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Stanley Hagler

Stanley Hagler (1923 – 1996) aka. Ian St. Gielar Studio During his lifetime, Stanley Hagler, (pr: HAY-gler) was affectionately known as, ‘The Picasso of Jewelry,’ and was the object of admiration and affection from peers and customers. It was not until after his death in 1996 that the controversies began.

Several sources state that Hagler worked briefly for Miriam Haskell as a business advisor and, it is also suggested that after that, he began designing his own jewelry on a whim. Hagler creations are a step-up from Haskell’s. Where her designs were intricate, Hagler’s were exuberant.

The amount of work required to produce a Hagler piece is hard to imagine. Hagler jewelry is known for its rich use of color, unusual materials, and attention to detail. It is also evident that parts of a piece ordinarily hidden from view are also finished to an impressive level of detail.

Hagler established The Stanley Hagler Jewelry Co. in 1953. Legend has it that Hagler’s first piece, a gold plated bracelet made in the 1950s was designed for Wallace Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. Famed for her jewelry collection, the Duchess enjoyed wearing fine costume and faux pieces.

Even in his earliest creations, Hagler’s ornate and opulent works combined contemporary designs with antique parts. He used the finest materials, and often incorporated hand-blown glass, Swarovski crystals and Russian gold plated filigree in his creations. His pieces look as beautiful when observed from the back as straight on. Hagler won the prestigious Swarovski Design Award more than any other designer, 11 times!

Hagler also created outstanding Christmas Tree Pins. Hagler Christmas designs range from squat, triangular pins dripping with Murano glass beads to trees made of mother-of-pearl and red-glass flowers.

Hagler specialized in faux pearl jewelry that use individually strung pearls to highlight their quality. Unlike other faux pearl jewelry designers who grouped the pearls together to hide individual flaws and inconsistencies. Hagler’s baroque pearls were hand-blown glass beads dipped in pearl resin – as many as fifteen times – to achieve maximum luminosity.

Hagler’s early pieces were less complex than the ones produced later. Lavish and complex, Stanley Hagler jewelry was wired by hand, with stones and crystals prong-set into place rather than glued. His work is often described as having an architectural and experts remain astonished at how long it must have taken to create each piece.

Stanley Hagler jewelry is often multi-purpose. For example, the clasp of a necklace can be transformed into a hair ornament or pin; necklaces can become double bracelets, and certain earrings can be given an alternative look simply by adding or removing components.

Hagler’s creations considered how, when, and where a woman wears jewelry: Earrings had to hang perfectly, while necklaces were designed so that they would lie in a way that flattered. While Hagler jewelry was often large scale, he varied the size of his creations to complement the current fashions. Name tags were also smaller or larger, depending on the size of the piece.

In addition to jewelry, Hagler produced designs for other companies. These included jeweled swimming flippers, wigs, and jewelry that matched a luggage style.

Vogue Magazine championed Hagler’s designs and brought him the publicity. Orders flooded in from department stores including Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Hagler jewelry subsequently gained fame in Japan, England, Germany, France, Australia and Switzerland. Celebrities known to have worn Hagler pieces include, in addition to the Duchess of Windsor, Ivana Trump, Barbara Walters, Madeleine Albright, Susan Lucci, and Candice Bergen to name only a few.

Three designers were associated with The Stanley Hagler Jewelry Company: Stanley Hagler from the 1950’s, Mark Mercy from 1979, and Ian St. Gielar from 1989.

The marks from the 1950’s had “Stanley Hagler” printed straight across an oval disc. After ill-health and company downsizing, Hagler retired and moved to Florida in 1993. There he added “N.Y.C” to his mark and it read “Stanley Hagler N.Y.C” on the curve of the oval. Jewelry bearing the tag “Stanley Hagler NYC,” with no periods, was designed by Ian St. Gielar after Hagler’s death in 1996.

The company had been a one-man operation until 1979 when designer Mark Mercy joined the firm. In 1989, Ian St. Gielar (1953 – 2007) was brought on as chief designer and created many pieces.

