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Featured Seller: Erstwhile Jewelry Co.

Mar 14, 2012

by ErstwhileJewelry handmade and vintage goods

Tell us a bit about yourself.
We are Jared and Alisa, founders of Erstwhile Jewelry Co. which we launched in the spring of 2010. Prior to that, Jared worked in the jewelry business, buying, trading and selling within the mysterious world of the antique jewelry trade. He is a fifth generation antique jeweler and has an extensive knowledge of jewelry from 19th century, Victorian, Edwardian, French Art Nouveau, Art Deco and retro ’40s through modern ’60s and ’70s. We have grown an incredible following of fans for our Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco engagement rings.

I studied design at Parsons and worked in fashion, creating marketing and advertising campaigns for print and online. Now I do all of these things for Erstwhile, and it’s great to be able to use everything I’ve learned over the years in our business.

Apart from collecting and curating, what do you do?
J: I’m an artist. I have an art studio in Brooklyn where I devote most of my time to painting, when I’m not hunting for new jewelry.

A: I love graphic design and finding new typography for my library, which I reference for our website. I spend a lot of time learning about new online platforms, startups, and reading blogs. I surf all day long— it’s definitely a passion.

What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
J: Sir, You Can’t Take That With You. All these things we acquire mean little when you’re knocking on the door upstairs…more or less trying to focus on the intangibles.

A: Life Work Integration. This was always a life goal — to make work not feel like work.. I think I’ve just about accomplished that, working from our cozy home office, loving what I do. I’m fully integrated.

Do you have any personal collections? How did they start?
J: Music. It began when I got my first tape for my birthday — Van Halen, 1984. From then on, I’ve been hooked on music. Mostly we collect memories. My wife insists on capturing our life with photographs or else they’ll be gone.

What decade or style inspires you?
J: I love the Egyptian Revival style of the Art Deco period. I’ve been fascinated with the mysteries of the Egyptians ever since I saw the exhibition of King Tut’s tomb in the late ’70s at the Met. Their culture brings me to otherworldly places. Coupled with the clean and symmetrical lines of the Art Deco period, what could be better?

A: This is really tough, because there is something I love about every era. I particularly love the elegant and effortlessly cool ladies of the ’60s — Mia Farrow, Anna Karina, Marianne Faithfull, Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve — the list goes on and on. They’re an endless inspiration and I think they always will be.

What are the challenges of finding great vintage?
J: The really special pieces tend to stay within the family and continue to be passed down. After all, these pieces were once owned and treasured by someone. It’s reasonably difficult to find beautiful antique jewelry in great condition. It takes patience and persistence.

What’s the most interesting backstory of an object you’ve acquired?
J: Once, a friend called to tell me about a small auction coming up that had a gold Paul Flato compact. Paul Flato was a jeweler to the stars during Hollywood’s golden age. His items are rarely available and are very collectable and unique. Anyway, I happened to be going to the state where this auction was taking place, so a friend and I decided to go bid on this compact and get home in time for dinner. Upon arriving at the auction house (which was more like a farm shed), we noticed that there were thousands of items. Being suspicious of the many items that were before our lovely compact, I asked the auctioneer when they expected the item to be on the block. They told us 4 o’clock. It was noon. No biggie, we thought. We’ll wait…and wait, and wait. They were auctioning everything from old screws and thimbles to old coffee pots. Do I hear twenty-five cents? Twenty six? Twenty seven? It was excruciating.

By 10 o’clock, we were still waiting. At this point we weren’t leaving until this compact was in our hands, no matter what it cost us. Now, I’m no big shot. I’m used to sitting in major auction houses and not even bidding because I’m priced out. Here I felt like a big fish in a small pond, and I was determined. A little after 11 o’clock, we walked out with the compact. It was a square gold compact with a rotary dial phone mechanism on the top. Where the numbers would be, it was blank. However, when you turned the dial to right, it had letters that spelled out I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U.

If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
J: That’s a hard one. Almost too many to list – Rothko, Matisse, Bacon, Rauschenberg, Van Gogh. The list goes on.

Was there an object that was particularly hard for you to give up? If so, why?
A: There was once an engagement ring that was such a stunner, it literally made my heart melt. I already had my ring, which I adored, so it had to go. Ah, it was a good one.

J: When I buy things, I buy them because I find a beauty that I connect with. Earlier on, I used to get attached to these items and found them hard to let go. I remember someone telling me “don’t get married to them.” That stuck with me. Over time, I realized this was a business and not a pastime. Things come and go. It’s a good lesson for non-attachment.

How do you get out of your creative ruts?
J:  I have a studio where I paint and go nuts.

A: I read fashion and design blogs from people I admire. They spark so many ideas and get me excited to work. They make me feel as though I’m part of this thing bigger then me, this amazing creative online community makes me want to contribute.

Where would you like to be in ten years?
Spending part of our time living in a home of our own in Brooklyn and part in a cabana on the beach somewhere very tropical and sunny.

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