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Crystallised: Judith Leiber Handbags

Updated on May 25, 2012

The success of Excess

Judith Leiber- She make the world's glitziest evening bags! She created her earliest handbags from the cord binding found beneath old chairs in her mother's living room in pre-war Budapest.

Forced to improvise during the nazi occupation, young Judith Leiber honed her skills in hard times. And YES, that owl on the left is a bag! Believe it or not..

"The evening bag you choose makes a statement, but there's nothing more telling about your personality than a peek at the goods inside."

-Christine Lennon, Harper's Bazaar

"Why not?"

- Judith Leiber's two word design philosophy

Judith Leiber's early bags were feminine and sleek, and have an infusion of modernist art: a little white lunch box studded with nail heads, a brown box bag with a dainty watch in the shape of a crescent moon. All of her bags displayed the hallmarks of long hours spent in European museums and her early gold training.

Accomplished but eclectic, Leiber found her hallmark "look" by accident. Although she set out to design a round- bottomed, solid metallic evening bag in the shape of a medieval coin purse, her first prototype came back imperfect!

To cover a patch of botched gold plating, leiber scattered rhinestones across the bag's base. The result was the first Judith Leiber metal bag!

RED DELICIOUS
RED DELICIOUS

The growth of her brand

Influenced by the love of everything exotic, Leiber built a menagerie of bag shapes, each one with it's own technical complications. There evolved collections of animals, flowers, and box bags, each one more complex than the other. Each one was hand- studded with up to 7,000 individual Swarovski crystals. Holding a crystal-coated piglet, with black onyx nostrils in one hand, the designer smiles and declares "I have made crazy bags, some not that crazy, some medium crazy. You have to have some that are kid of kooky."

Leiber's sculpted polar bears and encrusted money bags became 80's icons. The gap between decorative art objects and fashion accessories was slowly getting bridged. The minaudière reestablished the expensive statement bag in American fashion and made place for luxury with humor.

Twenty years later, the minaudière has enjoyed massive revival since the millennium. Judith Leiber's belief that a lady only needs to carry a lipstick, a handkerchief, and a hundred-dollar bill is expressed in her jewel-like bags that serve as an antidote to the schlep, an abnegation of responsibility at it's most glamorous.

Certain socialites in Texas line up their Leiber bags as center-pieces for gala dinner parties!!

Some of her best crystal bags - Check out these absolutely gorgeous bags by Judith Leiber

