Something old, something new—Tiina Smith just reopened shop at 121 Newbury Street in the heart of Boston’s luxury shopping neighborhood (under the strict guidelines of the CDC and the state of Massachusetts to ensure a safe environment). Inside the roughly 2,000-square-foot space, which just opened last year, is an array of rare vintage high-jewelry pieces from nearly every top jeweler from Chopard, Van Cleef & Arpels to David Webb, Moussaieff and Verdura.
“We want people to come in and play with the jewelry, try the jewelry on, look in the mirror, see how it feels, try another piece on,” says Smith. “And because we’re very relaxed about that, we want to make even the most expensive vintage jewelry accessible to women.”
The Harvard grad and former Wall Street financier was a longtime jewelry collector herself before she decided to turn her passion into a business three years ago. She had been selling privately to clients until a pop-up shop in Watch Hill, Rhode Island made her realize that having a brick-and-mortar boutique could be a real asset.
In September of 2019, she made it a reality. Tucked inside the ground floor of a 19th-century brownstone with bay windows, Tiina Smith Jewelry Gallery is well-designed to play host to her special pieces with Art Deco lamps, brass display cases made in London, ’20s-era chairs recovered in buttery pink leather, and an imported inlaid wood table from Italy found on 1stdibs (where Smith also sells some of her jewelry).
As a collector herself, Smith has access to rare jewels from the houses themselves, like an 18-karat gold, diamond, sapphire and emerald bracelet from the ‘80s that she procured directly from Moussaieff’s vault. Other highlights include a 68-inch-long gold, diamond and onyx signed Van Cleef & Arpels necklace from the ‘70s that detaches into two equal parts to be worn multiple ways, or a Chopard 5.01, internally flawless, D color, oval diamond ring. “We offer an incredible collection of vintage jewels that are signed by the master jewelers of the 20th and 21st century, but we also offer brand new creations from some of the makers today,” says Smith.
The gallery includes new pieces from names like Oscar Heyman and David Webb, as well as vintage pieces from those houses, as well as Robert Procop, who is known for creating pieces for Angelina Jolie, on and off-screen. Recently, Smith has also added men’s cufflinks and signet rings to the offering from Tiffany & Co. and David Webb, among others. All of the jewelry, both vintage and new, starts at $10,000 and go up to half a million and Smith offers hand-delivery for purchases over $50,000 as part of a white-glove service.
And if you really want something that you can’t find in-store, Smith can track it down. “One of the keys to doing well in the business that I’m in is having an incredible network of people that you can call upon, all over the world,” says Smith. “It’s about not only having the connections at jewelry houses and auctions, but also private sources who may be looking to turnover or trade for something else. The real joy to me is helping someone find something that truly speaks to them.”
Jewelry Collecting 101:
Smith offers her insider advice on jewelry collecting.
Signed vs. Unsigned
A signed piece by a noted maker will typically hold its value over something that is unmarked. It will cost you more initially but will prove a savvier investment in the long run.
Do Your Research
Educate yourself about the people you are purchasing from. Don’t be shy about asking questions and know what you don’t know. In fine jewelry, you can’t just eyeball quality. What’s the provenance? Have the stones been treated? What’s the return policy? A reputable dealer will always stand behind their jewelry.
Think about building a jewelry collection like decorating a room. Standout pieces need quieter companions to accompany them and show them off. Balance showstoppers with everyday jewels.