How Oscar Heyman became the Jewelers’ Jeweler

Full disclosure I have been waiting for this book, Oscar Heyman The Jewelers’ Jeweler, to be released for almost 3 years. I follow JCK news frequently and on July 15, 2014. This story by Jennifer Heebner showed up.

I clicked on the link immediately! There was the editor detailing how this book about the over 100-year-old jewelry company was being worked on by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The main point I wanted to know was the release date, which was estimated around 2015 or 2016. Well that was pushed out, but I waited and waited. Then on February 3rd, 2017 I received an email from the Museum of Fine Arts about the book’s release on April 1st.

April 1, 2017, arrived and I called the MFA to confirm they had this book. The weather in Boston on April 1st was terrible with snow, wind and rain, a good joke for New Englanders’ thinking winter was behind them. Once I knew the book was ready to buy I made my journey, by public transportation no less, to the museum. Why go on the worst day when I could wait for a sunnier day the next? I wanted this book and the wait had been long enough. Amazon was even behind, not releasing it until the next week.

So what got me to this point? What is it that drew me to Oscar Heyman’s jewelry? It wasn’t the jewelry that got me curious about this company it was their reputation and their story.

The Beginnings

In 1901 the Heyman family sent two of their sons, Oscar and his older brother Nathan to train to be jewelers in the Ukraine. They were living in the Russian controlled area of Latvia at the time. These young apprentices manufactured jewelry and other objects for international clients and the House of Peter Carl Faberge. I had previously seen this reference to Faberge in literature about the Oscar Heyman & Brothers Company. This is what caught my eye and had me research and follow this firm for many years now.

I have written some about Faberge. He is one of my (if not my) favorite designer! My goal is to own a small item manufactured by Peter Carl Faberge’s company. It does not matter what it is, because whatever I buy will be of the best quality.  That is what made Faberge’s company so wonderful every piece no matter the size or value had to be consistent in quality. Everyone that worked for him or represented his company had to meet his high standards.

From what I have seen and learned about the Oscar Heyman Company on my own and through this book is that they have several aspects of their company that parallel Faberge’s. One being their craftsmanship and the second, relationships.

 

Craftsmanship

I see a lot of jewelry at auctions, stores, designer open houses, etc. and the over used phrase of, ‘That is so beautiful!’, is frequently heard at these events. But there must be more than beauty to make a piece of jewelry be looked at as an object of art and desire. The jewelry needs a soul.

A story I have highlighting the character of an Oscar Heyman piece, is from a Christie’s online auction preview I went to last year.  I was going through the cases, starting at one end and working around, when I heard a Christie employee telling a woman that was trying on jewelry from the case about an Oscar Heyman ring that she identified. I tried to move inconspicuously towards the two. The woman telling the story continued telling how Christie’s received a group of jewelry to be cataloged for this auction and as she was going through the jewelry, a ring stood out to her as being something that looked like it was by Oscar Heyman. There was no stamp of the designer but the worker wanted to just see if it might be one of theirs. Pictures and details of the piece were sent to the Heyman office and sure enough Christie’s was contacted and told the ring was in the Heyman archives! Making it a total of three Oscar Heyman rings being offered at this auction! The woman trying on jewelry was no longer looking at the piece she was currently trying on but taking in this fun story of discovery. She quickly asked if the piece she had on was the ring. Her ring was of a gold alligator that wrapped around her figure, most likely a Kieselstein-Cord ring, definitely not an Oscar Heyman, the Christie’s worker confirmed that.  What was the ring you ask? Well the other onlooker wondered if she had picked it but did not ask about seeing the actual ring. I looked in the case and saw three rings with a similar design, a large stone with smaller stones around it. One stood out and I had a feeling that was the ring. So I asked to see the Oscar Heyman ring and the employee picked the one I had my eye on! A yellow diamond in the center with smaller alternating yellow and white diamonds around it. What stood out to me? The setting. The stones were layered and seemed to sit a little higher than the other similarly designed rings. Picture below:

So that was one down. I spotted the second one, a ruby that was in a case by itself.

 

Had to try it on!

The third one I had to ask. This sapphire and diamond ring was in another case, two out of three is not bad!

