Erie Basin has been described by many visitors as, “a museum where you can actually buy everything you see.” Owner Russell Whitmore even describes his job as a big treasure hunt, where he carefully searches out rare finds. Many of these finds are 18th and 19th century jewelry, Art Deco diamond engagement rings, interesting objects and intriguing artwork. Erie Basin is located in Brooklyn NY and needs to be on everyone’s list of places to go when in New York City. Gem Gossip caught up with Russell to ask him some specific questions about his exquisite antique shop:
Russell: I went to school in a part of rural Ohio, where there was little else to do but visit antique shops. I started collecting then, just for myself, but I’ve always been interested in antiques. I grew up in a house full of old things. When I moved to New York in 2003, I immediately thought about how great it would be to open a little shop here.
Russell: Definitely the buying. At its best, buying inventory is like treasure hunting. The most unexpected things turn up in the most unexpected places, and it’s a thrill to find them. And it’s a constant education– every time I go buying, I find at least one thing that I’ve never seen before and need to research.
Russell: There’s no one specific place, but I think the New York area is unbeatable. People have settled here from all corners of the world, and there’s jewelry to prove it. My favorite buying experience is when I can buy privately and directly from an estate or an individual’s collection. It’s nice to have the personal component, and know a little history about the previous owner.
Russell: One of my favorite things is a 1765 mourning ring with rose cut amethyst in the shape of an urn. Enamel work around the shank shows the name, Jane Knight, and the date and age she died: November 19th, 1765, aged 55. It’s not the rarest or most valuable thing I’ve found, but it’s a little quirky, beautifully made, and somehow feels emblematic of Erie Basin. The things I like the most are pieces that feel deeply sentimental– this ring certainly does.
Russell: Thank you! I found my wedding band at a flea market near my parent’s house in Illinois, which is also where we got married. It’s a simple 18K yellow gold wedding band from the early 1800s. It has a beautiful old inscription with the previous couple’s initials and their wedding date. I had ours engraved in a similar style, right alongside theirs. Sara’s engagement ring is also Georgian, with rose and mine cut diamonds, and a foliate decorated shank. Her wedding band is from the 1920s in white gold with little single cut diamonds, but the shank has very similar decoration. It’s not an obvious combination, but they look perfect together.
Erie Basin 388 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn NY (T:) 718-554-6147