The Lion’s Share

With the civilized world’s current outcry over the  death of beloved Cecil the lion (at the hands of dentist Walter James Palmer) this proud majestic animal is making front page news, and finds itself as the center of attention these days. On Saturday night, the image of Cecil, along with other endangered animals, was projected onto the Empire State building to raise awareness about their plight (it was organized by the Discovery Channel).

Coincidentally, we are currently under the zodiac sign of Leo (July 24 – August 22). Those born under this fire sign are deemed to be (among other things) charismatic, bold, courageous, loyal, generous, kind, driven born leaders with big egos. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that President Obama, (August 4) and Jennifer Lopez (July 24) are Leos, or that the late Jackie Kennedy (July 28th) was also born under this sun sign.

A massive lion is centerpiece of at a Chanel runway show

Among the celebrated fashion designers (past and present) who are also fellow Leos: Coco Chanel (August 19), Yves Saint Laurent and Michael Kors (August 1), Christopher Kane (July 26), and Ralph Rucci (July 29th). Happy Birthday to all Leos out there (and this list includes our publisher Ernest Schmatolla, and my good friend, vintage maven Madge Novel!)

Patience and Fortitude guard The New York Public  Library

The grace, beauty, and power of the lion have been celebrated since the dawn of time, and its regal symbolism continues to find its way into our culture and our language. The use of stone lions to guard buildings began in China (because they are considered the “king” of the animals, they are used to ward off enemies, evil, attack). Here in New York, the lion is not only the symbol of The New York Public Library, two giant marble lion statues (Patience and Fortitude) greet visitors on the 5th avenue entrance. #3

The verb ‘lionize’ means to treat as an object of great interest or importance, and the word lion been used in metaphorical sayings (“The lion’s share”, “In Like a lion; out like a lamb”). There have even been cartoons (“Leo the Lion, King of the Jungle”), titles of movies, plays, musicals  (“A Lion in Winter”, “Richard the Lionheart”, “The Lion King”), and pop hits (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and Katy Perry’s “Roar” which includes the verse:

Katy Perry singing Roar with a lion

“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter Dancing through the fire  ‘Cause I am the champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar  Louder, louder than a lion ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!”

Diana Broussard Leone gold plated brass choker

And the lion’s image, (particularly the head), has been recreated onto rings, pins, belt buckles, earrings, and necklaces. As part of Diana Broussard’s safari themed accessories, she has included ‘Leone’, a 4 ¼ inch gold or palladium plated brass choker, $295, and a ‘Leone’ lion shaped ring in gold or palladium finished brass plate,. $160.

Vintage Kenneth J Lane gold toned lion head door knocker
necklace and earrings

The House of Versace has known to use lion’s heads, and of course, there are the vintage incarnations. Perhaps the most iconic are the 60’s and 70’s lion’s head door knocker belt buckles, earrings, and necklaces designed by costume jewelry masters Kenneth J. Lane, Nettie Rosenthal, Mimi di N, Hattie Carnegie, Donald Stannard. They are always available at vintage stores and boutiques and online, and a recent search turned up some notable examples:

Hattie Carnegie’s massive lion head doorknocker gold plated pendanton a double chain $125

Mimi di N’s Walking 6 inch Lion gold toned metal belt buckle $129.50

Vintage Valentino’s lion head door knocker earrings with green rhinestone eyes $165


They continue to be coveted collector’s items and undoubtedly, would make a perfect gift for someone born under the sign of Leo.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

1 Comment
  1. Hello Marilyn , Ernest and DFR lovers!
    Thank you for featuring three of my gorgeous lion pieces!!!!
    Warmest regards and best wishes,
    Florencia – Land Of Vast Desires

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