Some of the most desirable personal adornment collectibles are the ever-popular objects within the category of vintage costume jewelry. Called “junque” jewelry by some, these surprisingly well-produced bracelets, brooches, necklaces and earrings are all too often incorrectly described as cheap when in fact many of these pieces are not only desirable but quite valuable.
A common mistake that happens in antiques shops, thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets is the selling of valuable costume jewelry pieces for mere pennies on the dollar. Don’t disregard costume jewelry because you may be throwing away a small fortune. The real story is that there is real money in fake jewelry and one of the big names in costume jewelry of the early- to late-1900s is Miriam Haskell.
Spotting a fine piece of Miriam Haskell costume jewelry starts with recognizing the quality materials, well executed jewelry settings and matching sets of earrings, necklaces and bracelets or brooches that became a staple of the Haskell design firm. Miriam Haskell costume jewelry is defined by colorful set stones, gold filigree work and delicate seed pearls. Haskell offered nature-inspired forms via look-alike baroque pearls, glass seed pods and tiny seashells.
Haskell and the firm’s lead designer, Frank Hess, were the heart and soul of the company. The team highlighted nature and its many interesting forms through their designs. High society ladies of the mid-20th century enjoyed modern minimalist and machine aesthetic jewelry pieces. By 1926, the firm was manufacturing vintage jewelry designs in New York and selling them with vigor. Miriam Haskell remains best known for producing costume jewelry designs featuring electroplating, inset stones and hand beadwork. Quality materials included European beads, hand-picked seed pearls and Bohemian crystals. The firm was one of the first to incorporate plastics and lucite into their costume jewelry designs.
Following World War II and throughout the 1960s, Miriam Haskell achieved widespread market success with various collectible costume jewelry pieces ranging from bobby pins to bracelets. Haskell’s jewelry was worn by some of the most famous fashion icons of the day, including Coco Chanel, Jackie Kennedy, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.
The prominent maker’s mark and the high-quality materials make Miriam Haskell pieces unmistakable. The firm’s mark “Miriam Haskell” is typically found on the clasp, pin back or inside piece of her jewelry.
Some Haskell pieces were unsigned in the early days of production however the firm always produced objects that were trendy like Art Deco ear clips in period black and white geometric designs. Haskell jewelry designs were influenced by Egyptomania — the craze for all things Egyptian — after the excavation of King Tut’s tomb in 1922. Then, Haskell jewelry pieces featured bejeweled mummies, beadwork sphinxes and hardstone scarabs set in bracelets or armlets. Later, figural pendants of seed pearls, rhinestones and filigree grew in popularity during the post-World War II period. By the late 1960s and 1970s, Haskell introduced colorful beaded lariats and oversized statement pieces.
The Miriam Haskell company, after decades of production of some of the finest costume jewelry, was sold in 1990. Today, authentic and clearly marked Miriam Haskell costume jewelry pieces range in value from $250 to $12,500 on the online market depending on many factors. Many can be found at popular online sales outlets like 1stDibs, Etsy, Ruby Lane, etc.
While diamonds are a girl’s best friend, vintage pearl jewelry bearing the Miriam Haskell name are the cat’s meow.