Countess Cissy Zoltowska was born Maria Assunta Frankl-Fonseca in Vienna of a Hungarian mother and an Austrian father, a product of the Austro-Hungarian nobility. She fled just before the Nazi annexation of Austria to Lausanne Switzerland, leaving all of her jewlery behind. She married the Polish Count Zoltowski (feminine form Zoltowska) When she moved to Paris she was dissapointed to find that the costume jewelry imitated the real thing, so she decided to make her own "real" fantasy jewelry.
She designed for Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, Helena Rubenstein and Balenciaga - to name but a few. She sold to the USA - Lord & Taylor and Bergdorf Goodman.
In 1962 she moved to 19 Rue Gambon, not far from Chanel, whom she never met. During the 50's and 60's she designed 300 models each year for the French, German and US markets. She designed two ranges - for the Hautue Couture market and for the cheaper boutiques of France.
Jewelry from the Maison CIS is not for the fainthearted - rows of cut Austrian crystals, bold colours, tier upon tier of exhuberant designs. She initiated the use of oxidised black metal to set off her coloured stones and produced her atalier "craquele" crackeled glass stones to be set off against Swarovski Aurora Borealis. In the 60'ds she devised the knee bracelet to set off the mini skirt.
She worked in Paris until 1967 and travelled widely to Thailand which inspired her designs.
Most of her work is unsigned as she didn't start to use the CIS mark until the 60's., therefore signed pieces are rare and the unsigned pieces are often mis-attributed.
She dies in 2004 and her pieces are highly sought after and collected.