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A new life by the sea

Moving south to subtropical Palm Beach, Florida, has allowed longtime New York designer Mish Tworkowski to indulge his passion for color and nature.

By Joyce Kauf

Image: Carmel Brantley

Mish Tworkowski believes that moving gives a person the opportunity for “a second childhood.” After a successful career in New York that spanned more than 30 years, Tworkowski recently relocated to Palm Beach, Florida, and opened Mish Fine Jewelry — a move he describes as “a big, wonderful, invigorating next step.”

He began designing jewelry as a hobby when he was a young boy. After graduating from college, he accepted a position at Sotheby’s. Encouraged by coworkers and their moms buying his pieces, and with “amazing” support from Sotheby’s, he turned his hobby into a business. By the time he left New York for Florida in 2021, he had opened three boutiques (though not concurrently) in downtown and uptown Manhattan.

Still, he says, moving was an “intellectual and emotional” decision for him and Joseph Singer, his husband and business partner.

A beautiful world

Palm Beach’s subtropical location held special appeal for Tworkowski, whose works draw on color and nature — from the sun’s brilliant rays to the shells that dot the sea’s captivating blue waters.

“I love to make happy jewelry inspired by the natural world. When I see a seashell, I imagine how it might look in a vibrant stone set in gold,” he says. “I look at my work as rooted in the traditional, but with a modern edge or good punch of incredible color and quality.”

While Tworkowski says he can “easily fall in love with a stone of exceptional color,” blue stones may hold the top spot in his galaxy of favorites. He admits being able to “stare at a padparadscha sapphire all day.”

Quality and craft

Tworkowski’s main market is serious art collectors who appreciate distinctive, exceptionally well-made pieces, whether they live in Palm Beach, New York, California or London. Preferring subtlety rather than “putting a big diamond on prongs,” the designer is hesitant to identify one signature style. Instead, he cites the “really, really beautiful workmanship” — front and back — that is representative of his work.

Whether it’s an earring or a charm on a bracelet, the wow factor is in the details that delight his clients. The Cabana bracelet — which he reissued and redesigned for the opening of his space in Palm Beach — features 15 vibrant, hand-carved turquoise charms in the shapes of nautilus, scallop and conch shells as well as starfish, all dangling from an 18-karat gold rope chain that glitters with diamonds. The beautiful, reticulated grilles on the reverse sides of the charms reflect the sea motif as well.

In his Why Knot? collection, which he created for the launch, Tworkowski adds a whimsical and innovative touch to knotted ropes. The inspiration came when he was walking on the Caribbean island of Mustique and found a weather-beaten rope that had washed ashore on the beach.

This new collection showcases Tworkowski’s love of pearls; he often combines different colors and shapes. The Pearl Tassel necklace, which he considers one of his best pieces, is a tantalizing mix of round Tahitian, white and gold South Sea, and pink freshwater cultured pearls, with an all-gold rope knot and a tassel of multicolor and mixed-shape South Sea and Tahitian keshi and freshwater pearls. True to form, the reverse side of each grille mimics the texture of the rope.

The Why Knot? line reflects “easygoing American luxury,” which is indicative of his clients’ evolving tastes, Tworkowski says. While his pieces feature exceptional stones, diamonds are not integral to every design. “As with everything, the world of the wealthy has changed as well. It is not a price-point issue — it’s that they want to wear the items all the time.”

Feeling at home

Tworkowski considers his new location “the most beautiful space in Palm Beach.” Built in 1924, the pink stucco building is what he calls a “design sanctuary,” enchanting visitors with its lavender walls, floral upholstery and hanging orchids. Considering it very much a studio and not a store, he wants to give clients the experience of being welcomed into a beautiful home.

It’s a comfort level that works well for his clientele. A member of the Council of Fashion Designers (CFDA), Tworkowski compares his approach to that of a couturier, especially in ensuring that the jewelry is the right fit for the customer. For example, it is critical to consider the size of the hand versus the size of the stone, he says. “When you’re buying an expensive piece, it should be a treat and the most incredible piece that works beautifully for you.”

The close client relationship also helps when it comes to creating custom pieces. “Many of my clients are friends, so I know their favorite flowers,” says Tworkowski, an avid gardener who often encourages them to include flowers in their designs. As part of the process, they get a watercolor painting of the piece.

Tworkowski has also designed a lot of custom car cuff links — especially Ferrari and Aston Martin — for clients who favor these as gifts for the men in their lives. As with all his designs, each set of cuff links is packed with detail. “We even match the tread on the tires to the movable wheels in the cuff links,” he says.

Tworkowski has resisted offers to expand by either adding other stores or selling wholesale to a wider audience. While such strategies might be more lucrative, they do not reflect his goals. “We have much more of a life business than a work business,” he says, comparing his niche to that of jewelers in early 20th-century Europe. “We’re very content to be here at this point. Our focus is on how best to deal with our new community; there is no thought of opening in Honolulu, [Hawaii,] or London.”

Everyone’s journey is different, he says. “I often think of life as a sailboat. You go with the wind you’re given. While you can steer the boat, you have to be careful about going against the wind, or you’ll have problems.” For Tworkowski, it looks like smooth sailing ahead in Palm Beach.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - April 2022. To subscribe click here.

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