Lorraine Wohl’s Adventures in finding Antique and Vintage Jewels
I have known Lorraine Wohl for over 20 years, the first five of which I spent trying to convince her to sell me her personal Belle Époque diamond pave set heart necklace, her two perfect examples of rose cut Georgian rings, which she wore on the same hand and her ultra delicate bezel diamond Belle Époque bracelets. These were her treasures, the piece she wore everyday, to which she added other jewelry and only changed up for special occasions. I knew then in my heart, the way I could not part with my favorite pieces, neither could she. But it was worth the try.
The first piece I did buy from her was a delicate geometrically shaped Art Deco diamond eternity band. I had a thing back then for stacking different shapes of diamond bands from the ‘20s and ‘30s, and Lorraine’s shop was a veritable go-to for all different periods in jewelry. Eventually we traded pieces, bought and sold from each other. I helped her out her shop when she needed a set of extra hands and believe me I covered those hands with rings from all centuries while working in her store.
Funny, warm, supportive with a serene calming vibe– she was also generous with her knowledge. Her customers loved her well-curate jewelry as well as the woman behind the gems.
Part of the women’s lib movement of the seventies, she launched her own career accidently with a garage sale. People kept asking me what the hours of ‘the shop’ were. I has created enticing visuals and I guess it worked.” Lorraine continues, “This prompted me to opened my first ‘real’ store in Westport Connecticut.” It did well and soon one store turned into three.
But then an adventure turned into a permanent move. “I bought a old Merecedes, packed my treasures, young daughter and oversized sheep dog and took off for San Francisco. We decided to stay. After settling into our new lives and working in a vintage clothing shop, I decided to go out on my own again and created a vintage multi level concept shop which housed lingerie, clothing and jewelry.”
“This set me on my path to opening a shop in the most fashion conscious city—New York. “I opened the shop in Manhattan on East 70th Street called the ‘Best of Everything’. The buyers from Norma Kamali and Armani purchased many vintage clothes from me, which became the inspiration for their collections during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.” Lorraine adds.
After five years I moved the shop five blocks to 65th street. “I bought a dressing table where women could sit and try on jewelry and the clients wanted the vanity. This inspired me to go to Paris and buy glamorous mirrored pieces from the Deco period. I then began transitioning into French mid century furnishings and decorative items.
When I met Lorraine she had already been in New York for at least 15 years. I had noticed a difference between her shop and the other antique/vintage shops I frequented. There was a chic yet sleek style of furniture, which played against the impeccably made jewelry. Lorraine explained that she did much of her buying in Paris.
With the exception of her Georgian pieces, she explains, “Once I began shopping in Paris I became passionate about the refinement that you can feel and see, not only in French jewelry but also in the furniture and decorative items. Even when pieces are bold and mid-century, there is a femininity to them, which completely aligns with my sensibilities.”
Lorraine has an apartment in New York as well as a small apartment in the Marais. Throughout the years, she continues to coordinate small groups for vintage shopping tours through the markets and big fairs in Paris.
In approximately 2010 as Lorraine’s antique diamond engagement ring business was growing, she began to transition into more Art Deco pieces as well as bolder retro and mid-century designs. Her tagline is “20th Century Objects of Desire”.
The Georgian rings, which I loved so much, were no longer on her fingers. Instead she was wearing an emerald cut aquamarine flanked by French baguettes in 18K gold and a platinum and diamond flexible pinky ring. I had a few moments or remorse not seeing the rose cuts on her fingers but then became entranced by a new conquest for the shop—an awe-inspiring Art Deco ruby ring in platinum with baguette accents. Was my taste shifting as well? “Rubies have always been your favorite stones and you can get mesmerized by pieces from varied periods.” Lorraine continues to know me well.
Then in 2016, with the evolving changes she was making in her inventory came the opportunity take another adventure- to move from her Upper East Side Manhattan location to a bright airy space in The New York Design Center further downtown at 200 Lexington Avenue at 33td Street. Dover Market is a block away. The neighborhood is up and coming with trendy restaurants and hotels.
“I continue to have a strong bridal business but there are also the customers that want bolder statement jewelry and that means Deco, retro and mid-century.” Lorraine edits every piece to make sure it fits into the complete aesthetic of the shop, which feels like a little slice of Paris in New York.