Not every quality piece I have seen is from Oscar Heyman, but every Oscar Heyman is a quality piece.

 

Relationships

Another aspect that the book touches on is relationships the company has with their employees and retailers.

Company loyalty can be hard to find. Even when you do find a stable job the conditions can be hard to be happy in. So, it was refreshing to hear a story about how the Oscar Heyman employees handled the 25th anniversary of the company. Oscar Heyman and his brother came over to America in 1906 and founded their company in 1912. The 25th anniversary took place in 1937, a time when the country was struggling with troubling economic hardships. The day was to be like any other but the employees wanted to mark the occasion. For the silver anniversary, the employees worked in secret for fourteen months to complete a clock to present to their employers. Picture below found from post by Couture Musings:

Around the globe are the letters O. Heyman & Bros each character marking an hour. The figure on the right is to represent a workbench jeweler. The figure on the left is the god Mercury, that represents commerce and financial gain. At the silver base are the names of all the current employees for that time. It was touching to read that story and to think how much those employees must have loved working for the company to do all this!

Faberge ran a workshop that also cared for their workers. The workers had good wages, excellent working facilities and even had the opportunity to manage small businesses within the company. Many pieces not only have the stamp of Faberge but the maker in charge of that object. It gave a sense of pride and ownership to the workers. Rare for a company to be so invested in their workers.

The retailers also had favorable comments about Oscar Heyman. Mr. Heyman passed away in 1970, the book notes that one retailer recalled during the Depression how Mr. Heyman granted his clients with the option of credit and the opportunity to sell the jewelry on consignment. This helped many businesses stay open as paying for those high-end pieces would have crippled their cash flow significantly, causing them to possibly go out of business.

These businesses were not just a few retailers Oscar Heyman’s business model is selling to stores not to consumers. Black, Starr & Frost, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels to name a few had Oscar Heyman & Bros manufacture jewelry to sell under their stores name. When going to auctions you can still find pieces marked as one retailer but were created by the Heyman Company.

Below is a bracelet that was clearly marked in the Sotheby’s catalog as being from Black, Starr & Frost but on Instagram Heyman shared it as one of the pieces they manufactured. In the book a similar bracelet is pictured and credited as Oscar Heyman. Details of this amazing piece at auction are taken by me below.

Looking Forward

The book spends its time focusing on Oscar Heyman’s business from 1912-1970. Ending their story with the passing away of Oscar Heyman on July 13, 1970.  A few paragraphs mark the centennial that the company celebrated 5 years ago but the focus on the book is the company through the years.

I genuinely enjoyed the book. I was a little concerned when I saw the page count, worrying it would be all photos and no real story, like a coffee table book. It would have been the easy way to make this book.  The thought of picking from hundreds of thousands of jewelry photos seems difficult but how could you go wrong with picking any piece, especially with all the rich history? This book was to show and explain why Oscar Heyman is the Jewelers’ Jeweler. This isn’t a title they claimed for themselves like a marketing campaign. The title has been given to them by the employees, retailers and customers who have been a part of their story. I look forward to continuing to see their jewelry at auctions, in stores and on social media for a new audience to appreciate.

Links to buy the book from Amazon are here or from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston click here

Joan and her Jewelry

Joan Rivers style was best described by her daughter Melissa as a ‘maximalist, more is more’.  My memories of Joan Rivers, the celebrity were her larger than life style choices, her choice words and her fashion! Joan was doing standup, working on Fashion Police, publishing books, winning on the Apprentice…the list can go on.

Joan_celebrity_photos

This is only the one side of Joan that she showed to the world. She had another as a mother and grandmother. So when she passed away about 2 years ago, her daughter, Melissa, took the time to go over the estate and share her memories of her mother through the collection shown at Christie’s Auction House in New York City. The auction of her more expensive pieces is tomorrow but an online auction is going on now until the 23rd of June. I got to see a few pieces from her collection when visiting Christie’s a few weeks ago.

After getting a glimpse into her tastes and interests I found that even though her fashion style was not really my taste much of her jewelry was. I will highlight 3 designers from her New York auction and then look at her online jewels.

In March a small sample of her items were displayed to announce the upcoming auction in the summer at Christie’s. I glanced at some of her furniture and knick knacks and came across these beauties by none other than one of my favorite designers ever, Faberge!

