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Jewelry: Yankee Swap

Jill Newman

Nearly a decade ago, fourth-generation jeweler Walter McTeigue resigned his position as Harry Winston’s buyer for diamonds, gemstones, and estate jewelry, and purchased a dairy farm in the Berkshires. Milking cows seven days a week, however, proved not as romantic as he thought it would be when he had envisioned the country life from his Manhattan office. Thus he returned to trading gems and estate jewelry and soon lured independent jeweler Tim McClelland, a longtime friend, from New York to the Berkshires. Together they established an atelier in Great Barrington, Mass., and created a collection that, after its recent debuts at Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Gump’s in San Francisco, has generated an overwhelming response.

The pair’s signature dandelion motif features a three-dimensional flower formed by dozens of delicate golden petals, each made through a tedious process. The flower appears fragile, yet the gold blossom is remarkably sturdy and resilient. “It requires an artistic eye to position each petal,” explains McTeigue. “We can’t use a template, otherwise they start looking mechanical.”

Without the pressure of supporting a New York operation’s overhead, the business partners can experiment leisurely with such techniques. McClelland spent more than two years refining his dandelion concept, and before that, he devoted several years to developing a gold alloy process that he discovered in an 18th-century treatise on jewelry making. The technique, which faded into obscurity long ago because of its labor intensity, strips the gold alloy from the surface through a series of chemical treatments, creating a silky, velourlike finish.

While McClelland focuses his attention on such novel techniques and designs, McTeigue obtains diamonds and uncommon stones for the jewelry, including color-changing alexandrites and a newly acquired 10.5-carat bright orange padparadscha sapphire. In addition to their contemporary collection, McTeigue and McClelland offer estate jewelry and custom services.

“Everything we design is handmade, and we can only make a limited number of pieces each year,” says McTeigue, noting that he and McClelland prefer that the business remain small and specialized, even if it prevents them from meeting the production demands of some prominent retailers who want to carry the collection. “We want to maintain our artisan workshop where people can find unusual designs and gems—that’s why we stay in the Berkshires.” 

McTeigue & McClelland, 800.956.2826, www.mc2jewels.com

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