SAPPHIRE AND DIAMOND FEATHER BROOCH BY PAUL FLATO, NEW YORK, CIRCA 1940

A brooch in the form of a feather realistically designed with highly flexible and articulated calibré-cut sapphire vane originating from a shaped pavé-set diamond shaft; mounted in platinum

  • 129 diamonds, total weighing approximately 2.60 carats
  • 351 sapphires, total weighing approximately 35 carats
  • Reproduction of original drawing
  • Measurements: 4 7/8 x 1 3/4 inches

Additional cataloguing

Literature

  • Bray, Elizabeth Irvine. Paul Flato: Jeweler to the Stars. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors Club, 2010, p. 6.

 

Biography

Paul Flato was the original jeweler to the stars, catering to the crème de la crème of Hollywood. He founded his company in New York City in 1928 and opened a Los Angeles store in 1937. His figurative style, often bordering on humorous, reached its peak in the 1930s when Adolph Kleaty, George Headley, and Fulco, Duke of Verdura, designed pieces for him. Flato closed his business in 1943.

 

Significance

Only rarely does a piece of jewelry so closely resemble the object that inspired it that it takes close inspection to realize it is a jewel. Paul Flato’s painstakingly engineered diamond and sapphire feather brooch appears like a natural feather and is so incredibly light, it feels like one as well. The rachis, or shaft, is made up of articulated pavé-set diamond sections to which the vane’s feathery wisps are attached. Like a natural feather, each part of the vane varies in size and in positioning, with some curling upward, some downward, and some overlapping. When worn, the brooch’s inherent flexibility conveys a sense of lightness and movement, in stark contrast to most traditional pieces of jewelry, which tend to be rigid and static.

Paul Flato was one of the first jewelers to create a new American style that was not influenced by European design traditions. Such inventiveness was especially important during the Depression years, when a designer’s survival depended on his or her ability to establish a distinctive aesthetic. The jewelers who endured, and flourished, were those who forged new paths based not on the past but on their original visions of the future. Flato’s characteristic style, which often exuded a sense of humor, peaked in the 1930s when Manhattan’s arbiters of taste gathered at his salon located at 1 East 57th Street. Flato also operated a Beverly Hills boutique that catered to Hollywood screen legends Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Merle Oberon, and Marlene Dietrich.

This diamond and sapphire feather brooch is a spectacular example of naturalistic design from the glamorous 1940s that could only have been made by this important American maker.