Jewelry makers go faux Jackie O Fashion: The style-setting first lady of the '60s is having a major impact on the accessories of today.


Oh, Jackie -- she's still starting trends.

After the frenzy of the April auction of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' estate, it's no surprise that the major accessories trend right now is Jackie O jewelry. Major costume jewelry designers who saw their pieces fetch astronomical prices are reissuing them, and they've got plenty of company.

Kenneth Jay Lane, a friend of the former first lady who saw close to 50 pieces of his costume jewelry sell for four- to six-figure sums in the sale, is putting most of them back into production.

Carolee Friedlander, whose Carolee costume jewelry line gained national prominence a decade ago when she reproduced the auctioned jewels of the late Duchess of Windsor, paid $83,000 at the auction for a 60-inch strand of glass pearls and clip earrings with pave crystal leaf design. These are the centerpieces of her new 17-item "Pearls inspired by the style of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis" collection.

Isaac Manevitz is reproducing the Ben-Amun 24-karat gold-plated "gypsy cuffs" that were in the auction but not credited to him.

And it seems everyone is reproducing the three-strand pearl necklace Onassis wore in the famous photo of her playing with her son John while in the White House. The Franklin Mint, which paid $211,500 for it at the auction, is selling its reproduction for $195; Friedlander's version is $150; Erwin Pearl has one for $110; and Lane, who designed the original ones she wore, is replicating them for $125.

The explosion of Jackie O jewelry and the attention it's getting "is having an impact," says Jeff Prine, senior editor of Accessories magazine. "The last couple of years, jewelry has been minimal or non-existent. The Jackie O look is very based on fashion jewelry. The ordinary American woman who is not necessarily a fashion customer is thinking about jewelry again and how you can change your looks with jewelry."

Lane says he thinks Onassis "would have been amused" by the fuss and the prices her jewelry brought at auction, adding, "I spoke to Nancy Tuckerman, one of her best friends and a confidante, and she felt the same way, really."

Lane wrote a short essay in the auction catalog about Onassis asking him to reproduce a Van Cleef & Arpels necklace of rubies, diamonds, emeralds and sapphires for her in faux stones. He did it in exchange for the right to sell copies in his collection, although the connection was never publicly acknowledged while she was alive. In his essay, he wrote, "One day Jackie said to me in her wonderful whisper, 'Kenny, I saw our necklace again on 'Dynasty.' "

The attention to Onassis' jewelry led many designers to launch Jackie O collections.

Regina Manevitz, the wife of Ben-Amun designer Isaac Manevitz, says they didn't realize Onassis owned their "gypsy" cuffs or that they were in the auction until a customer called. She remembers a private shopper who said Onassis was a client, but Manevitz never knew for sure.

The cuffs, in plated 24-karat gold with various sizes of gold balls, sold for $150 each in 1988 and brought $200,000 for a pair at the auction. Now the Manevitzes are reissuing the cuffs, expected to sell for $160 to $200 each.

While designers acknowledge that the prices paid were disproportionate to actual value, they say they do understand the appeal of owning something that belonged to one of this century's icons, or even a copy of it.

"I've worn the pearl necklace I bought a few times, and it's quite wonderful," says Friedlander, who is taking the necklace along with her on tour around the country. "I know it was hers, and there's something touching.

"Fashion is very aspiring, and we all tend to gravitate toward women whose images, looks and how they put themselves together are how we want to look. That's what drives fashion: to look like someone we admire," Friedlander says. "It could be your mother, a friend in the office or a celebrity. Those who are able to carry off fashion well are the people we want to look like. Jackie had a sense of style and lots of women would like to emulate that."

Lane, who has profited figuratively and literally from a clientele that has included Onassis, the Duchess of Windsor and Barbara Bush, says, "I think people like to associate with an icon. Barbara Bush is a different kind of icon from Jackie, but people admired Barbara Bush very much, and her pearls were a big seller. I did all her pearls. Something of that ilk puts a stamp of approval on it."

Pub Date: 10/24/96

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