Okay jewelry loving friends. We have interviewed a few amazing people for our blog but Grace from Jewels by Grace is going to go down in the books of epic-ness. Sometimes during the interview we were not sure if she was giving us sage life advice worthy of Oprah herself or if she is a just a prophet sent down by the Old European Cut god's to deliver a message on why we should all love vintage jewels. We probably will never know. She is a self described "jewelry addict" don't worry Grace we are too. If it makes your feel better upon accepting a juicy asscher cut engagement ring we promptly negotiated all future diamond purchases to ensure we were on the same page with our addiction (it's good to level set future expectations). This interview is full of too much jewelry loving amazing-ness that we really don't know what to say except you should probably read it twice. Also, it closes with a romantic bang so we know reading is hard but the end is worth it.
P.S. Grace if you want to get "lit up like a christmas tree in diamonds" and have a drink anytime we are in...
Tell us a little about your yourself and how you came to own such an amazing jewelry company?
I get asked this question very often, and the truth is, I’m a little bit of a fluke. And I say so because I do not come from a family of jewelers, nor connections in the industry. And I did not come from a jewelry background at all, and certainly did not get involved in the business at a young age.
I am a woman who had a small dream; but, I would like to think, great taste in jewelry. I think my brand has evolved and has become successful; because, I espouse bucking the trend and fitting outside the box way before it was hip and cool to be that woman. It has always been my mantra - I like things that do not always fit the mold – slightly quirky, different, and unique. I am an advocate of the quirky, chunky, slight off-round, antique diamonds. I have always said that these diamonds are not perfect, but there were always perfectly imperfect to me. They had a soul, an air of charisma, and that quality that I just do not see in modern diamonds – these stones have lived, and they are just so full of character. Each one is just so different from the other.
A vast majority of the time, I buy pieces with the thought that it if never ever sells, I should be happy to give it a home in my jewelry box. And luckily for me, people seem to love what I love and that has always been my guiding mantra. I listen to what my clients tell me they like/want, and that also plays a big factor in the pieces I decide to carry.
Why do you love vintage jewelry?
I really do love jewelry. I can breathe it, live it, have it for breakfast and cocktail hour every day, and it will always be just as exciting and mesmerizing to me. My pulse still races, my heart beats faster, and my palms still sweat when I’m looking at jewelry (my eyes have been observed to glaze over as well). My name is Grace Lavarro, and I am a jewelry addict. There, I said it!
The first ever antique diamond I ever saw was my mother in law’s, which was an old European cut diamond she inherited from my husband’s grandmother, the family matriarch who had a vast collection of jewels. I was hooked, and there was no turning back.
I love vintage jewelry because I am that woman who likes to march to the beat of my own drum. I like the intangible charm, romance, and history of these pieces. They have lived, they have been loved, and they are a part of history. I often think of the stories they can tell, and the previous generations of love and life intrinsically interwoven with this one memento. How wonderful to be given the chance to add your own history and romance to this beautiful piece of jewelry? And perhaps pass it down to your own children someday – how special is that!
I also like that each piece will never look anything like the others. The diamonds were cut by hand over 100 years ago, without the aid of computers, fancy software, and in most cases, even electricity. Only the raw skill of these artisans, back in the day, literally shaped these diamonds.
What should people consider when making a vintage jewelry purchase?
First of all, I would encourage some research into the purchase. A little knowledge is always a great thing, and it also helps your jeweler in narrowing down the options to present to you if you know what you want. Most of all, realizing what you are looking at a ring or piece of jewelry that could be 100+ years old is key. They will never, ever be perfect like modern jewels.
But trust me, you don’t want them to be perfect anyway. You want them to have character, and that indescribable charm. The diamond may even have some minuscule nicks along the girdle – this is like a woman who has earned her crow’s feet. The setting may be a little worn down, but realize this is because the jewel was so loved that it was likely worn every day. Don’t look for perfection in the traditional sense – look for what is perfectly imperfect for you.
What is most popular amongst your clients?
The Art Deco and Edwardian period still reign supreme with my clients. Art Deco pieces always sell very, very well because they are elegant and so timeless. Of course, the Edwardian pieces evoke that romance and femininity that no other period in jewelry does. I am beginning to see more appreciation for Victorian and Georgian pieces as well, with the resurgence of yellow gold, especially.
What is your favorite cut of diamond?
Old European cuts will always be my favorite, followed very closely by antique step cuts. A juicy asscher cut always gets me all googly-eyed. Transitionals are also very special to me (my very first sizable old cut was a transitional cut).
Any pro-tips for caring for vintage jewels?
Reasonable care should always be exercised when wearing antique and vintage jewelry (as a matter of fact, this should apply to all jewelry). Please do not wear them while doing heavy work with your hands. This includes gardening, going to the gym, and the like. Jewelry may be worn while doing “regular” household chores like the dishes, laundry, vacuuming, etc. Personally I do not wear any jewelry when I am at home but admittedly, I am lit up like a Christmas tree when I leave the house, even if I am only going to pick up hamburger meat at the supermarket!
I would advise that, if at all possible, please do not wear your jewelry to sleep (the prongs, or earring posts could actually scratch you), or in the shower. Grime, oils, and all sorts dirt and gunk will eventually build up and your beautiful jewelry will eventually appear dull and lifeless. Dirt can also build up underneath prongs and eventually cause them to break or loosen.
Also, please clean your jewelry regularly. If a weekly cleaning session is not possible, please try to do it at least every few weeks or so. This advice applies to diamond jewelry only, as gemstones have different quality you have to take into account.
In the absence of jet steamers or ultrasonic machines, please put a few drops of regular dishwashing liquid (regular Dawn or Joy – non scented) in a small bowl of very hot water. Drop your jewels in, and let soak for 10-15 minutes to loosen the dirt and oils. Brush gently with a baby toothbrush under warm running water. Immediately after, use your hair dryer in the cool setting to dry it. You may also use compressed air. This step is optional, but I dislike water spots on my jewelry so I like to give it a quick blast of cold air.
Would you mind sharing a bit about your favorite pieces?
I actually have several favorite pieces. Moi et Toi rings have always been my favorites and when a private party offered to sell me hers which had been in her family for several generations, it was kismet for me. It’s a 4.10ctw old European cut moi et toi ring in yellow gold that her grandfather had given her grandmother, and the inside of the shank is inscribed with the date “1896.”
Another favorite personal piece is a late 1940’s gentleman’s ring – again a twin stone with old European cut diamonds. Its set in a chunky, geometric yellow gold setting and I can only imagine that the most flamboyant gentleman wore it with pride in his time. I feel equally flamboyant and fabulous when I wear said ring!
And of course, there is this 5ctw+ Victorian bangle that I also will never part with. Inside the hinge is an inscription in Portuguese that translate to: “For my queen. 11 Nov 1941”.