Nothing Says I Love You Like Artisanal Jewelry
By Robert Burke Warrren
It’s become a mantra of sorts: Shop Local. Buy Local. Fortunately, our local is no yokel, as a look at some of the artisan jewelers in the Rural Intelligence area can attest. We’d never turn our noses up at Tiffany & Co., of course, but we’ve got jewelry designers in our midst whose imagination and skills are on the highest level, bar no one and no place. Better yet, they will meet with you to create a one-of-a-kind piece. If you’re not into planning ahead (and Valentine’s Day is next week, after all), these designers have collections on hand. Let’s add to the mantra: Buy Fast.
Shana Lee [left], like so many of her Hudson compatriots, moved to the river town from Williamsburg in Brooklyn nine years ago, opening Shana Lee Jewelry after passersby kept walking into her showroom. It’s not hard to imagine those pedestrians’ curiosity: “My studio is an orchestra of hammers forging metal on anvils and red-hot gold spitting and sizzling in acid,” she says.
“Hawk,” in sterling silver.
Her work, in sterling silver and vermeil, is dramatic, angular, glamorous. She also does a lot of custom work.
“I’ve become the go-to jeweler for Hudson Valley same-sex marriage rings,” she says. Although she maintains a web presence, most of her volume business remains locally driven, with loyal return customers. (Hint: There’s a limited edition Valentine’s heart collection in the store right now.)
Shana Lee Jewelry
315 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
Laurie Donovan [left] opened her Lenox shop, Laurie Donovan Designs, this past November in the former R.W. Wise Goldsmiths, but she’s been an award-winning goldsmith and designer for 35 years. (In fact, she was Richard Wise’s partner when L&R Wise, Goldsmiths, was established in 1980. She left in 1997and began a jewelry design business under her own name. When Wise retired, he asked her to take over his business.)
Opal and tsavorite garnet ring.
Donovan works with high-carat gold and platinum, and specializes in colored gems like garnets and morganite, and her range of designs and materials is extensive. One of her best sellers for more than 30 years is The Berkshire Collection, perfect gold discs with a cutout Shaker Tree. “I do lots of custom design,” she says, “and it’s great to meet the customers, get a read on them, then go upstairs and work in the shop above my beautiful store.”
Laurie Donovan Designs
81 Church Street, Lenox
Based in Litchfield County, sculptor Holly Shannon [left] began her professional life as a corporate events planner, but upon becoming a mom in 2000, she refocused her energies on sculpture and jewelry. She makes both fine and fashion jewelry, working with gold and silver, and semi-precious stones.
Blue-marine topaz necklace, from The Rock Candy Collection.
This spring marks the launch of her Rock Candy Collection (currently available only online at Etsy or her website). These fanciful arrangements of bubble and tear-shaped gemstones — emeralds, pink tourmaline, sapphires — are bunched and threaded on fine gold and silver chains. The effect is reminiscent of colorful rock candy, and perfect against a little black dress.
Fresh off a trunk show at The Plaza, Shannon sees high-end jewelry bouncing back, perhaps a bellwether for a national recovery.
“The finer pieces are selling again,” she says. “Jewelry is like art. It doesn’t devalue.” Her fine jewelry sells briskly at the Mayflower Inn and Spa gift shop in Washington, CT and her fashion jewelry, which includes hand-sculpted pewter butterflies and the 18K pink or yellow gold plate scarab from her Cleopatra Collection, is available at J. Seitz & Company in New Preston.
We wrote about McTeigue & McClelland in 2011 when the shop was setting up for an exhibition of rare, loose gemstones. (You can find that story here.) Walter McTeigue [left], a fourth-generation jeweler, and business partner Tim McClelland [right], lead a team of designers whose exquisite creations can only be described as the higher end of the higher end. More than that, they are supremely imaginative. In the unmissable bright yellow cottage along Great Barrington’s Main Street, the partners and their team design and make everything in house, each piece heated and hammered by hand, each piece fashioned like a tiny sculpture.
Pierced Flora Noir Diamond 12 mm band.
Wedding rings start at $1,000; three years ago, we showed you one for $88,000.
When McTeigue and McClelland moved from Manhattan to the Berkshires, they wondered if customers would travel. They needn’t have worried. “People come to us from all over the world,” he says. “A trip to the Berkshires is a romantic event, and they make the most of it.” About half their business is wedding-oriented, but the other half is loyal — and yes, local — folk.
McTeigue & McClelland
597 South Main Street, Great Barrington