Designing Men: Jewelry from the heart
Behind every true romance, there is a tale of a gift, a token of love, an expression from the heart. And who said guys are not as sentimental as women? These designers, jewelry presidents, publicists and antique-store owners tell their stories about a gift they gave that landed the special women of their dreams.
STEPHEN WEBSTER, DESIGNER
“The first piece of jewelry I gave to my Assia was very early on in our relationship. We were friends at the time and strictly platonic. I gave her a pair of yellow gold earrings in the shape of the ace of spades, which I made myself. They were set with diamonds and a pair of 7mm round pearls.
Assia was living in New York City at the time and I flew from London to see her for the weekend. I presented her the earrings along with a DKNY knit top. She said she didn’t like the color of the top and thought the earrings (possibly the smallest thing I made) were too big. Crestfallen, I offered to take both gifts back with me as they were such a disappointment. Being no fool, she agreed to give the top back but decided to keep the earrings.
Assia had acquired a small treasure trove of jewelry by the time we actually became a couple and even more as my wife of 18 years. She never again complained about anything I gave her being too big.”
Arman Sarkisyan/ Designer
“I didn’t know it then but I had just started dating the woman who was going to be my wife and with whom I would have two amazing kids. It was 1998 and Louiza had never been to San Francisco. I planned a surprise day trip from Los Angeles where we live.
I made her a necklace and decided to give it to her when we visited the Palace of Fine Arts. The necklace was crafted from an old Russian coin that already had a hole in it for the loop and I designed and soldered an initial L on one side of the coin. She absolutely loved it and still wears it often now with the many other jewels I have given and made just for her throughout our marriage.Our daughter’s name is Lia and it will be hers as soon as Louiza’s decides to pass it down.”
Adam Graham, Director of Sales and Marketing of Omi Gems
“The first piece of jewelry I ever purchased for someone truly special was an engagement ring. But this was no ordinary engagement ring. At the time, I was managing a remote private island fishing resort on the central coast of British Columbia. Allison and I had been on a grand total of two dates the previous month in California. Even though she was way out of my league, I felt strongly that she was ‘the one’.
She was on her way up to Canada to visit me for the first time and I knew that I had to take a shot and ask her to marry me. But I was quite literally in the middle of nowhere, so my engagement ring options were slim picking. Luckily, the village of Alert Bay, on a nearby island, is home to some super talented First Nations artists. I was born in this village and thought selecting a ring from a local artisan would be symbolic of both me and my home. I found this two-tone band featuring a hand-carved gold sun with the powerful Raven motif. The Kwakiutl people believed that the raven gave them the sun and the moon, which provided much meaning in the design of the ring. When Allison arrived and got settled at the lodge, we went up to the end of a remote fjord and then hiked up a river to a waterfall. That’s where I asked her to marry me. Surprisingly, her answer was ‘yes’ and 19 years and three kids later we are still rolling along. I did get her a traditional diamond engagement ring when I got back to civilization prior to our wedding day, but that hand-carved band will always be the first and truly sentimental engagement ring.”
Adel Chefridi, Designer
“The first piece of jewelry I bought when I came to New York City from Tunis in 1998 was for a beautiful girl I met in Brooklyn. They were a teardrop-shaped pair of earrings from Sub-Saharan Africa with etching detail, very tribal with a lot of character. I really hoped she would like it because of how much both she and the earrings spoke to me.
When I gave the earrings to her, she instantly recognized the store I bought them in and it was one of her favorite places. The earrings were a hit. We now have worked parts of the elements of the earring into our collection as she has been such an inspiration and they looked so great on her. It was one step that helped pave the way in our journey to be married and then have a happy and beautiful family.”
Niveet Nagpal/ Designer/Owner Omi Gems
“The first significant piece I made for my wife (after the engagement ring) was a yellow sapphire ring. I had just started designing and manufacturing pieces in Los Angeles and I wanted to create something special. We had just found a vibrant cushion-cut yellow sapphire, which we were about to add to our inventory. I knew that it was going to be Valentine’s Day a few weeks later so I had an idea. I showed my wife the drawing and how I pictured the design just for her. She loved it in the drawing and when it was done, she was even more crazy about it. It was a perfect gift for an amazing woman in celebration of not just one holiday but many days of love.”
It was more than 20 years ago when I first met an Australian businesswoman who was traveling to Turkey with some friends for summer holiday. She was shopping in the quaint seaside town of Bodrum where she discovered a small selection of my designs and bought five or six pieces! She was so taken by the jewelry that when she arrived in Istanbul a couple of weeks later she tracked me down (OK, maybe stalked me! is a better phrase). There was an instant connection and we knew we were soul mates. I’m not sure if it was due to the fact that I saw how much she appreciated my work, or I realized how much she’d overpaid the wily merchant in Bodrum or I somehow foresaw my future, but then and there I gave her a pair of 24K and pearl earrings as a gift. Fiona Tilley is my wife of over 20 years, our CEO and still my No. 1 customer!
Paul Lubetsky, Founder & CEO of Windsor Jewelers, Inc.“This is not the first piece I ever purchased for my wife Toni, but it is her favorite. It’s an Art Deco platinum ring with a 4-carat center stone. I bought it as an upgrade from her original 2-carat engagement ring. She was overwhelmed when she saw it and I knew she would be because her favorite period is Art Deco. I bought it three years into our marriage and after 27 years, she sill wears it every day.
Simon Teakle/Owner, Antique Specialist Simon Teakle
“I grew up in England, and when I first met the woman who was to become my wife, my taste was still somewhat conservative. I had not yet worked as a jewelry specialist at Christie’s and the likes of Belperron, Boivin or Sterle were not yet on my horizon. In retrospect, they weren’t on many others’ yet, either! I did have a deep appreciation for antique jewelry (and at the time a very limited budget!). The first piece I ever purchased for my wife was an early 19th-century amethyst rivière
necklace. It was bought as a wedding present. My gut instincts were right about both the woman and the necklace. Both are beautiful. The rivière to this day is still greatly loved and worn, and my wife and I are still very happily married.”
Alex Sepkus/ Designer
“Dange, who would become my wife, had just joined me in the U.S. I was working my first job after coming to New York from Lithuania and had no money to speak of. Dang was collecting cans and doing all she could to help. We had a tiny apartment in Queens for $550 a month and all we had was being saved for my future work. But it was Dang’s birthday and I knew I needed to figure out a way to create something special just for her. It was 1990 and I crafted these gold inlaid rock crystal earrings with pearls. I was so pleased at how much she wore them. Now, they would be seen as very simple compared to the evolution of my work, but they meant so much to both of us at that time in our lives.”