Antiques and art jewelry

Loot Column, Metro Newspaper, February 2010

How to Make it

Stefanie Rinza was completing her MBA when she suddenly decided that she wasn't going back to her old job at consultancy firm McKinsey & Co, where she'd been a business analyst for 10 years.

Instead she was fixated on the world of seventeenth century French cabinets and eighteenth century Spanish chandeliers. She'd recently been in touch with her first boss, an antiques dealer who had given her very first job at the age of 19. She figured that she could go back to working 100-hour weeks at McKinsey, helping out Fortune 500 companies, or she could return to the antiques world that she loved and put her newly acquired business skills to even better use in a small company. So she became a business partner at Carlton Hobbs, a high-end antiques dealership based in New York City.

“It's very unusual to have a consultancy background in the antiques market, but it has made us different,” says Rinza, who says that excellent bookkeeping, cataloging and research publications have all given Carlton Hobbs the edge over its competitors. She's a stickler for details and says she can lay her hands instantly on research and images of furniture that the gallery owned 20 year ago. But she also thinks that her consultancy background helps her to see the big picture. “Art and antiques experts tend to be so preoccupied with their field that it helps to have someone who thinks like a consultant,” she says. “I can objectively look at the business and take care of its strategic planning.”

How to Spend it

Valentine's Day is around the corner, so we are all being bombarded with the commercials from retail jewelers, encouraging us to buy their wares. But instead of splashing hundred of dollars on a mass-produced diamond pendant, why not look at hand made pieces from a studio jeweler instead? Contemporary art jewelry, which is all about the originality of the piece and the design aesthetic, rather the value of assembled precious metals and stones, is increasingly finding its way into important museum collections, such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Now other buyers are realizing that this is a valuable collectable.

“We're definitely seeing more interest,” says Stefan Friedemann, owner of Ornamentum Gallery in Hudson, New York, which exhibits contemporary art jewelry from international artists both at their gallery in Hudson, New York and at art and design fairs all over the country. “We've also noticed that mainstream fashion jewelry has started taking queues from art jewelry.”

The gallery only exhibits work that shows a completely original concept, form of personal expression or way of working with a material. For example, it sells gold rings by German artist Gert Rothmann that are made to order, imprinted with the finger prints of your family and brooches by Dutch artist Ted Noten, cut from the body of a Mercedez Benz E-Class 210. “It's a great discussion piece as it is cut from an expensive car, which raises questions about what is a precious material in jewelry.”

Both Rothmann and Noten's work features in museums and Freidemann says that some, though not all, museum quality pieces can cost thousands of dollars, but that you can buy Noten's brooches, for example, for around $400. He says that first-time collectors should ask lots of questions about a piece of jewelry that they like before they buy it. “For example, is it the result of years of experimentation by an artist with a particular medium? Does it show that artist's mastery of a particular design?” Choose wisely, and you could find not just a beautiful gift, but a valuable heirloom in years to come.

Copyright Metro Newspaper 2010