Monday, September 10, 2007

Jewelry Designer Marilyn F. Cooperman

Mushroom Bracelet.
By James de Vries

I was recently asked by a jewelry historian friend if I would like to join her and Marilyn F. Cooperman for dinner. We had met briefly at Fred Leighton's and in Palm Beach, but I had never spent enough time with Marilyn to get to know the personality of this sought after jewelry designer.

Marilyn resembles a very spunky looking pageboy. Her hair is short, very straight but has a side bob that sends a message. Her persona is one large message. My first experience of this was, when being told that our table would be not be ready for 25 minutes, she regally thundered ''Out Of The Question'' followed by an instruction for us to leave and dine elsewhere.

I'm not one that is usually left either breathless or speechless but La Cooperman managed to accomplish just that. She is not a prima donna, but I suspect that her Anglo/Celt background gives short shrift to such nonsense as having to wait to be seated. She is also an accomplished gourmand and that was clearly evident from the restaurant we ended up at. Did you know that if the Kir Royale you order is not served a brilliant red, that means the Cassis has extended its shelf life? Marilyn knows.

Marilyn F. Cooperman has many other accomplishments, too numerous and all too positive to mention all here. Toronto born, she moved to New Zealand at an early age and woke up that sleepy British outpost shortly thereafter to become its own Diana Vreeland.

Having shook up the Maoris, green mountains, and sheep, she left and whirlwinded herself to Greenwich Village in 1963 where she went to work designing Mexican inspired resort wear for Fred Leighton. In those days, Mr Leighton of Greenwich Village had not even thought about glitter let alone Madison Avenue. His boutique was a well known for Mexican wedding dresses and flowers.

Having accomplished the Village makeover and a successful stint on 7th Avenue, Marilyn was then overcome by another creative streak, and she became Vogue Patterns Editor-in-Chief for many astoundingly creative years. They say she can cut a piece of fabric and turn it into a couture pattern faster than you and I could thread a needle. Not only was Vogue aware of her feminine artistic talents, but Fred Leighton, now Fred Leighton Estate Jewels on Madison Avenue and 66th Street, reached out to Marilyn in 1987, asking her to create modern jewels to appeal to the Leighton client.
Clockwise from top left: Magic Carpet; Jody Necklace, Autumn Combo; White Sapphire Hoop Earrings.
Leighton recognized that Marilyn could adapt her talents to designing and making jewelry that would ultimately be bought by Ariane Dandois, Jayne Wrightsman and Princess Firyal of Jordan as well as many other familiar names. She soon proved that a woman could design and make serious wearable jewels for the smart woman. This was about real jewelry, not some beads tied onto a string attached to a cheap toggle or stone chips earrings worked onto a fuse wire that make you look as if your earlobes needed a dermatologist.

Without any jewelry background, Marilyn dove into the deep end of the professional jewelry schools with an iron determination and learned her craft in record time with the help of the masters who recognized her talents. I firmly believe that jewelry is in either in your blood or psyche. It's not a skill that you learn in a recipe book. Over the last twenty years, I have seen a glut of qualified gemologists who really are just by-the-book mineralogists who can recite weights, measures and granular composition.

Opal Sunburst Lapel Pin.
Mme. Recamier Earrings.
Marilyn F. Cooperman transformed her knowledge into the making of stone set precious metal jewels that express her sense of what a woman can attach to her body. Her jewelry is a transformation of rich French silk brocades, period Dior creamy satin evening gowns, exotic fruits and plants. The combination is alluring. The desire to possess is extremely tempting to the woman of taste. Her use of soft opals, warm spinels, sharp bitter tsavorites and her favorite -- different shades of dreamy blue sapphires all mounted in separate hues of gold and patinated silver – have never been seen before in modern feminine jewels.

The jewels are aptly named such as: “Mme Recamier,” insinuating draped semi-nudity. My favorite, “Mushroom Bracelet,” a golden woodsy patch of opal mushrooms sprouting in green Tsavorite grass. “Magic Carpet” chandelier earrings of brilliant white rose cut diamonds with a hint of glamour and romance. This is the work of a woman for the woman. I showed Marilyn's website to my friend Lucienne von Doz as I was writing this article yesterday. As the pages turned, Lucienne, who dresses only in Ralph Rucci, repeated as each page turned ''beautiful, absolutely beautiful''.

Marilyn works as you would imagine a Renaissance artist would, slowly visualizing a masterpiece on canvas coming to eternal life. Starting with her own hand painted renderings reflecting the stones that she wants to add, the jewel is transformed by Marilyn through each process. This is a very rare craft today in the world of haute bijoux, but what you would expect from an artist and editor who treats her jewelry as a couture pattern.

Today, Marilyn works on private commissions for individuals and collectors. Working in her private studio, she is always delighted to not only show her current collection but advise and work on new creations. Marilyn F. Cooperman may be reached at 212.921.2668 and through her beautiful website at