Rapaport Magazine

A New Generation

Reinstein/Ross has a unique approach to passing on its retail business to a new generation.

By Ettagale Blauer

Gold pendant with blue and green sapphires
For more than 25 years, Reinstein/Ross has been creating handmade, high-karat gold jewelry embellished with exquisite gemstones. The two-store New York City firm has persevered against the onslaught of machine-made jewelry, foreign competition, recession, the high price of gold and, perhaps
the most difficult challenge of all, turning the business over to a new generation.

A Partnership
   Unlike many retailers, however, jewelry designer Susan Reinstein and gem expert Brian Ross are not relying on family members to take over the business. Instead, they moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, and turned over ownership to Nancy Bloom and Andrew Schloss, two long-term employees, in a transition as seamless as the company’s exquisitely made jewels. Together, the four individuals continue to merge their talents to maintain the unique look and quality of the gems. The transition was gradual, with Reinstein and Ross making fewer trips to New York over time from their home in Sun Valley.
   As they have since the beginning of their business in 1985, Reinstein and Ross continue to travel to India to buy gems. The difference is that now, Bloom says, “We give them a budget.” The management role reversal works beautifully. The hand of Reinstein as designer is evident everywhere in the retailer’s offerings, with her oldest designs still as fresh as ever and her new designs giving shoppers something exciting to see, and covet.
   “Susan sends us designs at will,” says Bloom, and Reinstein’s designs make up the inventory of the two Manhattan locations. The first shop opened in 1985 on Prince Street in Soho and the second branch, which opened two years later, is on upscale Madison Avenue at 73rd Street. Within the two stores, vitrines, and the drawers below, offer hundreds of Reinstein’s classical looks, including her original combination of fancy sapphires wrapped in gold braid, embellished with granulation. The company is known for alloying its own gold, which allows it to match the tone of the gold to the tone of the stones and often to the skin tone of the customer. This work is as bespoke as it gets.

A Personal Touch
   Second-generation customers often come in for unique wedding rings and with that purchase begin their personal collections of Reinstein/Ross designs. The relationship of retailer to client is that of a custom couturier; every aspect of the jewel is a collaborative effect, with the clientele appreciating the details and quality materials that go into these new “classic” pieces.
   The continuity that makes this all possible can be seen in the workshop located just behind the jewelry sales gallery in the Upper East Side store. Here, six goldsmiths who have been with Reinstein/Ross for as long as 14 years perform the meticulous handwork that captures the very essence of the designer’s intention. Each piece in the Reinstein/Ross collection is made entirely in this New York City workshop and a single goldsmith completes each piece, start to finish, from the production of the gold alloy to the stone setting. The staff was trained at prestigious art and design schools, including Pratt Institute and the Rhode Island School of Design. Their years at the bench honing their skills and bringing to life Reinstein’s designs give the work a coherent look.

Gold Granules
   The staff goldsmiths’ skills have been put to the test even more lately, after the retailer’s primary supplier of gold granules closed its doors, and the company decided to make its own. It is a highly specialized production process, with small tolerances and small quantities. It involves taking a sheet of gold, milling it down to the thinness of foil and cutting tiny squares from the foil. Then heat is applied with a handheld torch, passing over the foil until it magically curls up into a tiny ball. It’s a time-consuming process, but one that, in its own way, adds even more authenticity to the work.
   Reinstein/Ross has always been known for its array of fancy colored sapphires in soft, pastel tones. Subtle hues of yellow, orange, green, blue and pink are combined in dangling earrings and necklaces. These are set harmoniously in the company’s specially alloyed gold. In addition, the artisans use small faceted diamonds on wedding bands and other jewels. Intriguing opaque diamonds form another part of the palette. Muted in tone and subtle in both color and shine, they are ideally suited to the look of Reinstein’s designs and the color of the 22-karat gold.
   While many of her original signature designs are still being produced, in 2013, Reinstein created a new collection of cloisonné jewels, each ready to be set according to a customer’s specifications. These single-flower panels combine multiple layers of enamel, set apart by fine gold wires that form the cells, or cloisons. Both the cloisonné jewels and the granulated pieces demand extraordinary expertise, particularly at the moment when they undergo firing, which sets the enamel and the granules and is the most perilous part of the work. The result appears effortless, a remarkable achievement.
   Reinstein/Ross has been able to prosper thanks to a devoted clientele as well as a dedicated staff. Ironically, the high gold price has not deterred clients. Bloom concludes, “They appreciate the work even more.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - March 2013. To subscribe click here.

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