Hagler and Ian St. Gielar were known for their long friendship even though St. Gielar left the company in 1994. After Hagler died in 1996, the company continued to produce jewelry under the Stanley Hagler name. A Common Law Trademark allowed Mark Mercy to keep the rights to the Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. name.

In 1996, Mercy established M & M Designs Florida and, among other pieces, created tiaras and large custom jewelry. Also in 1996, Ian St. Gielar used his name when he founded his company. Both men continued to design jewelry and used the Stanley Hagler name.

According to his site, Mark Mercy retained all legal rights to use Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. on his jewelry. However in 1999, the site Antiquing Online –The Jewelry Box reported that Ernest Hagler, Stanley’s brother told the following to Lucille Tempesta, co-founder of VFCJ Magazine:

“After Stan’s funeral (June, 1996) in Denver, my wife and I returned to Florida to settle his affairs. The findings were sold to one company, the beads to another. Both buyers were cautioned not to use the name Stanley Hagler in any manner. The few finished pieces we found we kept to distribute to members of the family. Our last act in Florida was to donate his remaining possessions to charity. In our minds this was the final chapter in the life and beautiful work of Stan, and we were content we had achieved closure.

“But we were wrong. In a bizarre twist, two of Stan’s former employees [vied] for the use of his name. The attorney of Mark Mercy wrote to me requesting a non-exclusive licensing agreement for the use of the name Stanley Hagler. My brother and I rejected this. The other ex- employee Ian Gielar [sic] incorporated the name, “Stanley Hagler and Company” without our knowledge or consent. He claims he formed the company to prevent and I quote “parasites and vultures” from copying Stan’s work.”

Tempesta further explained that “Ernest Hagler agreed to come to the VFCJ 1997 convention to tell … members the true story of this situation. It was very difficult for him to do so because of his loss, yet he did to clarify the situation for collectors. The Hagler Company died when Stanley died. There is no new Hagler anything … so claims to have all the original, vintage, component pieces of the Stanley Hagler lines [are false.]”

The company that St. Gielar established in 1996 exists today as, Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. & Co and is also known as, Ian St Gielar Studio. The latter company’s official website states, “Ian continued to create in his Studio, registering the trade mark Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. and adding “Ian St. Gielar” to all his jewelry … Our Studio was founded by Ian St. Gielar in 1996, the year of Stanley Hagler’s passing, and re-registered under current name in 2002. Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. Trademark was legally registered to the Company the same year.

“[St. Gielar’s] favorite apprentice and real successor — Valentina … keeps the Studio running and continues Ian’s legacy by creating more beautiful “Stanley Hagler N.Y.C.” pieces than ever…”

In 2007, St. Gielar was involved in an automobile accident that caused a series of subsequent heart attacks and contributed to his untimely death at age fifty-three. He was mourned by both colleagues and collectors as, “a true artistic treasure … who took costume jewelry to a new level of artistry.

St. Gielar worked with vintage beads and findings to create breathtaking jewelry that advanced Hagler’s muted pearl designs to ones that are colorful, intricate and elaborate. He left behind a legacy of gorgeous jewelry that were worn by Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Fairchild, Melanie Griffith, and others.

St. Gielar’s designs were seen in many fashion shows and also appeared in numerous fashion magazines including Elle, Vogue, Harpers, and Shine. The Corning Museum of Glass includes some St. Gielar designs in its collections.

Survived by his wife Valentina, she continues his work under the name “Ian Gielar Studio,” according to his wishes.

Stanley Hagler marks include an oval disc tag “STANLEY HAGLER” (1950 – 1982), “STANLEY HAGLER N.Y.C.” (1983 to present) and the Ian St. Gielar signature disc tag, “STANLEY HAGLER N.Y.C” which does not include the period after the C in N.Y.C. This can be confusing collectors because it also uses the disc tag “IAN ST. GIELAR” and, on some of the jewelry, contains both disc tags.

No matter who designed it and now sells Stanley Hagler jewelry, it all remains very collectible, scarce on the market and priced accordingly. It should also be noted that some individuals have wrongly used the Hagler name and collectors are advised accordingly.

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