I first met Michelle around 2000. I recall that the first year or so we knew each other, her wardrobe uniform included a fitted black Prada t-shirt, and virtually no jewelry. Seriously, no sparkle! It’s been such a treat to see how Michelle’s style has evolved over the years, and I now consider her one of the most avant-garde dressers I know. Granted, she is in the fashion industry, but Michelle does not let trends dictate what she wears. I’ve seen her dive into both color and gems the past 17+ years and truly discover her own personal style. Lucky me — I got to spend an hour exploring her jewlery box and hearing about her favorite pieces for this latest installment of Into the Jewelry Box.
When Michelle met me at the door, she was in a Saturday casual chic look which included an Avant Toi sweater topped with a knotted chain necklace with a singular Tahitian pearl. She told me, “It’s messy and old…I’ve had it for over 10 years…and I love it.” Now that’s a good return on investment, still wearing it a decade later.
She complemented the easy look with a pair of pave diamond studs. These earrings get a lot of mileage in her wardrobe, as they go everywhere from spin class to traveling the globe.
I was lusting after this other pair of diamond slice studs nestled in her jewelry box — what a fabulous, warm glow! These were purchased on a trip to India.
Another pair of her everyday earrings are these luscious grey drops from Larkspur & Hawk. I can see how they’d just meld with whatever she decided to wear that day.
I hadn’t been to Michelle’s house in years, but it didn’t surprise me to see her jewelry collection was as edited as she keeps her closet. She chooses to buy fewer pieces, but fabulous pieces. I asked her what her most worn items are in the current rotation. First and foremost is the “rolling” bracelet by Sidney Garber.
She first saw this bracelet in Aspen, where one of her friends was wearing it. At first she didn’t “get it,” but then her eye started seeing it paired with The Row and other key designers, and suddenly she had a big “ah ha!” and had to purchase one for herself. It is now her #1 favorite piece of jewelry she owns. She likened the phenomenon to skinny jeans. Remember how when they first hit the scene we cringed while wearing our boot-cut jeans? Then when our eye and mind got used to them, they were suddenly a staple.
Michelle also has two long necklaces which she frequently layers together. One is a golden hand on a long leather cord, and the other is a gold Irene Neuwirth chain with two brightly colored pendants. And all together, they totally work on her!
She found a pair of amethyst Judy Geib earrings that really play back well with the whole jewelry ensemble. They “go” but they’re not totally matchy-matchy, if you know what I mean.
Michelle also has a real affinity for the fashion jewelry from Bottega Veneta. She’s acquired a nice collection of their drop earrings, as well as a very cool bracelet with green accents. These are easy for her to mix and match with her scarf collection.
Speaking of earrings, she has a few pair that are extra-special. When I asked about her strategy for jewlery acquisition, she explained, “I’m clothes-driven. I just LOVE clothes. I buy the outfit first, and then I go about finding the right jewelry.” This is how she ended up with these crazy-cool Nak Armstrong earrings, purchased to complement her mother-of-the-groom outfit for her son’s wedding. I took a photo of them on top of the Gucci skirt she wore. Once again, you can see how she just nailed the blended color palette.
Here’s another standout pair of earrings, this time labradorite by Irene Neuwirth. These are generally reserved for more special occasions.
One of the things I really admire about Michelle’s collection is that it really isn’t full of “basics.” In fact, most pieces have a very distinct personality, just like she does. Have you ever though about having a fly on a necklace? And that it would be one of your go-to pieces? Neither had I, but she bought this Stephen Webster fly necklace and it has become a staple. Who would have thought?
Or what about a multi-strand necklace embellished with crystal evil eyes on pearls? Sounds a bit out there? Well not in this case — in her wardrobe it’s spot on perfect.
I have to say, that getting an inside look into Michelle’s jewelry collection has really got me thinking. Perhaps I should consider adding more color to my jewelry? Does this fit into my personal style? I certainly tend towards buying neutrals. Also, if I see a piece that truly speaks to me, yet it’s more “quirky” than I would normally buy, I’m going to analyze it before automatically dismissing it — would it blend with my wardrobe? Where could I see myself wearing it? All things to ponder.
Thanks to Michelle for allowing me to invade her jewelry box. I love the collection you’ve built, and I’ll be anxious to see what you acquire next!
