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A feel for appeal

Art historian-turned-jeweler Briony Raymond brings a finely trained eye to creating, collecting and curating in her New York atelier.

By Joyce Kauf

Image: Briony Raymond 

Briony Raymond remembers exactly what she was doing when she found out that pop icon Rihanna was photographed on Madison Avenue wearing her Zodiac necklace: She was in her bedroom reading to her two young sons.

“I was trying to ignore the constant ringing and text alerts,” says the New York-based designer, who finally picked up her phone and saw the picture. “My husband, kids and I were jumping up and down.”

She recently celebrated the seventh anniversary of Briony Raymond New York, her eponymous collection of limited-edition, bespoke and exclusive vintage jewelry. Today, her celebrity fans include models Bella Hadid and Karli Kloss, singer Katy Perry, and actress Sarah Jessica Parker. “It never gets blasé,” she says. “It’s the greatest compliment, especially given the access they have to so many designers.”

Finding the spark

Passionate about jewelry since childhood, Raymond recalls following an unconventional path to her métier. She studied art history in Paris, but after her parents told her she had to earn a living, she opted to “give finance a whirl,” since so many of her friends were in that field. After working at three prestigious firms, though, she realized she had to look elsewhere for that “spark of creative joy.”

Her first foray into jewelry was at Van Cleef & Arpels, which she says will always hold a special place in her heart. While the education and experience she gleaned over 10 years was invaluable, she felt she could do more. “I wanted to find a way to both express my creativity and also work with vintage jewelry across all eras.” To round out her “perfect world,” she says, she wanted to provide a service that would help clients repurpose their jewelry.

“I had all these design ideas dancing around in my head,” relates Raymond, who finds inspiration everywhere — from paintings and textiles to people and nature. However, it’s the feelings these images evoke that drive her creativity. “The sensation of touching the richness of a fabric is what I want to translate to my jewelry.”

Comfort and craftsmanship

Raymond’s designs reflect a skillful combination of aesthetics and architecture. The piece has to look good, she believes, but it also has to feel good for the wearer. In constructing her pieces, she takes care to ensure that a necklace won’t flip if a woman leans forward, the back of a pendant won’t pull on her clothes, and the clasp won’t catch on the woman’s hair. Earrings must face forward. The inside of a ring must be finished and have no sharp edges, so that it “slides on the finger and feels velvety-smooth and soft,” Raymond elaborates.

She works with the same team of master jewelers who have hand-crafted her pieces since she started her company. Manufacturing in New York’s Diamond District allows the detail-oriented Raymond to aim her laser focus at every aspect of production and ensure that the pieces — which are signed and bear unique serial numbers — meet her specifications. “It gives me total control of the creative process,” she says. “I see every casting and every stone. How else could I put my name on it?”

She has noted some “cross-pollination” of clients between her signature collection and her bespoke business. A significant part of the latter consists of jewelry that pays homage to important people and moments in her clients’ lives. Working in collaboration with them, Raymond expresses those memories in gold and gemstones. Her Zodiac pieces, often featuring the astrological signs of a client’s children, are very popular.

She is currently working on her most challenging custom piece: a modern talisman bracelet for her mother that will include five charms, each representing a different theme. “Not an easy task,” says Raymond, citing the extra pressure of identifying the five themes for her mother, from whom she inherited her “incredible eye for jewelry.”

The thrill of vintage

Although bespoke and estate rarely overlap, Raymond focuses her own “ninja eye” on vintage, which she says provides a wonderful platform for curating signed and unsigned pieces. “There are so many genres of jewelry that I love, and each is so different from the other. Estate is fun because there are no limitations on it.”

A self-described “client advocate,” she offers mini-history lessons to her customers because it is “tremendously important” that they be educated about the pieces they’re buying. Ironically, she credits her last position — managing private investment portfolios — with teaching her a lot about building client trust. She declares that job “the closest to what I do now.”

Sourcing presents no problem for Raymond. Rather, the challenge is “culling through how much we are fortunate to have offered to us by estate dealers worldwide.” She vividly remembers her “dream piece”: a Van Cleef & Arpels sapphire and diamond necklace from the late 1940s or early ’50s that once belonged to a royal family in the Middle East. A trusted estate dealer contacted Raymond, who bought and sold this “unforgettable” piece via WhatsApp without ever leaving her elegantly eclectic Upper East Side atelier.

In a good place

Indeed, this “die-hard New Yorker” is happy in the city and wouldn’t consider going anywhere else.

“Manufacturing in New York may not be the least expensive or most efficient way to make jewelry, but it works for me,” she says. “And I’m supporting an industry and the city I love.”

She also looks to support those less fortunate than herself. As much as she appreciates the “super cool” moment of seeing a celebrity wearing her designs, she acknowledges that we are living in a “world gone crazy” with people in need. She already donates to causes that are near and dear to her, and she hopes to implement a more formalized philanthropy component in her business.

“A big part of starting my business was that I wanted to be helpful to people in terms of designing, repurposing their jewelry, and offering vintage. People told me that I should only focus on one thing. But I thought, ‘Why not everything?’”

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

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