Faberge

faberge_jewelry

The Star Sapphire pendant and Chalcedony brooch in the center were the pieces I saw in person, my photos were not too good, but the Christie’s photos show some of the detail. A fun fact about Joan she was a Faberge collector! To Joan, Faberge is what came to mind when you thought about the ultimate luxury. Joan and her family were of Russian descent so it is not surprising for that to be an aspirational brand to own. Another set of Faberge pieces I loved seeing were the picture frames.

faberge_photos

The frame to the left is of Joan and Melissa, the man in the center frame, any guesses? That is Vincent Price (Melissa’s godfather) and the woman is her godmother a Hollywood star that I did not find the name of. These photos are what was actually in the frames that Joan used. Why not? The history is an aspect Joan loved as well as the beauty. Christie’s found a record of the lavender pillbox below belonging to Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, mother to Nicholas II the last Czar of Russia. Grandmother to Princess Anastasia for those that are familiar with the animated movie starring the voice of Meg Ryan.

faberge_objects

The Lily of the Valley bowl to the left is the highlight of the Faberge collection in the exhibit. This rare carved nephrite stone designed with rose gold, pearls and diamonds is estimated to sell between $200,000-$300,000.

For more articles that I have written on Faberge click here.

 

Iradj Moini

Another designer Joan often wore was Iradj Moini. He is a fashion jewelry designer based in New York who has been in business since 1989. He had previously worked for Oscar De La Renta. His work was featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2006 for Iris Apfel’s exhibit. I had not heard of him but Joan seemed to enjoy his work.

IM_jewelryOne of the photos above shows Joan wearing the red beaded necklace on the far right.

 

Cezua

I saw this necklace in the exhibit and had to know more…

Cezua_pearl_necklace_live

This is a massive necklace all made with freshwater pearls. The center gem is a large amethyst surrounded by blue and orange topazes with diamonds. The designer Cesar Lim (Cezua was his nickname as a kid) graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. He started out in fashion design working at houses such as Anne Klein then transitioned into jewelry. He opened his first gallery in Beverly Hills, CA in 2009. That necklace is estimated to go between $3,000-$5,000.

Click here to go to Christie’s to see more of her private collection.

Online Auction

For those wanting a different style and a lower price point then check out Joan’s online auction. I was surprised again at her variety, online had more art nouveau, antique jewelry and chunky beaded necklaces.

See below for the antique and art nouveau pieces I found stunning.

Art_brooches

These brooches range from high estimates of $1,500 to $6,000. The price is high but the quality and uniqueness is where the value in these pieces would be for me.  Also the proceeds will go to charities Joan was involved with. To see more click here to be directed to her online auction. So go over to Christie’s and take a look at these treasures! Below are photos from the small exhibit I saw of her items. Please let me know your thoughts on this collection or Joan! Don’t hold back, you know Joan wouldn’t!

Joan_exhibit

Goodbye Dorfman Jewelers

Front

If you visit Boston and take the Duck Tour, one of the stops is Newbury Street. The driver takes a moment to tell about the high-end shops and important people who shop on this street. When the Duck boats roll up to Newbury Street after February 20th, Newbury Street will feel a little less glamorous. Dorfman Jewelers is closing today.

I came to Boston almost seven years ago to attend graduate school. I was not in the area too long before I found my way to Newbury Street and Dorfman. I want to focus this post on my experience with the store and the jewelry. Sometimes you can be too close to a subject, which makes it hard to express exactly the meaning your subject has on you. Events at Dorfman were not simple viewings; you were celebrating a new brand coming into the Dorfman family. Those in attendance were in some cases clients but were all friends and welcomed guests. I wrote about several events held at Dorfman’s in some of my past blog posts. I will mention the links if you would like to know more.