When Thanksgiving rolls around, a time for family and friends, I start to pull out some of my more sentimental pieces of jewelry. One day it might be my Nonie’s engagement ring, with its center stone of deep blue glass, weathered with her years of hard labor keeping up the house and garden. Or maybe it’s my mother’s childhood locket, layered with some other necklaces. Whatever the case may be, these pieces hold a very special place in my heart. Clearly Luika, who I’ve known my entire life, feels the same way, as her jewelry box is filled with meaningful treasures. In this third installment of “Into The Jewelry Box,” I had the opportunity to explore some of Luika’s wonderful memories. The first ring that jumped out was this stunning, large citrine cocktail ring with a delicate gold setting.
As is often the case with jewelry, this ring had a story. She and her husband attended a very special Christmas party at the Kennedy Center in 1997. Each year, a different embassy would host the party, and that year it was hosted by the Ambassador of Brazil. After the main program, select guests were invited to a formal dinner, beginning at 11pm. (Late!) The ladies in attendance, including Luika, were given a special gift from the Ambassador — in this case, this lovely ring. How generous!
She also has a collection of many colorful rings, modeled by yours truly.
The top one in the photos is a vintage jade ring — the color is really exquisite. The next one is a beautiful blue star sapphire set in white gold. This was a birthday gift from her husband back in ’62 or ’63. I was really intrigued with the blue star-cut ring. While the blue star itself is a manufactured stone, it’s surrounded by 5 small diamonds in white gold. It belonged to her mother, so I would place the ring to be from somewhere in the 1930’s. It’s so fun! And finally, the double amethyst, which was designed by H.Stern and bought on vacation while in St. Thomas.
This next bracelet is just so cool, and it was a wonderful gift from her husband. He had it made for her, and it’s gold-dipped pennies from 1957, which is the year they first met and had their first date. How romantic is that?! It was one of their customs to always throw pennies in fountains for good wishes, even after they were married. I think my eyes may have gotten a bit misty hearing this story.
Another very meaningful set for the two of them is this marcasite necklace and earrings, which was her bride gift on the day of her wedding from her loving groom.
Luika was born in September, so her baby ring is set with a sapphire. I think the setting is fantastic. Clearly she was an elegant baby!
Her Benrus evening watch is a classic. This NYC-based watch company was hot, hot, hot in the 1900’s. I wish I could hear the watch tell stories of where it has been.
And finally, I saw these two cameos, which belonged to her mother. Such beautiful detail!
As you can see, looking through her collection is like taking a walk down memory lane. Do you have pieces like that in your jewelry box? Perhaps some of your Thanksgiving companions will be wearing bits of history themselves– you may want to inquire about what they’re wearing, as there may be a great story behind it.
In this second installment of “Into the Jewelry Box” I found myself in a second story flat in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Eclectically decorated with Asian influences and luxe fabrics, this was definitely a stylish home! Debra is a life-long minimalist by choice, and a quick peek into her closet definitely confirmed this! Her entire wardrobe is comprised of white, charcoal and black garments with clean, elegant lines.
Walking into her bedroom, she had all her jewelry laid out for me. That’s when it really struck what a minimalist she really is. If I tried to lay out my jewelry, I’d probably have to use the floor of my whole little apartment! But Debra’s perfectly curated collection was easily displayed on her dresser, in front of her Asian-style jewelry box — love how she has some precious objects on top of her jewelry box as well.
So let’s start with her favorite piece of all time, her stunning engagement ring, which is a 6 carat emerald cut diamond flanked by two 2 carat emerald cuts. I swear that it reflected the sunshine coming into the window all the way across the room! When I asked her if she helped picking it out, she laughed and said, “I ripped a picture of it out of a magazine and taped it to our bedroom door.” Classic.
The next piece that has major significance to her is this ancient Roman coin. She gave it to her husband for their wedding, and after his passing, she had the coin bezel set and made into a necklace. I love that it’s worn close to her heart.
Debra satisfies all her earring needs with 4 pair, two sizes of diamond hoops and two sizes of diamond studs.
The larger of the studs are two carats, and they are a daily staple for her. Her sassy silver haircut is the perfect frame for them.
She has a nice variety of silver bracelets that she stacks in different combinations. Many are by John Hardy, which she has been collecting the past 20 years.
And she mixes and matches them with some fashion jewelry wrap bracelets and some bangles by Alexis Bittar.
Of her 10 necklaces (yes…only 10, but fabulous ones!), I particularly love her strand of black south sea pearls with a black diamond clasp. She picked this up for a real bargain during the recession when a jeweler friend was trying to unload some merchandise. Just the value of the clasp is now worth half of what she paid for the whole necklace at the time. Now that was a good buy!
This necklace is also killer. She had seen it in a magazine and folded down the corner. Her clever husband noticed it, and he had a local jeweler replicate it for her second wedding anniversary present. SO pretty!
Having this Temple St. Clair crystal amulet pendant on a long silver chain adds some great dimension to her collection.
