Judith Lieber, the designer and creator of iconic bejeweled minaudieres, died this week at age 97. Although she also worked in exotics skins and fabrics, she will be forever remembered for her whimsical, colorful, glittering purses that were just large enough to hold a lipstick, tissue and compact. ( I don't know how many of today's mobile phones or supersized car fobs would fit inside -- if any.)
I recall attending galas in the '80s and '90s and sometimes seeing one of her little beauties perched at a placesetting. If the lucky owner was at my table, I always asked to admire her Judith Lieber. Beautifully constructed, the tiny structures were covered in crystals, yet had completely smooth surfaces as not to nag the silk chiffon or charmeuse against which they might brush. And the clasps always closed with a satisfying, deep "click." Besides being functional jewelry that one carried, they were works of art.
But the best part of a Judith Lieber minaudiere was the whimsy. Her snoozing kitty was curvy and cute, just begging to be stroked. I remember a darling frog from another evening. Each was special and fun. Her work brought great joy to those who were fortunate enough to possess it.
I know Judith was Jewish, but I hope she's enjoying herself somewhere right now, at a wonderful black-tie party, holding one of her favorite pieces. She died only hours after her husband of 72 years, Garson Lieber, passed away.