Amongst feather boas and English china, glistening rings and earrings with clip-ons, a scent much like Chanel No. 5 on someone’s dead bubbie lingered in the air… but I didn’t care; because more important than being picky, I was hooked!
“There must be something good in there,” my eyes spread wide, like my hand as it tried to grow as big as my dad’s. My mom nodded, carefully inspecting the necklace of her choice, a blush cameo on the end of a delicate gold chain, while I scooped my way through the pile of pink and blue and green and gold plastic, like a mouse through a hunk of cheese. “This lady must be rich!” “Yes, Katie. You’re right.”
But, in fact, she mustn’t. I gravitated toward the shiny colored ones; the bigger, the gaudier, the better. “Do you have any Miriam Haskell?” “What’s Miriam Hakell, Mom?” “She was the queen of costume.” Queen Miriam. Like many queens, she was ousted by her brothers, overturned in a male society that looked the other way. She was beheaded, wearing a fabulous colorful choker, of fake emeralds and diamonds, decorated into flowers. No, she wasn’t beheaded, just kicked out of her own company by her brothers. Queen Miriam, who opened not one, but two high-end stores in Manhattan within a year, adored my none other than I Love Lucy’s Ball and Queen of Mean Joan Crawford, left this world in a sad state, but did she leave it with a legacy of baubles!
She designed jewelry from the 20’s to the 50’s, along with partner Frank Hess, until the aforementioned ousting. Up until the 50’s, the pieces weren’t signed, except for those that went to a store in New England, which insisted on them being signed, with a horseshoe insignia.
Haskell’s pieces are made of glass beads. During WWII, she used natural materials and plastic, avoiding metal, and every year she created three price points: A, B and C. Miriam Haskell, the brand, is still around, as seen on Michelle Obama.
Why don’t you put a little Miriam in your life . Xxo