Paul Flato - Jewels New York Thursday, June 2, 2022 | Phillips

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    • Circa 1935

    • Round brilliant-cut, Old European-cut, single-cut, and baguette-cut diamonds, total approximately 6.80 cts.
      Platinum, length approximately 1 1/8 inches, each, accompanied by a letter of authentication

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Lily of the Valley motif is considered on of the most important patterns used by Flato as he returned to it frequently and is exemplified by his Lily of the Valley necklace.

    The allure, popularity and value of Paul Flato jewelry has survived more than half a century despite the many mishaps of its creator. With no marketing or advertising, nobody to authenticate pieces, nobody to serve as the face for the brand, and no legacy the Flato name has nevertheless stood the test of time by design alone. Consider how inherently precious, beautiful, and treasured Paul Flato pieces must be for them to have risen to prominence without the help of traditional levers that comparable large houses had at their disposal.

    Paul Flato began his meteoric rise to fame circa 1929. Despite numerous adverse events including the stock market crash, which heralded in the Great Depression, Flato’s company flourished and peaked from 1934 to 1939, in this period some of the world’s finest American made jewels were created.

    During this golden period of extraordinary success, despite sordid behavior, he managed to become the Jeweler to the stars. Many famous actresses including Greta Garbo, Mae West, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Doris Duke, Ginger Rogers, Carmen Miranda, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Gloria Vanderbilt, Ingrid Bergman, Lily Pons, Jean Harlow, Vivien Leigh, Merle Oberon, Joan Bennett and others extensively wore his jewelry in the 1930s. It is said that Flato was the best jewelry salesman in the world, he knew his customer and was able to forge important interpersonal connections with them that helped launch him to stardom as well.

    Though Flato did not design, he managed to find extremely talented designers who deserve equal credit and recognition. Among these artists were head designer and creative genius Adolphe Klety, George Headley, Robert Bruce, Kenneth Brown (who designed the sapphire and diamond Marlene Dietrich fan earrings), Millicent Rogers, Josephine Forrestal, and Fulco di Verdura.
    Even though there were at least six designers working for Flato, a distinctive style emerged and
    distinguished itself from the celebrated European houses whose work, which in contrast, were slower to evolve. Each designer had distinctive drawing techniques. As the archive was amassed and researched it was clear which designers produced which pieces from signatures and the decerning eye of the owner of the archive.

    Paul Flato himself was an enigma. He did not graduate college, complete his Army stint, finish at Columbia, or complete any formal training in any discipline. He simply planted himself in New York City sometime in the late 1920s and became incredibly successful without being able to “draw a line”. His period of greatest productivity was from 1929 to 1943, but by 1943, Flato was bankrupt and there was nobody left to take the reins. Verdura branched out and formed his own company and assumed Flato’s customers, designs, and fame. Also, in 1943, Flato entered Sing Sing prison for the first of at least three prison terms, two in the US and one (or more) in Mexico. He was jailed in Mexico for the same illegal activities that landed him in prison in America. At one point, while in a Mexican prison awaiting extradition to U.S. for his crimes, he was also awaiting a second imprisonment in the U.S. During this time. Flato is believed to have had three or four failed marriages. Ward Landrigan in his video “Fulco and Flato” states that by 1939, Flato had a serious cocaine problem. What is often assumed is the somewhat glamorized version of Flato’s life that keeps repeating itself as reputation becomes myth. Collectors similarly remember the folklore about Suzanne Belperron’s alleged burning of her archives before her death. There wasn’t a trace of anything left until Oliver Baroin entered her apartment, which hadn’t been occupied for decades, which was replete with archives and the beginning of a book about her work. The glamorized versions of Flato’s history are to be taken with a side of skepticism.

    Other jewelers in the 1940s designed pieces that are reminiscent of Flato. This is the likely outcome of having no heir to champion and protect his brand. The jewels were made in America and of exquisite quality, some of the finest ever produced. When you study the Rose Leaf Bracelets or the Casablanca brooch, you realize that making these items today would be extremely difficult and expensive. Exceptional Paul Flato jewels are currently represented in museum and private collections worldwide and deserve their rightful place in the history of 20th century jewelry design. These are Hollywood Jewels – America’s Royalty. Many of the legendary pieces are still owned by the archive held by Dr. Pamela Lipkin, while others have been sold to Flato collectors. Elizabeth Irvine Bray’s statement in her book on Paul Flato, “Pamela Lipkin is a Flato expert in her own right,” has been many years in the making. The new generation of Flato collectors buying these works today will find their acquisitions a delight for generations to come as they become heirlooms.



A Pair of Diamond and Platinum Earclips/Clips

Circa 1935
Round brilliant-cut, Old European-cut, single-cut, and baguette-cut diamonds, total approximately 6.80 cts.
Platinum, length approximately 1 1/8 inches, each, accompanied by a letter of authentication

$10,000 - 15,000 

Contact Specialist

Eva Violante

Senior Specialist, Head of Sale,


+1 212 940 1316


New York Auction 2 June 2022