Some partnerships are not apparent at first and that is the case with Gem Hunt and Under the Crown® who is a very well-known wholesale vintage jewelry brand out of New York. I met Ross Nacht of Under The Crown, by happenstance…he reached out as he was traveling through San Francisco and invited me to coffee.
The conversation was easy and I was quickly explaining my only year-long journey into jewelry which could not be more opposite of Ross...
Ross is a fourth generation jeweler and his family's company Bernard Nacht and Company (also known as Under The Crown) is over a hundred years old, one hundred and eleven years old to be exact. You probably won't think someone with one year of experience and company that is over hundred years would be an immediate fit, but it was. I think it's probably easy to bond when you both a share a love diamonds, and a good sense of humor and that is how the Under The Crown and Gem Hunt pop shop was born.
Because of our partnership and my fascination with Under The Crown, I am delighted to bring you this more in depth interview with Ross about vintage jewelry. As himself personally and Under The Crown are most definitely vintage experts that are a step above the rest.
You have the most fabulous name - where did you get it?
Thank you! In the early 2000's, my father wanted to separate ourselves and our product from other estate wholesalers. The phrase “estate jewelry” was being misconstrued to include close-outs on manufactured goods, and we wanted to differentiate ourselves as one-of-a-kind items, whether they be 100+ years or an item from the 1980s. The crown was our logo for “Bernard Nacht & Company”, so that was already present. The crown emblem represents royalty and honor, which we know the end user will feel when wearing an item from our collection.
What is the history behind Under The Crown?
Bernard Nacht (my great grandfather) started the company out of his car in Lower Manhattan on Maiden Lane in 1906. He was the go-to for wholesale estate jewelry and diamonds. Over time, he moved the business uptown to the diamond district. Our company is now in its fourth generation, and, while times certainly have changed, we are still servicing customers in the same manner as Bernard did throughout the beginning of the 20th Century.
Why do you love working with vintage jewelry?
I love working with vintage jewelry because every item is a unique piece of wearable art that makes people happy. Not every style works for everyone, but I guarantee that there is a piece of jewelry out there that is “for you”. More so, vintage jewelry is an amazing heirloom to pass down to future family members to be a family treasure.
I also love my job because I become a treasure hunter for the most beautiful, wearable diamonds, gems and jewelry out there.
What’s the best advice you would give someone looking to buy vintage?
- Purchase from a reliable source
- Receive as much information about each piece that you can.
- Purchase something timeless that you love, and start building your own collection
- Make sure the item is in good condition
What are three jewelry trends you are seeing right now in vintage jewelry?
- Antique cluster rings (all different types of center stones: diamonds, opals, peridots, sapphires)
- Antique and vintage engagement rings have always been relevant in our business, but the education and youthful interest about these timeless styles have definitely increased the allure towards younger brides-to-be
- Asscher cuts, European cuts and old mine cuts – people LOVE these older cut diamonds. The shape, the history, the uniqueness.
What’s the best way to care for vintage jewelry?
It will depend on each item…(these are old items, so handle with care!) For diamond jewelry, I recommend lightly scrubbing a toothbrush with rubbing alcohol on the item; for gemstone jewelry, I recommend lightly scrubbing a toothbrush with soap and water.
What’s your favorite all-time diamond you have seen?
I am a sucker for old mine cut diamonds. They are all unique in shape and personality because they were originally cut by foot pedal power during the time without electricity.
One of my favorite diamonds to cross my desk was a 3.73ct D Flawless old mine cushion cut diamond that was from the Golconda region, Type IIa. Free of Nitrogen, Type IIa diamonds account for only 1-2% of all mined diamonds in the world, making them extremely rare and valuable. The Koh-i-Noor diamond and Cullinan diamonds are famous examples of Type IIa diamonds. The crystal clear diamond with a depth of 65.1% was set in a handmade platinum setting with split claw prongs to be worn as a pendant.
Do you have a favorite era of jewelry?
I love every era of jewelry for different reasons. The most intriguing to me is the parallel of jewelry to historic events. For example, platinum became scarce to use for jewelry during the start of World War II, so gold jewelry (in particular rose gold) became the metal of choice.
Having said that, I love late Edwardian, early Art Deco jewelry (circa 1920), when motifs from both eras come across in a single item. Fine filigree designs paired with straight, clean lines makes for a gorgeous piece of jewelry.
You can find the Under The Crown collection curated by Gem Hunt vintage shop here.