I do not have a large collection of vintage costume jewelry, although I do love it and I also love purchasing pieces for our daughter Emma. Rather I am a collector of the supplies that create costume jewelry and books about costume jewelry, which I use to date our vintage supplies and better understand the original use to which they were put. But I have always wanted to own a vintage Miriam Haskell piece, and that wish has come true!
I was able to purchase this Miriam Haskell bracelet at an estate sale recently. Some of the pearls are worn, the brass is quite aged, and some of the wire work for which the Haskell company is famous has seen better days. But it's still got plenty of flair for me and I couldn’t be happier!
A lot is said about “Miriam Haskell pearls”. The phrase “Miriam Haskell pearls” has now come to be used as a general term to describe vintage glass pearls that have an irregular, dimpled and indented surface and often a baroque or irregular shape. There were many more pearls made in Japan in this style than were ever used by the Haskell company however, and it is probably more accurate to refer to most of the pearls you will see as “Haskell-style pearls”.
Here is what Cathy Gordon and Sheila Pamfiloff say about the glass pearls used by the Miriam Haskell company, in their book Miriam Haskell Jewelry (an essential resource if you are interested in Haskell):
“From the 1920s until the late 1950s, glass beads were purchased and sent to Clio Novelty Company in Brooklyn or to Pongratchi on Long Island where they were “pearlized”; dipped and coated in an emulsion of fish scales…Both smooth and baroque pearls were made in a variety of shapes…The pearls people most consistently associate with Haskell’s Signature look came from the Niki Company of Tokyo, Japan. ..Hess visited the firm and was so impressed with the quality of the glass bead pearls he licensed Niki to be the exclusive supplier of baroque and smooth pearls to Haskell. For Haskell collectors, this is a benchmark date; any piece of jewelry using Niki pearls cannot be older than 1958.” (page 32-33) Haskell's exclusive relationship withthe Niki Company lasted for about 20 years, until the Niki Company went out of business.
Are the pearls in this bracelet Niki pearls and can we use them to date this bracelet? I don’t know. Gordon and Pamfiloff share that filigrees such as the one in this bracelet began to be used after WWII, so date to 1945 and later. The Haskell company added permanent signatures to their pieces after WWII, and the oval plaque you see in this bracelet was first introduced in 1951-1952. So it is possible these are Niki pearls, although it could also be that these glass pearls were some that were made prior to 1958.
Whatever the answer, I am thrilled to have been able to purchase this wonderful piece and to be able to share it here. Here's to vintage!