In the 1970s, when the then-21-year-old designer Michael Riehl was working on the new version of his iconic necklace, he made a bet with his girlfriend, who was an assistant.
“She thought, ‘Oh, I bet you $50 that this necklace will be worth $100’,” recalls Riehls son, Mike.
“So I thought I would give it to her, and she thought, Oh, it’s $50 and she’ll pay me.”
“I bet her $50, she’ll give me $100,” he recalls her saying.
“And that was the end of it.
It was like a game.”
The bet was so good that he took a $1 million gamble on it.
And then he sold it.
Today, the necklace is worth $5 million.
The jewellery maker, Riehr, whose name is synonymous with American-made jewellery, says that’s just a fraction of the more than $40 million he’s made from his work.
In 2013, he gave away the necklace to a woman named Maria Siegel, who gave it to him after he died.
“When I got it, I said, ‘This is my necklace,'” he says.
Maria Sinker’s daughter, Marissa, who is now 39 and lives in the US, was a child of immigrants from Brazil and Brazilians. “
Then I told her, ‘Maria, you’ll have to take it to the museum.'”
Maria Sinker’s daughter, Marissa, who is now 39 and lives in the US, was a child of immigrants from Brazil and Brazilians.
Her father worked in a plastics factory in New York, but was also a carpenter and the grandfather of her two children, who both now work as engineers in Silicon Valley.
“He was a really good-looking guy,” says Marissa.
“Very good-dressed, he was always talking about his job and what he was doing.
He was a very nice guy.”
When Maria Sinks daughter met Riehn, the couple made plans to meet at the New York Art Institute, where they planned to spend several days.
It’s where the necklace was made.
But Maria Sinkle was too nervous to meet Riehm, who worked in his studio.
“At the time, I didn’t know that this is a really rare piece of glass,” she says.
She thought she would be going in there alone and would not be able to speak with him.
When they finally met, Rieshn took the necklace with him to New York.
He showed it to Siegel and she was stunned.
“It was just beautiful,” she recalls.
“His jaw was just as big as mine.”
“My dad had this really strong sense of humour, a very high sense of his own identity,” says Siegel.
“You could just see the pride in his eyes.”
Maria Silel and her daughter, Maria Suckers, are both engineers in the tech industry.
In 2003, Siegel’s daughter took her dad to see Riehs work.
“My father was a master of what he wanted,” says Maria Selle.
“This necklace, it was a masterpiece.”
Maria’s daughter then moved her parents to California, where her father, a car mechanic, was in the process of selling his business.
She was so moved by the work that she eventually moved to New Jersey.
“What I love about Michael Rieshl is he was able to find an idea and say, ‘I’m going to sell it,'” says Maria.
“The thing that he really liked was the idea of the jewellery as an instrument of expression and of communication.
He had this idea that a necklace is an expression of yourself, that the jewellers had the ability to do that.”
The necklace was bought by Riell, who sold it to an American collector, who in 2005 sold it for $100,000 to a collector who gave the piece to Maria.
In the 1980s, the designer was inspired by the jeweller’s daughter and his interest in the jewelers’ ability to express themselves through their work.
He began making jewellery using materials sourced from the old industrial workshops, where he spent his days.
“Michael Riehhls work on the necklace began with a very simple idea: make a piece that had an aesthetic appeal,” says Riehoff.
“As we went through the processes of making the necklace, Michael Rierhs thought about the beauty and the complexity of the work.”
Rieheim, who spent years honing his craft, wanted his work to reflect the way people interact with each other.
He also wanted to make something that people would recognise as a piece from the past.
“If you have something that’s going to be in the same room as someone else for five years, I want to see it again,” he says of the idea to make the necklace.