palm Beach,” or resort look, featured white, glossy glass beads combined with mother of pearl and imitation coral.
The glass beads were imported from Czechoslovakia and Venice. Haskell and Hess’s jewellery was produced primarily from wood and plastic during the Second World War. Up until 1952, when Haskell’s brother took over the firm, they continued to work together. Hess retired in 1954, and the company was sold to Morris Kinsler, who in 1983 sold it to Stanford Moss in turn. In 1989, Moss sold Haskell Jewels to Frank Failkoff, president of Rhode Island’s costume jewellers, Victoria International.