About Miriam Haskell, the Jewellery Company and the Woman

About Miriam Haskell, the Jewellery Company and the Woman

Miriam Haskell Jewellery

Miriam Haskell jewellery is some of the most prized and beautiful costume jewellery from the 20th century.  The intricate designs coupled with their novel colours and materials have made Haskell jewellery hugely coveted by collectors, with the most elaborate pieces fetching many hundreds of pounds. 

Miriam began her fashion career in New York city working as a milliner but pivoted to jewellery in 1926 when she opened her first shop, named Le Bijou de l'Heure. Haskell was a very private lady and not a lot of information is known about her personal life, however she was recognized as an elegantly dressed lady with style and a keen business sense.  Her eponymous jewellery line swiftly gained recognition for its handmade, top-quality pieces.  The scrupulous attention to detail and beauty of the jewellery quickly won fans among Hollywood stars and the most stylish ladies of the era.  

It isn’t known if Miriam herself ever designed any of the pieces sold by the Haskell company.  Although she was very involved in the day to day operations of her business, one of her most crucial decisions was to have hired a jewellery designer, former Macy’s window dresser, Frank Hess.  Frank was with the company for decades and helped to develop the Haskell signature style.

Over the 1930s the Haskell business was expanded until it occupied multiple shops and had headquarters on the famed Fifth Avenue.  Haskell jewellery was also sold in the most exclusive department stores in America with pieces available in Europe at top end shops like Harvey Nichols in London, UK.

Sadly, Miriam became ill in the 1940s and eventually sold her company to her brother in 1951, although Frank Hess stayed on and held a central role for many years.  Miriam eventually passed away in 1981.

Characteristics of Miriam Haskell Jewellery

The Haskell company didn’t begin adding permanent stamped signatures to their pieces until the 1940s.   It’s therefore important for collectors to recognize the key characteristics of Haskell designs to enable the identification of earlier pieces.


Haskell Jewellery Themes and styles

Think beads.  Think elaborate beadwork.

Themes of flowers, leaves and nature were repeated throughout the life of the company. 

The company has always produced a Basics line of faux baroque pearl jewellery in various styles.


Haskell Jewellery Materials 

Baroque pearls are probably the most recognizable Haskell material but a wide variety has been utilized throughout the life of the company.  Wooden beads, leather, plastic, rhinestones, glass beads, shells, bone and semi-precious stones have all been used. 

Perhaps the most famous feature of a Haskell piece of jewellery is the metal filigree base.  The metal bases were initially pierced metal with solid backings.  The iconic gold plated and lacquered filigree style plate was introduced in the late 1940s. 

Pieces were stitched together with wires, never glue, and in the 1970s solder was introduced.  

Miriam Haskell filigree back with signature

Example of filigree back, wire construction and spacer beads



Miriam Haskell Designers

Frank Hess (1926 - 1960):  

When collectors think of Miriam Haskell they immediately think of Frank Hess.  He was with Haskell virtually from the beginning and stayed until 1960.  He was responsible for the Signature Look which involved heavily beaded, intricate designs.  He loved to layer pieces and didn’t leave any visible metal structure.  His pieces were often asymmetric.


Robert Clark (1958-1968): 

Robert was an artist prior to being employed by Frank Hess and worked as his assistant until becoming head designer when Frank left the company.  Robert favoured three-dimension structured pieces which tended toward symmetry.  He liked using large bold beads and would bend wires and filigrees to add height.  He often employed solder rather than the sole use of wires as had been done previously.  Robert left Miriam Haskell in the late 1960s to form the de Lillo company with William de Lillo.


Peter Raines (1968 - 1970):

Peter Raines was head designer between Robert Clark and Lawrence Vrba. He preferred a simpler, less intricate style.


Larry Vrba (1970 – 1978):

Larry Vrba became head designer in 1970 and stayed until 1978.  Vrba greatly admired the Haskell pieces of the past and used them for inspiration in his new designs, but he also had to keep up with changing times.  He is therefore responsible for the introduction of designs which wouldn’t readily be identified as Haskell, such as all metal pieces.  His most famous line and some of Haskell’s most collectible pieces, come from his Egyptian line which is packed with highly stylized jewellery in blues, reds and golds.

Example of Haskell Egyptian earrings


Camille Petronzio (1980 -): 

Petronzio was head designer for about twenty years.  She kept an eye on the past and liked to remake archival Haskell pieces with a modern twist.


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