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- Gypsy Spark Ring, from $360
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For several years now, Erica Weiner's tiny Elizabeth Street boutique has been a resource for made-in-NY jewelry that's as affordable as it is sustainable. Now, Weiner's branched out into a higher-end line, 1909, aimed at brides, grooms, and anyone else who wants to spend a little bit more on a vintage-inspired keepsake piece. Below, Weiner tells us about the project. You can find this summer's selections on her website now, while part two should hit stores around Valentine's Day.
On the move into fine jewelry: Part of it was because my partner and I were getting a bit older and growing out of the cheap and cheerful costume jewelry that we'd been making for other people our age. Now all of a sudden, we had a little more money, and we were buying nicer stuff. We're so into antiques that we started collecting things, wearing them, and then selling them.
On how the collection came about: We started asking around the jewelry district for people about who can repair things, because old jewelry breaks. We wound up finding a bunch of specialists who can do amazing stuff with antiques. A lot of them can find old stones and do all the old high-craftsmanship work that has been mostly forgotten.
I love old jewelry, but we wanted to make stuff exactly to our specifications. We'd find a ring and be like, "I love this, but wouldn't it be more wearable if the ring wasn't so chunky?" We ended up Frankensteining pieces together, and then refining our technique with these experts.
On the name 1909: My grandmother, my father's mother, was born in 1909 here on the Lower East Side. She was a real character. She wore a lot of jewelry—she was just that classic old Jewish lady by the pool wearing all the jewelry, and she was kind of a scrappy businesswoman. She was a single mom, and she faked her way into her job of head of secretaries at St. Vincent's Hospital by teaching herself stenography from a book. She's so entrepreneurial, and I hope that's a quality I have too. She's also a really good storyteller, and I didn't realize until the 1909 collection that storytelling is half of the importance of each piece.
On the stones: In a lot of cases we used precious stones. We really like red diamonds and black diamonds. And we used antique stones. When you buy antique diamonds, you have a much better chance of getting a stone that was mined before all the blood diamond stuff went down. Same with any kind of stone. So we try to find stones from the 1940s, when generally there were unions. (Though there's no way to trace a stone's actual history. Terrible things happened in the 1800s, too.)
We also like the way they looked better, so we tried to keep the antique thing sort of literal—a literal antique object in each thing you're buying from us, so it's not just straight-up reproduction.
On the bottom line: We just wanted to make stuff for our friends! It's been a labor of love, but also an expensive endeavor. There were a lot of rejects. We didn't make stuff that wasn't perfect. I hope people buy the living hell out of it.
· All Erica Weiner coverage [Racked NY]
· 1909 Collection [Erica Weiner]