In response to the austerity measures of World War II, Carnegie
designed a dress for home sewers that was published in the April 12, 1943, issue of Life magazine.
Made to order by Carnegie, the dress was said to cost $175, but Life readers could make their
own for as
little as $5.
Postwar, a newly prosperous America was crazed with consumerism,
and a particular taste for whimsy. That's why, during the late '40s and '50s, Austria began
manufacturing glass fruit pins almost exclusively for export to the U.S. These little brooches
, made of glass that was molded or carved into the shapes of strawberries, pears, cherries, or
bunches of grapes, came in vivid colors like scarlet, violet, tangerine, amber, cobalt, and
One of her more popular jewelry collections is the Oriental line,
inspired by Far Eastern and Indian motifs. This includes elaborate metal human figures detailed
with tiny rhinestone and faux pearls that can stand up of their own, as well as things like a
figural elephant carrying a howdah and a snuff-bottle pendant.
Carnegie's specialty was "the little Carnegie suit". In 1950, she
was invited to apply her design sense to the Women's Army Corps (WAC) uniform. This was adopted
for wear on New Year's Day 1951. On June 1, 1952, Carnegie received the Congressional Medal of
Freedom for the WAC uniform design and for her many other charitable and patriotic contributions.
The WAC design was so timelessly elegant that it was still in use for women's U.S. Army uniforms
Other collected Carnegie designs include the animals in her menagerie
of stylized brooches, which took inspirations from the African art that influenced Paris fashion
in the 1930s. These figures, produced well into the 1950s, were made of Lucite in bold colors like
red-orange, emerald green, ivory, and turquoise blue, and were trimmed with rhinestones, colored
beads, and gilt metal. Collectors covet the fish and long-horned goats, but the anteater is the
most prized of all.
Some of Carnegie's top jewelry designers included Kenneth Jay Lane,
her protege Norman Norell, and Nadine Effront, a French sculptor and onetime student of George
Braques. Years after Carnegie's death in 1963, Effront designed a popular Greek-themed collection
for Hattie Carnegie jewelry, using atypical materials such as terra cotta, tortoise, and hammered
gold. Other designers working for Hattie Carnegie include Norman Norell, Peggy Tregere, and Claire
Mc Cardell. Mark: "HC" or "HAC" in a diamond or "Carnegie", or "Hattie Carnegie".
Lane, meanwhile, served as the creative director at Hattie Carnegie
jewelry before he struck out own his own in the '60s with a wildly popular line of giant plastic
earrings adorned with rhinestones. His creations were eventually worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey
Hepburn, Barbara Bush, and Nan Kempner.
Carnegie jewelry, whether animal-inspired or abstract, is noted for
its attention to detail and creativity. For example, a gilt-metal apple has a tiny slice cut out.
The jewelry line also has a traditional, romantic side, with necklaces and bracelets made of
double- and triple-strand crystal, glass, and rhinestone beads, graceful chokers with trailing chains,
and large brooches with giant shimmering stones in rich colors.
Carnegie died in 1956, so the Hattie Carnegie jewelry that was
designed before then, under her direction and requiring her approval, is most valued by collectors.
These items, usually ranked highly in costume jewelry guides, are worth collecting, even if they
are damaged or are missing rhinestones.
The most common mark features "Hattie Carnegie" in script on a
cartouche, so jewelry marked in this way is less valuable than, say, pieces marked with the letters
"HC" a diamond in an oval frame—that 1930s mark is rarely found. Pieces may also be marked just
"Carnegie," while those with "Hattie Carnegie" in an oval hang tag are from the 1970s.
By the time of her death  Carnegie had established an $8
million business. Larry Josephs took over the Hattie Carnegie firm in the late 1960s, and in 1976,
the company was acquired by Chromology American Corporation. The Hattie Carnegie brand was still
being used in the late 1970s, particularly on designer lines like Yves Saint Laurent for Carnegie
(1978), Anne Klein for Carnegie (1979), and Valentino for Hattie Carnegie (1979).
Many sources were used in compiling the most Detailed History I could
put together of Hattie Carnegie [Henrietta Kanengeiser]. I feel her life was fascinating. As an
immigrant dreaming of a better future, she was ambitious and goal-driven. She was dedicated in her
pursuit to succeed with total focus and resolve.
Carnegie was not alone in her bravery to venture out into this male
dominated world. Miriam Haskell and Coco Chanel were pioneers in a world where the designers, owners,
staff and salesmen were men...overwhelmingly a man's world. I suppose I am a bit biased where the
Carnegie pieces are concerned and I am an avid collector. I hope you all enjoy reading the words
of those who have given great homage to a great lady. I know I appreciate their hard work and the
challenges which go along with doing this type of research.
Collectors Weekly: Vintage Hattie Carnegie Jewelry — Overview: [https://www.collectorsweekly.com/costume-jewelry/hattie-carnegie]: [Date Unknown]
Wikipedia: Hattie Carnegie Jewelry — Overview: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hattie_Carnegie]: [last edited on 24 August 2019]
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