NEW YORK — Fred Leighton, famed for bringing decadent vintage jewelry to the forefront of fashion, has died at age 85.
Formerly known as Murray Mondschein, the designer founded the company in 1971. He legally changed his name to Fred Leighton upon setting up shop in New York. As a company, Fred Leighton was a pioneer in the fine-jewelry world, bringing estate jewelry center stage at a time when it was customary for jewelers to break apart old pieces of vintage jewelry and reuse the materials. Throughout his career, Leighton sought pieces ranging from Victorian diamond jewelry to Art Deco wares for his 2,000-square-foot Madison Avenue emporium. In 2009, the company was acquired by Kwiat, a venerable Manhattan diamond jewelry company, which has expanded the brand into wholesale with accounts such as Net-a-porter, Mitchells and Richards.
The brand’s renown grew as it outfitted many celebrities on the red carpet, and attracted such devoted fans as Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker.
The news of Leighton’s passing was announced on the company’s Instagram account on Friday, first with a quote from company chief executive officer Greg Kwiat, followed by longtime Leighton chief creative officer and public relations director, Rebecca Selva.
“Mr. Leighton was a true legend in the jewelry business,” Kwiat told WWD. “He had a vision and he was true to that vision for his entire career and his entire life. He never stopped appreciating the beauty of great jewelry. We have carried that spirit and passion through everything that we do. It’s an honor to be a steward of his legacy going forward.”
“He created magic,” Selva added. “He really opened the eyes of many to the artistry and breadth of vintage jewels.”
Leighton is survived by his daughter, Mara Leighton, and his grandchildren.
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“We stand on the shoulders of giants.” We honor the extraordinary life and legacy of our namesake founder, Fred Leighton. He had an incomparable passion for vintage jewelry and the vision to marry these remarkable jewels with fashion. He is a legend and he will be deeply missed. The Kwiat family is honored to carry on his legacy and to ensure his passion endures for generations to come. – Greg Kwiat