It takes a different type of “nerve” to be completely obsessed with jewelry and be able to sell and let go of some really epic pieces — but somehow I manage it! There will always be a place in my heart for a couple of rings that I sold that were truly special, and that’s where Keisha comes into the picture. She has been the person to buy most of the rings I was sad to let go. By her third purchase from me, I was like WAIT this girl has some incredible taste. And boy was I right! I’m so excited she agreed to share her jewelry collection with us and I was eager to learn more about the story behind them as well. So without further ado, here is Keisha’s jewelry story:
How long have you been collecting?
“The first piece of jewelry I remember wearing was a scrolly letter “K” pendant my parents gave me for my 4th birthday. It was 14 karat yellow gold, on a dainty matching box chain, and one of my earliest memories was that Thanksgiving, shortly after my birthday, at my grandmother’s house, where I proudly showed it off for her. I loved that necklace and begged my parents to let me wear it to school. Ever practical (this was New York City in the 1980s, and I was, after all, only four), they told me no. But they’d let me wear it on special occasions. Luckily, I come from a family where gifts, especially for girls, are usually jewelry, so I’ve always been really conscious of jewelry as an important marker—of time, of momentous occasions, of culture.
Because jewelry was always part of the fabric of my life, it was only natural that I would begin collecting on my own. I got into the habit of buying jewelry whenever I traveled with my family on vacation. I would save my allowance for months and proudly offer up my 20-50 bucks to my parents when it was time to pick out my own souvenir. In Mexico, I bought two silver rings—one abalone shell (which I still have, and still fit!) and one mother-of-pearl with a lavender sheen to it (that I lost after college and I’m really so sad about it). I think I was ten when I bought those rings and I wore them to school every day during sixth grade. In the Bahamas, I bought a pair of dangling wooden fish earrings, painted neon pink and purple. I was 12, it was the mid-90s and neon was BIG! This is a habit I’ve continued as an adult. My favorite piece from my travels is an elaborately beaded turquoise and coral statement necklace purchased from an Amazigh trader in the market in Essaouira, Morocco. The jewelry I’ve purchased while traveling means so much to me because it brings me right back to those moments—sitting across from this older Amazigh man, sipping hot mint tea he’d poured for me and my friend, and listening to him as he told us how Morocco was changing, how it was harder for his children to make a living, and how they no longer honored the traditions of the past. I wear that necklace and remember how lovely that afternoon was. Jewelry is a tangible reminder of the past, both good and bad.
Aside from my travel jewels, I started collecting statement costume jewelry rings around 2009. That was a year of big transitions for me; after graduating from law school in 2007, and beginning work in the legal field, I kind of lost my creative mojo, and something about collecting these huge, sculptural pieces made me feel connected to it again.
My fine jewelry collection didn’t really come about until recently. Over the years I’d pick up a few pieces here and there—I took my first check from my first college internship straight to Chinatown and bought a huge pair of 14k gold hoops that I still rock today—but I didn’t turn my focus almost exclusively to fine jewelry until 2016. It started after I realized I had stopped wearing rings, which was very strange for me, because, as stated earlier, I wore at least two rings every day, from those Mexican silver rings, to rings my grandmother had given me for my high school graduation. So I started looking for solid gold rings to wear, and it kind of snowballed from there. I’m now a frivolous magpie and my friends make fun of me for having a super-old phone because I literally spend all my money on bills and jewelry.”
Describe some of your favorite antique motifs.
Because I just started collecting antique jewelry in earnest, I don’t have any specific motifs that I am drawn to at the moment. Most of my collection is comprised of rings (though I’m starting to get into pendants), and they’re all pieces that made my breath catch in my chest when I first laid eyes on them. When I see a piece I love, I immediately imagine how I would style it, until I can’t see myself without it. Everything I own has elicited that reaction out of me. If I don’t feel that, I’m not spending my hard-earned money on it, even if I can objectively recognize its beauty. For this reason, I think it’s difficult to pin down any particular pattern in my collection, but I have noticed that there are gems I find myself drooling over again and again: my sunny birthstone (citrine), moody moonstones, and marvelous opals. I have more opal rings in my collection than anything else. They’re all so different, and there are so many ways to set them which aptly displays their inimitable beauty.
What is it about jewelry that makes it your passion?
I am fascinated by the way jewelry can tell our stories before we even open our mouths. For me, jewelry provides cultural context. For example: my maternal grandmother, who was born on the Caribbean island of Grenada and later moved to Trinidad and Tobago, had a large collection of jewelry, including her treasured 18 karat gold “slave bands.” They were a set of open bangles engraved with flowering vines and embellished with clusters of grapes on the ends. When I see women wearing bangles like my grandmother’s, it is a comfort to me. I know immediately where they are from.
I am a quiet introvert, who typically doesn’t like talking about myself at great length, so I let my jewelry do the talking for me. I have nine piercings in my left ear and four in my right (and I’m not done with my right ear yet). I work in a very conservative environment, but I proudly wear my hair up and go to work with thirteen bits of gold and diamonds glistening in my ears because it’s my own little form of rebellion. I wear bright colors and patterns, and rings on every finger because I’m hoping the choices I make about how I adorn myself will communicate that I am a person with deep feelings and strongly-held opinions, a creative person who cherishes beauty, a person willing to bend or even break the rules if necessary. Jewelry is just one of the easiest ways to share these things about myself without yelling it out from the rooftops.
Where do you like to treasure hunt (city/store/website)?
Lately, my biggest sources for jewelry are Etsy and Instagram! I have purchased so many pieces from Etsy over the last few years, and I have about three hundred pieces saved in my favorites. My financial advisor told me to delete the Etsy app from my phone, but I just can’t! Instagram is great for the connections you can build with sellers. Once, I saw a moonstone cabochon ring that I loved, but it was sold out by the time I contacted the seller via direct message. We continued to chat cordially after that, and she remembered that I had inquired about the moonstone ring. So when she got another batch of similar cuff links that she was planning to convert to rings, she gave me first dibs before she posted them on her feed.
I’ve also made some great finds at local antique markets. I picked up my favorite opal ring at a market in Westchester County. And my all-time favorite jewelry store is Love Adorned in Nolita, strictly based on its unique inventory.
Do you have any pieces that have an interesting story behind it?
In September 2018, I stopped by Love Adorned to see my piercer, Cassi Lopez-March, who, at the time, was working at the piercing shop based in the store called New York Adorned. After I finished with Cassi, I wandered around the store—it’s a lovely space filled with so many beautiful objets d’art—and I found the most amazing vintage opal and diamond ring. The very helpful sales associate, Rachel, took one look at my face and asked me if I wanted to try it on. It fit perfectly. Then she told me the price and I was slightly ashamed for wasting her time because I knew I couldn’t afford it. I did not stop thinking about that ring….and after I got a promotion, the following November, I started up a separate jewelry account. I just knew the ring would sell, and I didn’t want that to happen to me again.
Fast forward to late February 2019. I went back to the store to have one of my earrings downsized. Lo and behold, my ring was still there. Nobody bought that unique ring for nearly six whole months! And I, of course, had been socking money away since my promotion and could absolutely afford it without guilt. I purchased it that day and wore it right out of the store. That experience is why I don’t believe the meme that says, “The item you saw today and want to think about tonight will be sold later today to the people who saw it yesterday and thought about it last night.” I’m never in a rush to purchase anything because I genuinely believe every piece of jewelry I have was meant for me! And whenever I lose out on something, I almost always find it again later, or find something even better.