Lillian Jane Kinney Volk
Jane Tibbitt Bingham
cf. Bray, Elizabeth Irvine. Paul Flato: Jeweler to the Stars. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors Club, 2010, cover and p. 95.
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.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Paul Flato’s expressive, daring style contrasted with the conventional diamond designs available and appealed to the height of fashionable society. His salons were frequented by Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, and Vivien Leigh, and leading men Douglas Fairbanks, Laurence Olivier, and Orson Welles. His jewelry was worn by Katherine Hepburn in Holiday, Greta Garbo in Two Faced Woman, and Rita Hayward in Blood and Sand. Flato had brilliant ideas and oversaw gifted designers who realized his designs on paper. The most noted was Fulco, Duke of Verdura, who designed the original belt necklace in aquamarine and ruby for Mrs. Cole Porter.
The belt form was an iconic design for Flato and he reimagined it here in citrine and diamond creating a suite complete with ear clips and a bracelet (later lost and remade by Lambert Brothers). Designed with larger stones and a more flexible draping form in then the original, this necklace reflects the aesthetic of the Retro period. From 1935 to 1950, set against the backdrop of World War II and the economic impact of wartime, jewelry became bolder and brighter, reflecting the glamour of Hollywood and acting as the antithesis of the reserved clothing styles it accessorized. The choice of citrine and gold was also impacted by wartime, as many precious materials were unavailable. The result is a beautiful warm-toned suite reinterpreting the belt form for the 1950s.
The suite was owned by Jane Tibbett, wife of opera singer Lawrence Tibbett. A famous star of the Metropolitan Opera Company, Lawrence Tibbett was also a film actor and radio personality. His glamorous wife, Jane, was beautiful and fashionable and was sought after as a model for brands from Studebaker to Pabst Blue Ribbon to Elgin Watches. A part of the New York and Hollywood music scenes, the Tibbetts were well acquainted with the Porters, even appearing in Vogue at a dinner part with them in 1938. Perhaps Tibbett saw the iconic Flato belt necklace and commissioned her own. Tibbett left the necklace to her friend Lillian Jane Volk, a preservationist and wife of prominent Palm Beach Architect John Volk. This important belt buckle suite designed and owned by American icons of style would be an important addition to any collection.