Events I attended were:

The reopening of Dorfman’s in the Fall of 2014. I entered the new store and all the designers or brand representatives were there to answer questions about their jewels and brand. The designers included Alexandra Mor, Mimi So, Agori, Gemlock and many others. Some of their pictures are below. This was also the first Alexandra Mor Boutique that opened.

new_store

April 2015, Fred Leighton had an event at Dorfman showing off jewelry worn by the stars. That article is here that I wrote on the event.

leighton

In the Fall of 2015, they hosted the newly made imperial egg created by the reestablished Faberge Company. The night was filled with beautiful music provided by a professional singer, a representative of Faberge to talk about the pieces in more depth and the jewelry that was available to purchase.

faberge

Other events included the new Atomo mini collection that Giorgio Bulgari came to show; Graff Diamonds shown in Dorfman’s, Pinks diamonds from the Angolo Mines of Austrailia (I remember the $1.2 million bracelet I tried on) and meeting Alexandra Mor. Gerard Riveron the former Creative Director at Dorfman’s first introduced Alexandra’s collection in 2012. I was fortunate enough to try on some of her beautiful and well-crafted pieces. It is one of the many qualities that Dorfman had that made it different from the rest. All the pieces were high quality, beautiful and wearable.

 

Good byes are hard to handle but they are even harder when you feel as though you do not have something to carry with you after it ends. That is why I hoped to leave with a piece from this amazing store and instead left with a story that involves fate. A quote I like is from Napoleon Bonaparte, ‘There is no such thing as accident; it is just fate misnamed.’ I got the news of Dorfman closing when I was home in the Midwest for Christmas. I got to the store after the New Year to find many of the pieces in my price range already sold (not that there were many options with my budget). I did see a light colored pear shaped pendant that I remembered from an event in the spring (Picture below from an event).

A_Furst

It was an A & Furst rose gold pendant with what was said to be a rose quartz. I was really hoping to buy that item but it was only 30% off. I can tell you I left a little down but I still had faith something might come up later. February came and I was planning to go back and say good-bye to the staff. I knew there had been more discounts but with Valentine’s Day, the odds were less in my favor of the pendant still being there. I walk in with a few small gifts and talked a moment to those workers that were there. I looked around the store again and was a little surprised to see the pendant at 50% off still on display. I asked to see the pendant again. The woman that took it out then proceeded to talk about the pendant and a strange occurrence with the piece.

The piece really was not supposed to be here. The story went another customer had looked at this pendant a few weeks ago. She liked it but wanted to think it over; when she returned to buy the pendant, it was gone. The woman telling me the story was the one to tell the woman if it was not out then it must have sold. A few days later same the woman returned looked around, asked about the pendant and left when she was told it was not here it must have sold. Well a little while after that the pendant resurfaced it had not sold but had somehow slipped underneath something that had it hidden. The store took it out and displayed it. The woman never returned but another customer came that was interested but wanted the stone to be amethyst not rose quartz so she declined. Then I came in. I liked it but was not thinking of making a purchase but the necklace was closer to my budget. I did say I would think about it and made sure they were open on President’s Day. I thought about the necklace the next day and decided to buy it Monday if it was there. As I was walking down Newbury Street that Monday morning still thinking of the necklace, I had a moment that felt a little like the scene from ‘When Harry Met Sally’. Harry (Billy Crystal) is alone in the cold thinking about what got him here and suddenly has a moment of clarity where the viewer sees flashbacks of him and Sally (Meg Ryan). The viewer knows what Harry just realizes and puts so eloquently to Sally when he sees her, “when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible”.

I was not buying just a pendant I was buying memories that were something I would keep forever. I got to the store and the pendant was still there. I took one more look and saw more than what was in front of me. I saw six years of happy moments from a store with the best quality and kindest staff I had ever met. I bought the A & Furst pendant and became a client of Dorfman Jewelers. On the train ride back, I took out my receipt to see what the description had. The stone is a Rose de France. I looked it up and saw it is in fact an amethyst but is so light a shade of purple it is not considered as valuable as the deeper hued amethyst people are familiar with. So looking back, I think it was a story of fate. As hard as it is to imagine Newbury Street without Dorfman Jewelers, there is a quote I found comforting. ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard’~A.A.Milne

20160220_122254

 

Thank you for the many wonderful experiences Dorfman! For those familiar with the store I would love to hear your stories in the comments. I hope you visit my blog again soon!

 

Below are a few more photos from the pieces in the final store inventory:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160213_124827

20160213_124812

20160213_124617
Alexandra Mor Ring

20160213_125042