Thursday, May 17, 2012

What is Miriam Haskell Russian Gold Plate?

Russian gold plate, sometimes referred to as RGP,  is that famous rich looking gold plating used extensively by the Miriam Haskell Company in their vintage jewelry pieces as part of their signature look.  My resource for all the following information is the book Miriam Haskell Jewelry by Cathy Gordon and Sheila Pamfiloff, an essential resource for learning about Miriam Haskell jewelry.

Gordon and Pamfiloff say: “…stamped filigrees. They were purchased from suppliers in France and Rhode Island…and sent to Unida Plating of Providence, Rhode Island, which used a process invented by James Brady for coating the metal parts. Parts went through six to seven preparatory steps and then the special dipping process, which created the Russian gold look. The dipping solution contained 24-karat gold, among other (secret) ingredients. It was made by hand with the formula kept locked in a safe, known only to the company manager and his foreman. The process was primitive, according to Sandy Moss, with the dipping timed by hand. As more and more filigrees were dipped in the solution, gold content got lower and lower, causing variations in the coating depth and color on the filigrees…After dipping, filigrees were lacquered.” (page 45).

Because the plating was “primitive”, Haskell Russian gold plate can take a variety of hues.  Also, the plating was done over brass filigrees and other brass findings. Since the plating was thicker or thinner depending on when in the batch the metal was plated, durability and patina can vary over time, as shown above.

While Russian gold plate is what many people think of when they think of vintage Miriam Haskell pieces, the Haskell Company also used other finishes in their vintage designs, including light silver (see the silver leaf charms above), rhodium-look silver and Russian silver, a dark antique silver.  Some designs were also made using black metal parts (Gordon and Pamfiloff, page 45).  Contemporary Haskell designs include gold, light silver, antique silver, imitation rhodium, pot black and oxidized gold, silver and copper colors (Gordon and Pamfiloff, page 45).  Today, Russian gold plating ala Miriam Haskell is no longer available, although you can find companies that attempt to recreate this effect.

So, it is with great excitement we are able to offer vintage RGP filigrees and other components from the Miriam Haskell warehouse.  The photographs through this post show just a few of the items we have been able to purchase for Bumbershoot Supplies. See this post for more details about our exciting find.

To see many examples of beautiful vintage Miriam Haskell designs, you can visit the authors of Miriam Haskell Jewelry: Cathy Gordon is here. Sheila Pamfiloff is here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, I have just been searching for information about this topic for a long time and yours is the best I have found out till now.