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Female Jewellery Designers who Pavéd the Way: Marianne Ostier (1902-1976)

Marianne Ostier
Marianne Ostier. Image: Macklowe Gallery

Already an accomplished painter and sculptor who attended the Vienna Academy of Arts and Crafts (now the University of Applied Arts Vienna), Marianne Ostier brought her unique eye to the jewellery industry when she and her husband Oliver immigrated to the United States in 1941 and opened up shop in Manhattan’s diamond district.

Their jewellery business, Ostier Inc., became known for leading the way with their free-form, modern wearable art and counted many royals, celebrities and wealthy families as satisfied clients including the J.C. Penney family, and actresses Ingrid Bergman and Marlene Dietrich.

Inspired by traditional flower shapes and the natural world as well as more abstract design concepts, Marianne’s favourite metals to use were platinum and palladium. While some of her pieces feature colourful gemstones like amethyst, emerald, sapphire, and turquoise, she most frequently incorporated diamonds and pearls into her pieces.

Fan favourites include her “galaxy” (or “pincushion”) line of brooches and earrings that reflect the early days of space-age, modernist design:

Marianne Ostier Galaxy BroochMarianne Ostier "Galaxy" Brooch, diamond and platinum circa 1955. Sold for $250,000 USD at Sotheby's in 2016. Image: Sotheby's

Another design of note is the line of uniquely glamorous ear cuffs that not only won Marianne one of her five De Beers’ Diamond Awards, but have also stood the test of time as a modern-day fashion trend:

Marianne Ostier EarclipsMarianne Ostier's earclips mentioned in an unknown publication, circa 1950. Image: Macklowe Gallery

Marianne Ostier Earclips
Another example of Ostier's fabulous earclip designs, circa 1950. Sold at auction in 2008 for $43,000 USD. Image: Sotheby's


Speaking of awards, many online sources say that not only did Marianne win multiple awards for innovation and excellence in design, but she was also the first person to ever be elected a lifetime member of the Diamonds International Academy! 

Our favourite concept, however, is the “skin brooch” that Marianne debuted herself in 1950 when she attended a horse show. Through a combination of suction and a secret adhesive formula invented by Ostier Inc., her unique line of “gems appliqué” earrings, rings, and brooches could be worn on the skin comfortably and securely for many hours!

Skin Pins in Life Magazine
Marianne Ostier mentioned in an article on "skin pins" in Life Magazine, 1951. Image: Google Books


As the 1950s came to an end, Marianne also published an inspiring book called Jewels and the Woman: The Romance, Magic and Art of Feminine Adornment. The work features historical information, art criticism and personal essays, as well as helpful recommendations about which jewels might work best for the reader’s face, body shape, and skin tone.

Jewels and the Woman, Marianne Ostier
A worn copy of the now hard-to-find book by Marianne Ostier. Image: Amazon


While Marianne was the driving force behind Ostier Inc.’s distinct bespoke design, it was her husband Oliver who helped behind the scenes with administrative duties such as international client relations and managing craftspeople and other staff. Together for 37 years, the couple were an industry powerhouse built on mutual awe and respect. After Oliver’s death in 1967, Marianne decided not to continue the business and instead focus on spending more time with family. She officially closed Ostier Inc. in 1969, auctioning off her remaining 400 lots of jewellery with Sotheby’s.

Skyjems would love nothing more than to make your custom jewellery dreams a reality! Contact us today to learn more about unique designs like this gorgeous GIA-certified 1.32 ct Blue-Green to Purple Alexandrite Diamond Cocktail Ring set in 18kt White and Yellow Gold:


1.32 ct Alexandrite Diamond Cocktail Ring set in 18k White and Yellow Gold, GIA Certified Blue-Green to Purple

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