Helena Rubinstein: Transforming the Face of Style and Beauty
There are two traits no one would dispute about the diminutive polish-born Helena Rubinstein; her largeness of character and eclectic style. She did not just push against the what it meant to be a woman, but what it meant to be a woman living in a man’s world. Rubinstein took female beauty, at the time solely judged by men, and gave the keys to women. She helped women to take one of the first steps into independence. What she lacked in size, she made up in spirit, clothes and large colorful jewelry pieces. Often called “Madame”, her energy spilled out and touched every aspect of her enterprises, making them flourish, just as she did in the face of hardship. Her savvy business sense and whole-hearted approach to life made her one of the world’s most wealthy, influential and recognizable women of her time.
Inspired by Indian beauties and their spectacular jeweled pieces with large bright cabochons and pearls. One of her favorite statement pieces were necklaces made with multiple strings of large pearls that she used to contrast her often severe clothing. Helena did not so much focus on cost or rarity of the jewelry she bought, as much as color and style. By 1940, her collection of jewelry was so extensive and recognizable, that it was valued at one million dollars, 16.7 million by today’s dollar. Her collection consisted of only pieces she truly loved, some worn previously by Catherine the Great and some bought at little stands for mere dollars. She did not allow fashion to define her, but used her own persona and vision to redefine beauty and fashion. Madame Rubinstein prefered the bright primary colours of rubies, emeralds, sapphires and topazes, to the more popular colorless diamond. Her single most expensive item was a oversized, 70 carat Sapphire ring and valued at over 33,000 dollars. This was in the same collection as a most unusual ring resembling a diamond-encrusted starfish wrapping its tentacles around the wearer’s fingers, valued at 3,200 dollars. Rubinstein’s collection was not amazing because of the price of the pieces, but the originality and imagination behind each piece. Each collectable had to speak as loudly as its wearer.