Click thumbnail to view full-size
BLUE BOWSPrice: $6,995Limited edition, triple tiered wedding cake minaudière with enamel bow accents, top snap closure and 19" chain. Perfect bag for your bedding day!BOTSWANAPrice: $4,995Hand beaded crystal minaudière featuring a traditional zebra pattern and onyx eye detailing. Side snap closure and 19" chain.AUBERGINEPrice: $3,995Eggplant minaudière in vibrant purple velvet and dark indigo hues. 19" chain option, top snap closure.FIELD FLOWERSPrice: $2,995Curved minaudière featuring a dynamic silhouetted floral design against a field of silver. 19" chain.HABIBIPrice: $5,995With carpet-inspired detailing, the Genie Lamp minaudière is decorated in tiger’s eye and semiprecious stone mixed with multi sized crystals.RAJAVONGPrice: $4,395Seated Buddha minaudière in burgundy, indigo and plum crystal. 19" chain, top snap closure.POLAR BEARPrice: $3,995 at Judithleiber This is a seated polar bear, which has onyx eyes. It also has sculpted paws, ears and a muzzle. The closure is a push down snap. It also includes a tuck in chain.TAYLORPrice: $4,495Maltese dog minaudière with top snap closure and 19" chain.GANESHPrice: $5,595For those of you that want something that is exquisitely crafted, I know you will like this. It has been fully beaded with Austrian crystal. It has been accented by black onyx and carnelian. It will be beautifully boxed with a sTHEODOREPrice: $4,695Teddy Bear minaudière. Top snap closure, sculpted arm, leg and face detailing.Also available- Panda
BLUE BOWSPrice: $6,995Limited edition, triple tiered wedding cake minaudière with enamel bow accents, top snap closure and 19" chain. Perfect bag for your bedding day!
BLUE BOWS Price: $6,995 Limited edition, triple tiered wedding cake minaudière with enamel bow accents, top snap closure and 19" chain. Perfect bag for your bedding day!
BOTSWANAPrice: $4,995Hand beaded crystal minaudière featuring a traditional zebra pattern and onyx eye detailing. Side snap closure and 19" chain.
BOTSWANA Price: $4,995 Hand beaded crystal minaudière featuring a traditional zebra pattern and onyx eye detailing. Side snap closure and 19" chain.
AUBERGINEPrice: $3,995Eggplant minaudière in vibrant purple velvet and dark indigo hues. 19" chain option, top snap closure.
AUBERGINE Price: $3,995 Eggplant minaudière in vibrant purple velvet and dark indigo hues. 19" chain option, top snap closure.
FIELD FLOWERSPrice: $2,995Curved minaudière featuring a dynamic silhouetted floral design against a field of silver. 19" chain.
FIELD FLOWERS Price: $2,995 Curved minaudière featuring a dynamic silhouetted floral design against a field of silver. 19" chain.
HABIBIPrice: $5,995With carpet-inspired detailing, the Genie Lamp minaudière is decorated in tiger’s eye and semiprecious stone mixed with multi sized crystals.
HABIBI Price: $5,995 With carpet-inspired detailing, the Genie Lamp minaudière is decorated in tiger’s eye and semiprecious stone mixed with multi sized crystals.
RAJAVONGPrice: $4,395Seated Buddha minaudière in burgundy, indigo and plum crystal. 19" chain, top snap closure.
RAJAVONG Price: $4,395 Seated Buddha minaudière in burgundy, indigo and plum crystal. 19" chain, top snap closure.
POLAR BEARPrice: $3,995 at Judithleiber This is a seated polar bear, which has onyx eyes. It also has sculpted paws, ears and a muzzle. The closure is a push down snap. It also includes a tuck in chain.
POLAR BEAR Price: $3,995 at Judithleiber This is a seated polar bear, which has onyx eyes. It also has sculpted paws, ears and a muzzle. The closure is a push down snap. It also includes a tuck in chain.
TAYLORPrice: $4,495Maltese dog minaudière with top snap closure and 19" chain.
TAYLOR Price: $4,495 Maltese dog minaudière with top snap closure and 19" chain.
GANESHPrice: $5,595For those of you that want something that is exquisitely crafted, I know you will like this. It has been fully beaded with Austrian crystal. It has been accented by black onyx and carnelian. It will be beautifully boxed with a s
GANESH Price: $5,595 For those of you that want something that is exquisitely crafted, I know you will like this. It has been fully beaded with Austrian crystal. It has been accented by black onyx and carnelian. It will be beautifully boxed with a s
THEODOREPrice: $4,695Teddy Bear minaudière. Top snap closure, sculpted arm, leg and face detailing.Also available- Panda
THEODORE Price: $4,695 Teddy Bear minaudière. Top snap closure, sculpted arm, leg and face detailing. Also available- Panda

