Jeweler to the Stars
American Creative Genius
Paul Flato was an all American creative genius and Hollywood’s most famous celebrity jeweler. His highly original and imaginative work equaled or excelled the revered famous European jewelers. Flato had several brilliant designers working for him, including George Headley, Verdura, Adolf Kleaty, Kenneth Brown , Robert Bruce and others. However, the ideas for the striking jewels and their evolution were his alone.
Flato was born in 1900 in Flatonia, Texas, a town named after his great-grandfather. Watching the nearby gypsies making jewels fueled his passion for jewelry even at the young age of 10. Fast forward 18 years later, Flato opened up an upstairs jewelry salon at One East 57th Street in New York City. Enormouosly successful, Flato was Harry Winston’s most important customer when Winston was a wholesale dealer.
Flato was clearly a star in his own right and was fascinated by Hollywood.
By 1938, he had opened a Los Angeles branch on Sunset Blvd. Always ambitious, his success was unprecedented. The name Flato was in more movie credits than any other jeweler of his time and possibly to the present time. Flato designed fabulous jewelry for 6 films including “Holiday” (1938) with Katherine Hepburn, “Two Faced Woman” with Greta Garbo, “The Lady is Willing,” “Blood and Sand,” “That Uncertain Feeling,” and “Hired Wife,” in which he portrayed himself-Paul Flato the famous Celebrity Jeweler.
Flato’s jewels adorned the Who’s Who of the Rich and Famous including Doris Duke, Linda and Cole Porter, Gloria Vanderbilt, Dukes and Duchesses and wives of such Hollywood legends as Jack Warner. The celebrity list is endless, but includes Merle Oberon,Mae West, Lily Pons, Fanny Brice, Paulette Goddard, Katherine Hepburn, Jean Howard, Norma Shearer, Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers, Joan Bennett, Carmen Miranda, Irene Castle and so many other beautiful ladies of the screen.
Flato’s major diamond pieces were legendary and important. In Flato’s world, a rose became a rambling bracelet of articulating leaves twined around the wrist on a baguette-cut diamond stem. Many of these pieces are so difficult to make that even their fabrication was a great accomplishment. They were often made “to order,” guaranteeing both a perfect fit and a design customized to individually suit his demanding clients.
Flato is also known for his whimsical jewelry, which is still popular today.
As meteoric as his rise to stardom was, his downfall was just as rapid. Several unfortunate business transactions resulted in a bankruptcy and a prison sentence. Even a stint (or two) at the infamous Sing Sing prison couldn’t break Paul Flato’s spirit. His last adventure as a jeweler was in Mexico City in the Zona Rosa district where he was quite successful, although on a much smaller scale.
At age 85, he was prospering in the Zona Rosa when an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico City. His wonderful family worried for his welfare so, at the age of 90, he returned to his home in Texas.
Flato died in 1999 at age 98.