Ever since 2009, when I began collecting vintage costume jewelry, I have had a fascination with the intricate, detailed look and design that Miriam Haskell gave to her pieces.
It was recently that I discovered the work of her business advisor Stanley Hagler. His creations have a very similar look although much more brightly colored, bigger, and bolder than most of Haskell’s designs.
Hagler pieces are usually quite costly due to the quality of materials used and the fact that they are all handmade. After a bit of a search, I located a collector and seller of Stanley Hagler jewelry. She gave me a deal I couldn’t refuse, making me the proud owner of a pair of his exquisite clip earrings:
The Picasso of Jewelry
Stanley Hagler was born in Denver, Colorado in 1923. He was a veteran of World War II and then graduated from the University of Denver in 1949 with a degree in law.
After working as Miriam Haskell’s business advisor in the late ’40s, he decided to start his own costume jewelry business after a dare when he designed a bracelet “fit for a queen” for Wallace Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. She had a passion for costume jewelry and fell in love with his designs, becoming a huge fan. By 1953, the Stanley Hagler Jewelry Co. was established with Edward Nakles in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
Stanley Hagler has been described as the “Picasso of jewelry,” creating pieces that were very unique, colorful, complex in design, and often quite extravagant. His work is comparable in quality to Dior, Schiaparelli, and Chanel with the Haskell-style look of jewelry designers such as Eugene, DeMario, and Robert.
Hagler’s earliest creations combined current design with antique components. He used quality materials including hand-blown glass from Murano, Swarovski crystals in clear and vibrant colors, clusters of seed pearls, colorful seed beads, and Russian gold-plated filigree.
The craftsmanship of his jewelry was outstanding. Pieces were all hand-wired and the stones and crystals were prong-set rather than glued.
One of Hagler’s specialties was in making faux pearl jewelry. He made baroque pearls out of hand-blown glass beads and then dipped them in pearl resin up to 15 times for maximum luminosity. He also used pearls in unusual colors such as coral, deep blue ultramarine, and honey brown.
Hagler became one of the most recognized designers of Christmas tree pins with their intricate beading and vivid colors. Although many companies produced Christmas tree pins, Hagler’s were considered exceptional. Here is an example of one of his exquisite pins:
Hagler’s jewelry adorned celebrities such as Ivana Trump, Barbara Walters, Madeleine Albright, and Susan Lucci. It was sold in upscale department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. In addition to the U.S., it was also sold in some of the finest boutiques in several other countries including Japan, England, Germany, France, Australia, and Switzerland.
Over the course of his career, Hagler won the prestigious Swarovski award 11 times for “Great Designs in Jewelry.”
Stanley Hagler designed and created everything himself until 1979 when Mark Mercy then joined his company. Mercy, who had an interest in design since he was a child, met Stanley Hagler through his uncle. Stanley offered Mercy an apprenticeship in his studio in New York City which he accepted.
Over the next few years, he learned the trade of jewelry design from Hagler. Mercy appreciated intricate detail and soon began creating his own designs for Hagler.
In 1983, the company moved to Florida. When Hagler began having major health problems, he offered Mercy a partnership in the business which he again accepted. After Hagler passed away in 1996, a Common Law Trademark allowed Mercy to keep the rights to the Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. name.
Mercy has retained all legal rights to use the Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. name on his jewelry and purchased all of the original and vintage components of the Stanley Hagler jewelry lines which allow for the same high quality, handmade pieces to continue to be produced. Mercy continues to create and sell jewelry with the Hagler look today.
Ian St. Gielar
In 1981, Ian St. Gielar who was an admirer of Stanley Hagler’s work, moved to the U.S. from Poland. He started working part-time for Hagler in 1985, learning the techniques of wiring components to filigree. By 1989, he became a contributing designer. Hagler spoke highly of him and considered him a “genius.”
St. Gielar designed many floral motifs and also a “retro” collection using vintage beads and pearls. His designs could be seen on the runways of many famous fashion designers and appeared in magazines including Elle, Vogue, Harper’s, and Shine.
Ian St. Gielar left the company in 1994 and started a new company under his own name in 1996, the same year Hagler passed away. He often described his pieces as “Stanley Hagler-style.”
His wife, Valentina, worked with him for over eight years. After St. Gielar passed away in 2007, she has continued his work under the name Ian Gielar Studio according to his wishes.
When Stanley Hagler started making jewelry in 1953, he marked his pieces STANLEY HAGLER on an oval disc tag through 1982.
After moving the company to Florida in 1983, the mark changed to read STANLEY HAGLER N.Y.C. to keep the reputable New York City connection to his work:
Mark Mercy continues to use this mark today. Many of the pieces sold to boutiques were not marked.
After Hagler’s death in 1996, Ian St. Gielar marked his jewelry STANLEY HAGLER N.Y.C with no period after the C. He also used his own name on a disc tag – IAN St. GIELAR. Some of his jewelry carries both of these tags.
Today, Stanley Hagler’s jewelry is greatly admired and collected by many all over the world. I can definitely be included as one of his admirers and hopefully, this first pair of fabulous Hagler clip earrings is just the beginning of my collection!
*Christmas tree pin photo credit: courtesy of RC Larner.
Kimberly Moore is a vintage costume jewelry expert, blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com.
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