You're self-taught in the art of jewelry-making — were you always crafty?
"Yes! During my 20s, I had passionate, short-term relationships with textile design, costume design, fashion design, printmaking, knitting, sewing, quilting, you name it — pretty much any craft medium that requires a lot of expensive equipment and supplies, I've done it."
We know you're an avid traveler. Where are some of your fave cities or locations to find jewelry? Anywhere unexpected?
"One of my favorite parts of this job is traveling with my longtime business partner, Lindsay, all over the world to shop for antique jewelry. Usually it's just up and down the East Coast. Just last week, we drove up to the Brimfield Antique Show and scored some amazing Deco diamond engagement rings. But we try to fit in some more exotic travel, too. This past year, we went to Marrakesh and London, and last year we traveled through India."
What's the most memorable piece of jewelry you've found on your hunts?
"Last night Lindsay and I stopped at Pepe's pizzeria, our normal dinner stop on the drive home from Brimfield, and we were reminiscing about favorite engagement rings that have come and gone. One in particular came up — this diamond surrounded by a black onyx square with a cutout bit and mounted on a high, deco setting. I was hoping that whatever lucky lady is wearing it is really happy being married or engaged to the guy who picked it out for her."
The items you sell (both vintage and handmade) are so unique and special. Do you ever find it hard to part with them when they're sold?
"Lindsay and I both occasionally wear a special piece of jewelry for a few days (or week or months) before we decide to sell it. If we really decide that we can't part with it, we don't. But the creation of our fine jewelry line, 1909, has solved this problem somewhat — we reconstruct our favorite pieces, so we don't really have to let them go."
Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry? What kind of accessories do you wear on an everyday basis?
"My favorite piece of jewelry at the moment is from our 'collection' of jewels that are $200 and under — it's a cast of a bat's bottom jaw. I had one cast in 14K gold to wear myself as a kind of talisman. I've always had a weird love for bats, and feel like they are kind of like my totem spirit animal. I am so not into the spiritual New Age-y thing, but I do wear this necklace on days where I feel like I want to harness the strength, agility, and intuition of the bat. Do I sound insane? Probably."
You sell a lot of vintage engagement rings — do you favor a certain style or era? What does your ideal engagement ring look like?
"Actually, the other piece of jewelry I wear every day is my own engagement ring. It's a 1930s platinum-and-yellow gold diamond filigree ring that I picked out with my husband. That style of engagement ring, the flourish-y, filigree art-deco solitaire, is what got me interested in collecting and selling wedding jewels, and that style is by far what we sell most of. I've never come across another engagement ring that I'd pick over the one I have, but this one maybe came closest. It's still for sale, so when I work as shopgirl, I always pull this ring out of the display case and wear it on my right hand for the whole day."
Is there a certain rare designer/style/specific piece that you're always looking for…like the Moby Dick of vintage jewelry?
"I always love to find jewelry that has hidden compartments or secret mechanisms — lots of ingenious rings were made in the 1700s and 1800s that swivel or snap open to reveal messages or photos. But my 'Moby Dick' jackpot? A piece of Berlin Iron Jewelry. Around 1815, Prussia was struggling to fund the war against Napoleon's advancing army, so they encouraged its citizens to trade in their gold and silver jewelry for government-produced iron jewelry, often with the inscription 'gold gab ich für eisen' (I gave gold for iron), or 'far das wahl des vaterlands' (for the welfare of our country/motherland). This iron jewelry was lacy, delicate, and black. Up until that point, black jewelry was reserved for mourning purposes, but almost immediately, this style became super popular as a symbol of patriotism. There's tons of reproduction stuff out there, and I've never really seen a genuine piece outside of a museum. Fascinating stuff, right?"
Photo: John Durgee