While many people don’t think about having a watch wardrobe, Debra has, and she has 5 watches which fit every occasion that arrises, from the white sporty Michele watch to the diamond Bedat evening watch to her husband’s Cartier.
She wears the same ring stack on her left hand every day, which consists of a couple silver rings paired with her husband’s wedding ring. One thing on her her “jewelry lust list” is a simple, slim diamond eternity band to add to the stack. I have a feeling I can help her find one…
Also on her shopping list is a pair of black diamond hoops. With her wardrobe and silver hair, I know that this will be a perfect addition.
I so appreciate being given the opportunity to see how Debra “keeps it simple.” While she has definitely made some big investments, her cost-per-wear makes them excellent purchases. Mixing these pieces with her fashion jewelry, Debra is always accessorized to the nines. Thank you SO much for letting me into your jewelry box!! xo
So how many of you just love watching those reality shows were you get to tour people’s homes and get an inside peek into their closets?! Or even a spread in Architectural Digest or In Style magazine that shows you how the stars live? Well I just love them, but I always wish they’d spend a little more time in the closet, and more specifically show me what’s in their jewelry box. I don’t care if it’s Oprah or someone I’ve never heard of, it’s just my curiosity about wanting to see what pieces are important to them. That’s how I came up with this new series, “Into the Jewelry Box.” Throughout the year, I’ll be visiting people’s homes and getting an in-depth look at their collection. I can’t wait see what I find and share it with you!
My first visit was to see Merna, a stylish 61 year-young woman with a background full of fashion. With a cropped blond pixie and twinkling eyes, she seemed very excited to show me her treasures. In fact when she opened the door, she was wearing her first diamond, which she received at 7 months old from her grandmother (who was also her godmother) for her baptism. Jewelry has clearly been part of her life from the start, and she joked, “I teethed on Vogue!”
Still in possession of her first jewelry box from 5th grade, she has been a collector and receiver of many gifts throughout her life. In fact, her collection has pieces dating back over 100 years.
I asked her to show me her favorite piece, and she couldn’t limit it to one. The first was this sunburst pendant/pin from Taxco, which was made by one of Spratling’s students. Just beautiful workmanship!
Another favorite is a large sterling cuff of her mothers from 1949. She used to own its mate, but sadly it disappeared at a photo shoot. (I hope whoever walked off it with is at least enjoying it!)
Finally, this sea shell, which she found during a photo shoot at Stinson Beach, is a sentimental favorite. Ironically a couple years after she started wearing it, she was flipping through the pages of W magazine and saw that Yojii Yamamoto did the exact same thing in sterling silver! (for $4500!)
Merna’s collection is housed in a large rolling tower of drawers, and we spent a good amount of time opening little boxes and peering inside silk pouches. (It felt like a treasure hunt for me!) My jaw dropped when I came across this exquisitely detailed pre-WWII Chinese dragon bracelet. She also has the matching ring and earrings which she received during college, as she was born in the Year of the Dragon.
These silver filagree bracelets from the early 1900’s also demonstrate amazing detail.
When I asked how her personal style has changed over the years, she talked about how she has shifted more from the small, delicate pieces (unless worn in stacks or layers) to bolder pieces. She likes the juxtaposition of the the bold pieces with her tall, small frame. Case in point are these wide Armani bangles, purchased from the Armani store in SF back in the 90’s.
I will say, though, that I was drawn to her vintage pieces. It was like being in a jewelry museum, but you could actually try things on. Take a look at this silver and amethyst Art Nouveau set from around 1900.
And being a Downton Abbey-o-holic, I could just picture Merna’s mother wearing this 1920’s pearl necklace out on the town in her flapper-esque dress…
If you like vintage watches, then you’ll definitely like this Longines timepiece from the 1930’s, which is completely original inside and with a new strap.
She says that she rarely edits her jewelry, as she has been given so many lovely gifts and she only buys what she loves. With so much diversity in her jewelry box, I asked her what was on her jewelry lust list. Here’s her top items:
1. There are always some Hermes pieces that she has her eye on
2. A gold pearl necklace and matching stud earrings (which would complement her hair perfectly!)
3. A single stone aquamarine pendant
4. Brown diamond stacking rings
I’m sure, like me, she’ll add things to her list. And sometimes you don’t even know when your heart will be pulled by something sparkly as you walk by the window of a random shop. Though whatever she does end up acquiring, either for herself or as a gift, I know it will have a story. There was not one item we found that didn’t have a story to go along with it, and in my eyes, that makes her collection all the more special.
Thanks for opening up your jewelry box for me, Merna! xo