More bags

Click thumbnail to view full-size
SCARLETPrice: $5,695 This one is really unique as it is in the parrot shape. It has wonderfully sculpted tail and wing feathers. It also includes onyx eyes. On the top, it is a push down closure. It has been beaded by hand out of multicolored AustMAHARAJA Price: $5,995This brightly colored elephant is a must have as it has ornate costuming details, sculpted ears, tusks, feet and trunk. It also includes onyx eyes. It includes a tuck away chain. Inspired by the elephants that Indian MaharajaMASHAPrice: $4,995Traditional matryoshka nesting doll minaudi�re with multi-size crystals in a lace and snowflake pattern. 19" chain.PARISPrice: $3,495From the limited edition Cities Collection, the Paris bag features an iconic city scene in a sophisticated palette of blues and greys. Also available- Hong Kong, London, New York. Very classy, sophisticated look, and what better LUCKYPrice: $4,795Seated Dalmatian minaudi�re features onyx eyes, top snap closure and 19" chain. Absolutely adorable and perfect for all you dog lovers out there!ODILEPrice: $4,295Swan minaudière with feathers defined in deep toned crystal with blush accents. Top snap closure, 19" chain. Graceful and elegant.
SCARLETPrice: $5,695 This one is really unique as it is in the parrot shape. It has wonderfully sculpted tail and wing feathers. It also includes onyx eyes. On the top, it is a push down closure. It has been beaded by hand out of multicolored Aust
SCARLET Price: $5,695 This one is really unique as it is in the parrot shape. It has wonderfully sculpted tail and wing feathers. It also includes onyx eyes. On the top, it is a push down closure. It has been beaded by hand out of multicolored Aust
MAHARAJA Price: $5,995This brightly colored elephant is a must have as it has ornate costuming details, sculpted ears, tusks, feet and trunk. It also includes onyx eyes. It includes a tuck away chain. Inspired by the elephants that Indian Maharaja
MAHARAJA Price: $5,995 This brightly colored elephant is a must have as it has ornate costuming details, sculpted ears, tusks, feet and trunk. It also includes onyx eyes. It includes a tuck away chain. Inspired by the elephants that Indian Maharaja
MASHAPrice: $4,995Traditional matryoshka nesting doll minaudi�re with multi-size crystals in a lace and snowflake pattern. 19" chain.
MASHA Price: $4,995 Traditional matryoshka nesting doll minaudi�re with multi-size crystals in a lace and snowflake pattern. 19" chain.
PARISPrice: $3,495From the limited edition Cities Collection, the Paris bag features an iconic city scene in a sophisticated palette of blues and greys. Also available- Hong Kong, London, New York. Very classy, sophisticated look, and what better
PARIS Price: $3,495 From the limited edition Cities Collection, the Paris bag features an iconic city scene in a sophisticated palette of blues and greys. Also available- Hong Kong, London, New York. Very classy, sophisticated look, and what better
LUCKYPrice: $4,795Seated Dalmatian minaudi�re features onyx eyes, top snap closure and 19" chain. Absolutely adorable and perfect for all you dog lovers out there!
LUCKY Price: $4,795 Seated Dalmatian minaudi�re features onyx eyes, top snap closure and 19" chain. Absolutely adorable and perfect for all you dog lovers out there!
ODILEPrice: $4,295Swan minaudière with feathers defined in deep toned crystal with blush accents. Top snap closure, 19" chain. Graceful and elegant.
ODILE Price: $4,295 Swan minaudière with feathers defined in deep toned crystal with blush accents. Top snap closure, 19" chain. Graceful and elegant.

Judith Leiber show in Bangkok, Thailand

Tell me what you think

Judith Leiber is best known for her signature crystal covered minaudieres, small ornamental cases, often in the shapes of animals or fruits. Her purses are so great that some pieces are even included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian!

Do you think Judith Leiber handbags are worth the price?

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Judith Leiber: The Artful Handbag - An amazing book you MUST check out

Here, in a lively, anecdotal text by Enid Nemy, a feature writer for the New York Times, is the personal story of Judith Leiber--'The Bag Lady from Budapest'--spanning her roots in pre-World War II Hungary, where she was the first woman accepted into the handbag Guild, through her emigration to the United States, where, after several stints working for other handbag manufacturers, she opened her own business in 1963. Some 192 full-color photographs reveal the dazzling array of bags in all their exquisite detail.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Judith Leiber handbags are new to me and they are amazing works of art, I used to have a beaded bag collection that I just loved but had to sell it.

    • jjj1 profile image

      jjj1 5 years ago

      A very interesting lens about a topic I knew absolutely nothing about. I had no idea handbags could be so interesting!

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      I never heard of this designer and didn't know of these bags, very interesting; great info.

    • profile image

      jeremykim2011 5 years ago

      I saw a crystal duck back in one of the episodes in Sex and the City. Was that designed by Judith Leiber?

    • Shivani09 LM profile image
      Author

      Shivani09 LM 5 years ago

      @jeremykim2011: Yes it was. So was a cupcake clutch in another episode :)

    • profile image

      antoniow 4 years ago

      Great lens! Squidlike

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