It is better to have old, second hand diamonds than none at all. — Mark Twain

A Georgian diamond floral tiara as worn in Downton Abbey

Really, I don’t wear all that much jewelry. I like the quasi-permanence of it, the cultural preciousness of it, but I don’t own a lot or pile it on. Arm parties aren’t really my bag. I wore a pair of modest diamond studs every day for years. Despite Lucia van der Post and Coco’s love of it, costume-y jewelry generally leaves me feeling like a Christmas tree, and not in a good way. And, to top it all off, new jewelry in the style of Zales is unimaginative and “art jewelry” brings out my inner art/cat lady in a manner which I do not appreciate.

There are, of course, some beautiful jewelry designers working (the list is, admittedly, absurdly long) but still, the jewelry I most enjoy perusing is old. Estate jewelry, vintage jewelry…it’s  another kettle of fish. Maybe it’s the craftsmanship, or maybe it’s the implicit untold stories in the tiny objects. Who owned it? Was it a gift or was it a family bauble? Was it loved? Or did it sit in jewelry box, unworn?

There are many sites I visit to do some estate/vintage jewelry ogling: M.S. Rau AntiquesErie Basin, A. Brandt & SonMacklowe Gallery, and my personal favorite,  S.J. Phillips. Recently, I stumbled across Bentley & Skinner. Add one more to the queue for active ogling.

Some of my favorites from the Bentley & Skinner site:

1930's diamond cluster ring

1930′s diamond cluster ring

Diamond tiger head cufflinks

Diamond tiger head cufflinks

Cartier enamel and gold lorgnette

Cartier enamel and gold lorgnette

Edwardian vice cufflinks


Art Deco jade and diamond drop earrings

Art Deco jade and diamond drop earrings




sign up at coléoptère

Launch page for the debut collection of jewelry from coléoptère.

Launch page for the debut collection of jewelry from coléoptère.

We (as in my new business) are launching a capsule collection of sustainably-source fine jewelry this fall, with nary a brass triangle, ear cuff or double-finger ring in sight.

Sign up, and be the first to see the inaugural collection from Coléoptère when it debuts.

monique péan

Caroline Issa models for Monique Péan

When I came across Monique Péan’s designs a few years ago, I was appalled. Appalled at myself, mostly, because I hadn’t designed those gorgeous pieces. Finally, just this week, I purchased my first Péan piece from M’oda O’perandi — a pretty ring crafted from fossilized wooly mammoth ivory, diamonds and 18k carat gold.

Her aesthetic is incredibly appealing, a combination of boldness with refinement. The materials — fossilized walrus ivory, sliced diamonds, and buffalo horn —  are beautiful, unexpected and used to perfection. But the brilliance of her work is extended by her commitment to sustainable and fair-trade gems, conflict-free diamonds and her work with artisans around the world.

There’s nothing ostentatious about her work, but each piece is utterly distinctive and memorable.




  1. Diamond + wooly mammoth scrimshaw diamond earrings
  2. Wooly mammoth with diamond pavé in 18k recycled gold cuff
  3. Diamond slice + pavé earrings
  4. Opal ring with diamond pavé