Property from the Estate of James Galanos

John Galanos with a model in 1961.

Rago is delighted to offer property from the estate of American fashion designer and couturier James Galanos (1924 - 2016) who dressed America’s elite for decades, perhaps most notably Nancy Reagan. Over the course of his long career he was the recipient of many accolades including several Coty Awards, a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and a bronze plaque on Seventh Avenue’s Fashion Walk of Fame. The Los Angeles Museum of Art held a retrospective of his work in 1997 and, after his retirement the following year, he stated: “The most important thing I have done is to maintain what I started out to do. I never deviated from what was most important, which was quality.”

Old Hollywood Glamour

William Ruser's jewelry was featured heavily in the 1948 Hollywood film Sorry, Wrong Number, for which his firm received a screen credit. His jewels were also favored by Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner and Loretta Young, and Frank Sinatra proposed to Mia Farrow in 1966 with a 9-carat pear shape diamond and platinum engagement ring from Ruser.

Barbara Stanwyck wearing jewels by William Ruser in the 1948 film Sorry, Wrong Number

William Ruser

Born in Philadelphia, William Ruser began his jewelry career at the Atlantic City branch of Trabert & Hoeffer – Mauboussin when he was just 17 years old. By the 1930s he became the manager of their Los Angeles branch and, around the same time, happened to acquire a large collection of freshwater pearls from a button manufacturer in Mississippi which would play a large role in his future success. After serving in WWII, Ruser decided it was time to open his own business; he and his wife set up shop in 1947 on glamorous Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills and swiftly built a loyal clientele, among them some of the biggest stars of the day including Joan Crawford and Marlene Deitrich. He made stunning jewels featuring diamonds and other gemstones, some of which were featured in the 1948 movie Sorry, Wrong Number starring the actress Barbara Stanwyck.

In the late 1940s, Ruser began to utilize the pearls he had acquired over a decade prior, designing what would become a huge collection of pearl-set jewels. Pearls had fallen somewhat out of fashion after the Art Nouveau period, but Ruser’s whimsical, beautifully crafted, unique creations helped to change this and–along with other makers such as Verdura and Seaman Schepps–ushered in a new era of pearl-encrusted jewelry. Ruser enhanced their irregular shapes and uneven textures with gold and gems in a variety of subject matter from animals and flowers to cherubs and figures.

Ruser enjoyed great success for over twenty years before retiring in 1969 and selling his business to Van Cleef & Arpels. His jewels maintain a devoted following and continue to be highly regarded and collectible today.

Auction Results William Ruser