Jewelry: The Showstopper

  • Jill Newman

Lorraine Schwartz arrived at a recent Christie’s jewelry auction in New York City wearing a long strand of large lavender jade beads, a chunky ivory bangle embedded with rubies, and a gray diamond floral-motif ring the size of a plum. Virtually all eyes in the room locked onto her jewels, and one admirer offered to buy her baubles on the spot. “I have six clients who want this ivory bangle,” says the 40-year-old jewelry designer about her antique ivory cuff, which she embellished with rubies and diamonds. Like most of her pieces, the $95,000 bracelet is a one-of-a-kind item.

Schwartz’s eclectic collection ranges from fashionable doughnut-shaped rose-cut diamond hoop earrings to collectible gem-set jade pieces. Her jewelry is as diverse as the roles she plays: One day she may negotiate the sale of a 30-carat diamond, the next she may meet in her Manhattan atelier with a rock star to design pieces for his wife, and the next she may fly to the Middle East for a consultation. When not courting clients, she frequently visits Istanbul and Geneva to oversee the crafting of her pieces, and she often treks to China searching for the finest Burmese jade.

Schwartz started her career more than 20 years ago when she went to work for her family’s New York City jewelry business, H. Benjamini, which her grandfather established in 1958. In addition to trading diamonds for the firm, she also designed jewelry for herself and was wearing some of her bracelets six years ago when she met renowned jeweler Fred Leighton. The bracelets impressed Leighton enough for him to request them for his Madison Avenue store. Unexpectedly operating her own business now, Schwartz cultivated a celebrity following that quickly raised her profile.

One of her most popular designs is a large, tubular bangle covered in rose-cut diamonds or sapphires in shades of blues, pinks, or autumn colors. “I have clients who collect them in all variations,” says Schwartz, noting that one fan has 15 of the bracelets.

Schwartz offers frank advice to clients who visit her Fifth Avenue showroom to try on pieces or commission custom designs. “It’s important to me that women feel sexy in their jewelry,” she says. “Jewelry can make you look and feel very young or very old.” She points to her large, curvaceous rose-cut diamond hoops as an example of “young” jewelry. “The transparent rose-cut diamonds give the appearance of glass, and the earrings swing as you move.” In contrast, she says, a floral brooch worn on a lapel can appear “old,” so she updates the classic by securing it to a chunky, diamond-studded wooden cuff.

“I love when a woman walks into a room and is noticed, not for the size of her rock,” adds Schwartz, “but because she makes a sexy statement with her jewels.” 

Lorraine Schwartz, 646.274.2008, available at Bergdorf Goodman, 212.872.8744, www.bergdorfgoodman.com

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