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Jolie Gabor Jewels
Jolie Gabor was born in Budapest in 1894 as Jancsi Tilleman, to Francesca and Joseph Tilleman,her father was educated but penniless and her mother was from a moderately wealthy family in Vienna , they owned a chain of jewelry stores and a little property. An uncle suggested to her parents that they open a jewelry store in Budapest similar to the stores in Vienna, with the uncles help Jolie’s mother opened “The Diamond House” where a fortune was made with a clever idea, since at this time there were no cultured pearls only very expensive natural pearls, why not make very good imitation pearls to look like the real thing, so they started producing strands of faux pearls with gold, diamond, and gem stone clasps, soon the Tilleman family of Budapest was much wealthier than the family in Vienna as the jewelry was a success. During this time Budapest was a chic, thriving city, before WWII they had 8 jewelry stores across Europe, Jolie eventually took over the business and after her divorce from her first husband, Vilmos Gabor, business was very good. When the Nazis occupied Budapest in March of 1944, Jolie had to flee in the middle of the night with a few clothes and a small trunk with $200,000 worth of diamond jewelry, her homes, business and fortune was lost. Zsa Zsa and Eva were already in America starting their movie and marriage careers, daughter Magda had stayed in Budapest and worked with the “under ground” smuggling wounded soldiers out of the country, when the Nazis discovered this the Gabor family were listed as traitors, Magda eventually ended up working for the Portuguese embassy in Hungary, it was Magda’s connections that got Jolie out of Hungary and to Portugal via Switzerland, by the time Jolie arrived in Portugal her jewels were gone as they had been used as bribes and stolen. On Dec.1,1945 Jolie boarded a very old steamer ship and headed to America, on Dec.31 she arrived with Zsa Zsa and Eva waiting at the dock, she only had $100.00. Jolie remembered that her two daughters sparkled like Christmas trees with all the diamond jewelry they were wearing. Zsa Zsa was married to Conrad Hilton.
           Soon after she had arrived, Jolie found a tiny shop at 699 Madison Ave, her rent was $126.00 a month. With money from Zsa Zsa, Jolie bought six dozen black-a-moor pins and sword pins having read that costume jewelry was all the rage, sales were not that good and Jolie closed shop to take a vacation to California to visit her daughters, when she returned to New York City, as luck would have it an old business acquaintance from Italy passed her shop and recognized her, he was still in the jewelry business and put $50,000 worth of pearls with her on consignment, with this she began producing elaborate necklaces and bracelets, she was back in business! Her pearl boutique eventually became a jewelry store when she acquired the hat shop that was next door and she expanded, she then started to sell “replica” jewelry that she designed herself for the most part based on the Hungarian crown jewels, she knew the resources in Europe for the best faux stones and manufacturers. With such famous daughters her business was incredibly successful; she had a town house in Manhattan and an estate in Ridgefield ,CT. She enjoyed being at her store and always was happy to sign an autograph, she wrote a cook book in 1962 and her autobiography in 1975, when she wrote her autobiography she was semi-retired from the jewelry business,around 1984 Jolie sold her business to Madeleine Herling her had her own line of jewelry,"Countess Madeleine" but still used the Jolie Gabor designs. Jolie Gabor/Countess M. jewelry was sold on QVC during its first year on television which would have been in 1986 in limited quantities. The jewelry is signed in script “Jolie Gabor” and is sterling silver, sometimes vermeil, I have seen 18k gold and diamond jewelry signed Jolie Gabor, but very few pieces, with the “replica” jewelry it is almost always found in the original boxes, it was very expensive when new. I have found that dating the jewelry by style is most accurate; her older pieces seem to come in maroon velvet boxes. Most pieces have a 1960s cocktail jewelry look to them, very swanky. Jolie died on April 1, 1997 in Palm Springs . Having a collection of over 60 pieces I have seen very similar pieces being worn by her daughters in various photos from the 1960s, makes you wonder how much of the jewelry worn by the “Budapest Bombshells” was actually from Jolie’s shop, the jewelry is so good that no one would ever know if it was not the real thing. Enjoy the photos and special thanks to;
Anthony Turtu & Donald Reuter- "Gaborabilia"
Jolie Gabor and Cindy Adams - "Jolie Gabor as told to Cindy Adams"
Date(s): October 18, 2006. Album by Daniel Day. 1 - 18 of 41 Total. 0 Visits.
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