I met Ellen while purusing an antique show. I heard someone come up from behind and say, “Oh wow, it is Gem Gossip in her element!” and she was totally right…I was mid-stacking and closing out a deal at a booth and was surprised by the remark. I turned around to see Ellen’s smiling face. I hadn’t met her before but I knew of her online shop. That’s when a stranger quickly became a friend, and I’m excited to introduce her to all my readers as well! She has great taste–just read how it all began, and you’ll see why! Having a love and passion for jewelry comes from within and you can totally tell by talking to someone that truly loves what they are doing! This is true for Ellen.
That’s such a good question because it was a very circuitous route.
You could say that collecting runs in my family. My father started collecting stamps as a boy and continued through his adult life, then went on the collect modern art and lastly wine. As a young girl I would drive with him on Saturday forays to NYC art galleries to view art, learn and decide what if anything excited us. My grandmother (his mother) was a collector too and frequented local auctions always on the hunt for jewelry and crystal. I’ve always had a passion for great design and studied art history as an undergraduate – those Saturday excursions having had a huge impact on me. I worked at ArtNews magazine right out of college and soon came to realize that earning a decent living in the art world was a slim possibility. I jumped around working in various fields over the years – managing a gallery, working in advertising production – then attended graduate school in international business. While working in banking in San Francisco, I befriended an antiques dealer and helped her out on weekends. That was when the AHA moment occurred to me: my passions were working with people and educating them. Did I want to teach school? Not really but working in retail combined both of these loves so my next step was to move back east where I began my eleven years working at the Flagship store of Tiffany & Co in the corporate sales department. It was there that I had some incredible training which not only honed my abilities in sales but was also where I discovered my love of fine jewelry through the introduction to the jewels of Jean Schlumberger. I was learning about jewelry manufacture and techniques but the Schlumberger designs were what truly piqued my appreciation of and passion for fine jewelry. I fell hard for his designs- little works of art that are bold, whimsical, colorful, and exquisitely made…I fell for a gold bracelet first which was at least something that fit into my life style. When I moved to The Berkshires in Massachusettes, I was fortunate to be asked to work with Walter McTeigue & Tim McClelland, owners of McTeigue & McClelland Jewelers. (If you don’t know them, you must check out their website www.mc2jewels.com ) McTeigue is a well known name in the jewelry industry; four generations have run their NYC operation, and I soon learned that they had manufactured for Tiffany & Co for years and then sold that arm to Tiffany! Small jewelry world, as you know.
They’d only been open a year when I arrived and it was just the 3 of us so I had lots of first hand, personal experience watching the development of the designs as well as the manufacture of their exquisite hand made jewelry. And the education I received! From two of the best- Walter McTeigue taught me about diamonds and colored gemstones; what to look for, what makes a good stone, I became expert in grading diamonds! Tim showed me what to look for in well made jewelry. I perused their extensive collection of jewelry books and then they sent me to The Antique Jewelry and Art Conference better known as ‘Jewelry Camp’, an annual event that currently takes place at the end of July in NY. I’m quite sure that you and many of your readers are aware of it and have most likely attended at some time. (If not, and if you want a few days of nothing but jewelry for ten hours a day, run, don’t walk!) I had no idea what to expect and in those years they offered a 2 day jump start for novices and then 4 or 5 days of camp. My head almost exploded with all the information and my hand ached from all the note-taking but it was the most wonderful experience. I found what I wanted to involve myself in and study for the rest of my life! I met amazing people, attended for the next 9 years and have learned more than I thought possible Unfortunately, now I find it more difficult to spare the time to attend but I keep hoping to make it back soon. Through those five years I helped the owners purchase new jewelry for the store and in fact it was during that time that I made my first trip to Vegas to attend the JCK show. I’ve always had a good eye for style and quality and it was reinforced after that trip when I saw how our customers reacted to our purchases.
I had also begun doing some buying of my own and rented space in a group shop to sell my early purchases. Through these experiences my confidence grew until I finally had the nerve to set out on my own and start my on-line jewelry business.
My first buying trip each year is the Miami Beach show and thank goodness for it. The timing is perfect for a warm getaway from the Northeast. Throughout the remainder of the year, I mainly travel the northeast from New York to New Hampshire but also go to California, Las Vegas and occasionally Paris and London. I attend shows and try to scope out hidden gems at antique and flea markets, like Brimfield….you never know what you will find. And of course, I often have existing clients and new ones coming to me when they want to sell something.
Actually just recently when I was looking for sweet little flower rings and cluster rings – a customer came to me with a few pieces she wanted to sell. It was so serendipitous! I do believe in the power of “thinking it so, so shall it be.”
Oh my goodness, yes! Pieces I still dream about.
One was this amazing garnet and diamond pendant. The garnet is about the size of a quarter! I couldn’t give it up for years and wore it as often as I could to events and parties. It looked fantastic on a black velvet ribbon up around the neck!
Retro Natural Ruby & Diamond Bracelet — An early purchase. I was so nervous that I’d overpaid that I sold it quickly. I did make a small profit but those clients got the deal of a lifetime.
Edwardian Paste Riviere — This was in almost perfect condition and even without the benefit of candlelight looked amazingly real….and I do love diamonds!
Edwardian Aquamarine Drop Earrings — I wore these often and have a sweet memory of them as my friend’s daughter borrowed them for her wedding as the ‘something borrowed’ and the ‘ something blue’.
Ed Wiener 18kt Pendant Necklace with Garnets, Sapphires, Emeralds — Stunning and unusual since he is most know for his silver jewelry As you can see, my style is quite eclectic. If I love it, I’ve found that so will my customers!
I cannot narrow that one down to one so please bear with me!
My absolute favorite piece, which incidentally was one of my earliest purchases, is this incredible bracelet -you may have seen this in one of my Instagram posts. I love everything about it and the fact that I can wear it with a pair of earrings that were also an early purchase is a real plus. Apologies for the photograph; it was taken early and not for the website. Now of course, it is off with a friend who is borrowing it for a special event so cannot be re-shot.
But the pieces I wear almost everyday are my uniform, of sorts: a yellow and green gold retro bracelet, an Edwardian tiny sapphire and diamond cluster ring (my very first piece of antique jewelry), an Art Nouveau emerald and diamond ring and my green tourmaline ring; all of which friends and customers always want to buy. The tourmaline ring especially I’ll never sell as it was a gift from my mother. I had shown it to a client as a gift for his wife but he chose a bracelet instead. As I was showing my mother the items I had just recently acquired, she decided that I must have the ring for my own….and she bought it for me!!
My antique watch chain necklace with three antique fobs. A relatively newer purchase without which I don’t seem to be able to leave the house!
And finally there is this Henry Dunay pearl and diamond brooch which contains approximately 5 carats of diamonds! When I first saw it, my eyes welled up with tears. Silly as it sounds, I do get quite emotional when I spy a piece with such beauty and design. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and finally went sheepishly back to my friend to ask if he still had it. To my complete surprise, he did….and so it became mine. I see the diamonds as the sea rolling up and over the sand and the luminous pearls on the seashore. I’ve worn it as a brooch and was over the moon when I tried it as a pendant on a double strand of south sea pearls – it made me delirious!! The photo does not do it justice. As an FYI to your readers, I am having it professionally photographed as I have decided it is time to part with it so it will be available online within the coming months.