This wonderful brooch was made by the Miriam Haskell company, and designed by Frank Hess in the early 1940’s. Although unsigned, it has many distinctive characteristics which identify it as Haskell. Besides the striking, gold plated cascade of leaves and spheres, which makes a delightful sound when worn, one can look at the back of this brooch to be absolutely certain it is Haskell. This brooch has the rectangular shape with holes pierced throughout the back allowing for a hand wired base. This is a key characteristic of early Haskell. (Larger pins would use a long, flat, narrow pierced metal bar.) This brooch also has a safety clasp, although pin closures could also be a simple C-clasp. Note the triple chains supporting the design elements, another key characteristic.
In the early 1940’s, base metals were appropriated for war material production in the U.S. That, together with the lack of supplies being imported from Europe, meant that Haskell jewelry production began to rely on clear plastic backs, which were pierced like their metal counterparts. By about 1941, most Haskell pins and clips were wired or sewn onto a plastic foundation. Thus, this oversized pin was most likely made just prior to 1941. It is in pristine condition and was obviously well taken care of. Such a find is thrilling to collectors of early Haskell. After 1945 when metals once again became available, Haskell replaced the solid metal and plastic backing with her trademark stamped filigrees. By the late 1940’s Haskell began to attach permanent identification labels on her jewelry, replacing removable hang tags. Haskell imitations began flooding the market, many from Japan. To protect the Haskell name, the company permanently added a signature to their jewelry.
A word about Frank Hess: He began his design career at Haskell in 1926 where he continued until 1960. His design genius insured that the company founded by Miriam Haskell would achieve enduring success. He was especially creative during times like World War II when traditional jewelry findings were scarce. He used rather mundane components in amazing ways, including shells, wood, plastics, leather and velvet to create memorable jewelry, especially dress clips and brooches, that are in such demand by collectors.
Mr. Hess’ designs evolved over his tenure at Haskell into elaborate masterpieces. He created complex and stunning necklaces, earrings, brooches, and bracelets in unique color combinations using small pressed glass flowers, beads, and crystal beads–creations that have been copied, but never equaled.
Miriam Haskell born 1st July 1899 in Indiana and died 14 July 1981 in Ohio
Thank you to my friend American writer Jacqueline Rehmann author of ‘Classic American Costume Jewelry’ who lives in Virginia, USA for writing this Blog Post.
Thank- you Jacqueline.