Brooklyn-based jewelry store Catbird paved the way for "everyday jewelry" — the kind of dainty, wispy, and delicate stackables that you never have to take off. After 14 years of occupying a tiny 200-square-foot storefront on Bedford Avenue (a street that New Yorkers know is synonymous with Williamsburg), Catbird recently moved into a larger, more light-filled space around the corner on North 7th Street. The expansive new storefront — which the team affectionately calls the “Catbird Emporium” — is “a place to give our visitors space to style their rings and other jewels at our try-on counter, discover small home and beauty treasures on our shelves, and get Zapped! with a signature Forever Bracelet," Catbird founded Rony Vardi tells Refinery29. In addition to carrying shiny pretty things from independent jewelry designers Vardi loves (Digby & Iona, Wwake, Erica Weiner, Jennie Kwon, and Tilda Biehn, to name a few), the store sells its in-house collection of rings, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and earrings made from solid gold, recycled diamonds, and precious stones "that are easy to wear and leave on," whether you're headed to your local gym or to a destination wedding. (Catbird's Wedding Annex, a second location dedicated solely to Catbird's collections of wedding and engagement rings, will soon move to the airy second floor of the North 7th location.)
To learn more about Catbird's latest chapter and to see how its past 14 years still inform the brand's ethos, I had to pay a visit to the new location. Oh, and of course, I had to get “zapped” with a piece of permanent jewelry, the brand’s unique bracelet-welding experience that’s only offered in-store at the brand’s pop-ups around the city.
Catbird opened its first brick-and-mortar location in 2004, paving the way for the current onslaught of digitally-native, direct-to-consumer brands that tout tenets of transparency and sustainability. And while the space has changed, you can still expect the always-welcoming vibe of Catbird. Yes, I absolutely acknowledge that it's a destination for relatively pricey items, but the shopping experience is super casual and non-pretentious. Fine jewelry can and should be for everyone, no matter your budget, and there are options at every price point whether it's under $50, under $200, or over $5,000. The try-on counter is there for customers to play around and get stack-happy with jewelry in a non-intimidating setting. And, in the new space, you have way more room to browse as you put together that all-important stack.
Catbird can take a lot of credit for the trend of layering lots of delicate pieces, whether it's earrings, rings, or necklaces. Like many Catbird fans, I like to take minimalism to the maximum with its pieces. For instance, I can start with one thin hammered ring but easily pile on more if I'm feeling especially golden that day; small gold hoops are the go-to standard for me but I'll slip on other danglers and studs in the second and third holes if I wanna amp up the sparkle factor. Catbird has its various opal, sparkler, and chain collections, which make it easy to mix and match for a cohesive — but sometimes beautifully chaotic — jewelry look.
And speaking of creating my perfect combo of delicate rings and earrings: The passionate staffers were so helpful in assisting with sizing and styling for how my body wears jewelry. For instance, they were mindful of picking out only the rings that would fit my tiny baby fingers. (Though if you're buying rings online, you can also order this nifty ring sizer.)
Before Catbird, I had mostly thought of fine jewelry as something you primarily reserve for special occasions — partly because a lot of the fancy stuff I was encountering in my early 20s was too bold and costume-y for daily styling. Elsewhere, larger fashion retailers were (and still are) churning out cheap, short-lived pieces that tarnish or chip quickly. Catbird pioneered a more affordable type of fine jewelry that, while precious, feels accessible. "It's always nice to get credit for something that you feel like you really worked hard for, but the truth is, this is just how I wear jewelry," says Vardi. "I'm a really unfussy person, but I still want to put on something beautiful — but I would rather have a small 14-karat gold ring rather than a bigger plated ring."
Everything in Catbird’s in-house collection is handmade at the brand's Brooklyn Navy Yard studio. There are no limited drops, no urgency to buy hastily, and there are no sales (except for Cyber Monday and a birthday discount) because everything has already been priced based on what will sustain the business. "We've always, since the beginning, worked with ethically sourced materials which automatically limits what you can do," Vardi mentioned of the brand's tight edit. "Nothing ever gets marked down which is part of our strategy. It's also an environmental thing where we're not just sitting on stock." Catbird also donates one percent of sales — before proceeds or profits — to "nonprofits that align with our beliefs," Vardi added. The brand reached one million dollars of giving last year.
All to say: If you've got an eye on a piece, you can always wait to treat yourself at a later date knowing that it'll still be available when you're ready. Plus, the slow-paced jewelry cycle of Catbird gives customers time to organically grow and curate their own jewelry stacks, which eventually become uniquely aesthetic to the wearer's personality. "You only have 10 fingers so it's fun to start collecting rings with milestones, which is something I love, love, love that people do all the time," said Vardi. "People walk in and are like, 'I just got a promotion' or 'I'm having a really bad day' and they can walk out with something special. [Buying jewelry doesn't have to be] big romantic gestures; it can be a little thing that people do for themselves."
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