Paul Flato was Born in 1900 in Flatonia, Texas. Flato opened his own jewelry shop at 1 East Fifty-Seventh Street in New York City in the late 1920s (see 1939 ads) several years before Tiffany & Co. relocated to their current address just across the street. His design-oriented style, often bordering on the humorous, reached its peak in the 1930s.
In 1937, Flato opened a branch on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills, which was frequented by such luminaries as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Merle Oberon and Marlene Dietrich. Cole Porter commissioned Flato to design numerous luxury items for his wife, Linda. Paul Flato's is also known for his etched gold "envelope cases" for calling cards, combs, and folding watches.
His store closed in Los Angeles during WW2 and after the war Flato designed his own moderately priced costume jeweled compact business for the growing middle class. His fun playful designed compacts are often found listed on ebay. Flato later opened a shop in Mexico City in the fashionable Zona Rosa district in 1970. He spent his last years in Dallas, Texas, where he passed away in July 1999 at age 98.
Flato's one of a kind items are often found at Christie's and Sotheby's jewelry auctions where a diamond rose brooch recently sold for $105,000 (see photo) and a pair of jeweled feather brooches from his New York store ad sold for $43,000 (see photo). His nuts and bolts cufflinks (see photo) are featured in the Masterpieces of American Jewelry exhibit.
For lighter collectors, Flato designed one magnificent lighter compendium which has pull out lighter, compact, cigarette case, and concealed watch (see photos and patents). The Flato sterling silver compendium also comes with jeweled designs and is truly a work of art.
Photos by Larry Tolkin