Monday, June 2, 2014

Designer Paul Flato's Lasting Influence on Art Deco Jewelry

Hand & Glove Clip on Earrings designed by Paul Flato from

Art Deco, as a style, came to be in 1925 when the World’s Fair was held in France.  Both the name of the fair and its exhibits would contribute to the style’s name.  The 1925 World’s Fair was known as “Exposition International des Arts De’coratifs et Industriels Modernes.”  (It translates to International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts.)

Its designs influenced new styles of automobiles, homes, skyscrapers, clothing and jewelry.  Geometric shapes such as circles, triangles, squares and rectangles were often arranged or woven together to create intricate designs. 

There were numerous pioneers in Europe like Lalique, Bucheron and Coco Chanel but there were also a fair number of Art Deco pioneers in America like Tiffany, Winston, Marcus & Co, and the subject of this post Paul Flato. 

Paul Flato was a New York transplant from Flatonia, Texas.  His first exposure to jewelry was by accident.  Flato was walking in the Texas woods and he came upon a gypsy camp where he saw women wearing necklaces and dangling earrings.  Since that moment Flato was determined to become a jeweler and he succeeded.  From the 1920s to the early 1940s he was the elite jeweler to numerous Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford and Rita Haworth who purchased or wore his jewelry on the big screen.  His style was as one person wrote “flamboyant and witty designs” in the Art Deco style.  Flato’s most famous pieces included diamond, gold ribbon &  flower brooches , gold double long horn bracelets, and hand and glove clip earrings to name just a small number of his design pieces. 
diamond, gold ribbon & flower brooch designed by Paul Flato form

His career was strong and reached unbelievable heights, until 1943 when it all came crashing down.  A series of unfortunate business transactions caused Flato to sell $100,000 of jewelry entrusted to him by clients and colleagues in a desperate attempt to save his jewelry business.  He was found out by authorities and sentenced to 16 months in Sing Sing Petitionary.  In 1945 he was released and moved to Mexico and lived there until 1953.  When Flato left he was constantly on the run from US authorities for larceny and forgery.  Eventually he went back to Mexico and settled in Zona Rosa where he resumed his jewelry career in anonymity.  Flato’s last years were lived back in Texas from 1990 to 1999 when he died at age 98.   Despite his troubles Flato has remained and is remembered as a fixture in the jewelry world.  Any pieces that are found are still popular with famous auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

Art Deco style clip on earrings designed by Katherine Kornblau

At we sell clip on earrings by designer Katherine Kornblau who has used Art Deco design in some of her jewelry as well as influences from Zoological, Ancient Egyptian, and Contemporary design in other collections.  Other designers found on who were also influenced by the Art Deco period are Sadie Green and David Howell.