It's generally accepted that, for most people, thinking of jewelry in New York City recalls a young Audrey Hepburn staring longingly into the windows of Tiffany & Co. Just pass by the iconic store and you'll likely see visitors doing their best Holly Golightly imitations outside. But Tiffany's diamonds are available nearly anywhere in the world, and the same goes for other well-known brands, like Cartier or Asprey. Their wares are beautiful, of course, but shoppers on the hunt for more-unique pieces will want to look farther afield.
The good news? NYC has lately become a haven for independent jewelry design. Original, one-of-a-kind pieces by local artisans are generating as much interest as the items available at the City's most famous retailers. Complementing the trend is a collection of stores that stock their own house lines along with those from like-minded local designers. You won't find these elsewhere: their goods are almost all exclusive to NYC. Guys and girls looking for a special gift—or to put a ring on it, to paraphrase Mrs. Carter—have unmatched choice here, at a range of price points. Read on to discover a few of our local favorites.
173 Elizabeth St., 212-334-6383, NoLIta, Manhattan
360 Atlantic Ave., 718-855-2555, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
The Brooklyn-born designer began making jewelry as a stress-relieving hobby, building up a loyal following among the creative class. Her storefronts offer a balance of her own creations—under the 1909 label—and a mixed collection of vintage art deco, Victorian and art nouveau pieces. Both locations have the feel of the best kind of flea market, and everything is available at reasonable prices. Her stores have also become destinations for those looking to buy one-of-a-kind engagement rings or wedding bands (and not to file for bankruptcy afterward).
269 Elizabeth St., 212-431-5683, NoLIta, Manhattan
The sister store to storied East Village tattoo parlor New York Adorned, Love, Adorned offers an intriguing feminine contrast to the buzzing masculinity of getting inked. That's not to say that their stuff is prissy and precious, although precious stones are featured in many of their pieces. The store keeps a tight selection of works by established designers like Anna Sheffield and Mociun while also maintaining a rotation of items by sought-after indie designers. The result is a collection of chunky, asymmetrical pieces that—despite it being composed of works from more than 20 different designers—feels impressively cohesive. The store also offers items for the home as well as bags and scarves. Yes, there's a lot of that going around, but Love, Adorned gets it right.
388 Van Brunt St., 718-554-6147, Red Hook, Brooklyn
This is exactly the kind of place you hope to find in up-and-coming neighborhoods like Red Hook. Owner Russell Whitmore has a keen eye for antiques that extends beyond just art deco engagement rings (although there are plenty of those to be had), making it among the best places in the City to look for something decidedly different. The stock is consistently—and pleasantly—surprising. Think Victorian pharaonic brooches and signet rings, colored onyx art deco bracelets, many of which date back to the 19th century. If you have something specific in mind, speak with Mr. Whitmore and he'll do his best to uncover a lost gem for you. (Note: as you might expect from an establishment with such European flair, Erie Basin is closed for the majority of August.)
219 Bedford Ave., 718-599-3457, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Situated in the heart of Williamsburg's main thoroughfare, Catbird is a kind of design incubator. Owner Rony Vardi is constantly on the lookout for new talent, especially of the homegrown variety. The store is packed with antique glass cabinets and chests of drawers, all stuffed with fascinating finds: jewelry from Digby & Iona and Satomi Kawakita, scents from Royal Botanicals and various ephemera from John Derian and The Wild Unknown. Vardi has also launched a signature line of highly affordable Catbird jewelry, all designed and produced at his Brooklyn studio, located around the corner from the storefront. The emphasis is on supporting a locally designed, sourced and produced industry. As a result, the store has a refreshingly subtle "Made in America"—and, more specifically, "Made in NYC"—vibe.
315 E. 9th St., 212-388-9045, East Village, Manhattan
132 N. 5th St., 718-388-2400, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Ukrainian-born Vera Balyura moved to New York as a teenager to model but has since found her niche as a jewelry designer. Her work, which she sells under the brand name Verameat, has become so popular that in addition to her two New York stores, Balyura has opened a location in Beverly Hills. But don't let that glitzy 90210 zip code throw you off: Balyura's aesthetic is more irreverent than it is polished. Sterling silver dinosaur claws, gold spikes and feral animals of all stripes dot her collection. Yes, you can find a traditional-style solitaire ring, although Verameat's version comes with a black diamond. Despite how that might sound, the effect is whimsical, not sinister.
250 Broome St., 646-454-0166, Lower East Side, Manhattan
99 Franklin St., 718-389-0837, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
What, exactly, does Old Hollywood have to do with the golden age of cinema? The short answer: nothing, really. Don't expect to see framed portraits of Garbo, and if you're looking for a floppy-brimmed fedora, you'll do better elsewhere. That said, their apparel, accessories and curated home goods are all worth checking out. But it's the jewelry that keeps us coming back: Old Hollywood's in-house line hits the sweet spot that lies somewhere between creativity and affordability, making its items the sorts of things you could pick up on a whim. There's a rotating selection from designers like Bing Bang and Elizabeth Knight, and either store is a great place to find non-functioning vintage watches. Use them as bracelets or have them repaired for just a few bucks.
224 Wythe Ave., 718-387-3731, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Turquoise serves as a prominent feature in most of Mociun's expertly designed pieces. Whether paired with small sets of multiple diamonds or cut and set into geometric patterns, Mociun demonstrates an inspiring utility with the material. Mismatched pairs of earrings and original takes on wedding bands and engagement rings give the space a sense of wanton imperfection. These pieces alone merit a visit to their Williamsburg location, but their sharply curated collection of ceramics is equally alluring. The latter would make the most loyal Heath Ceramics devotee or Kinfolk magazine reader swoon.
64 Grand St., 718-387-4618, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
After spending a few years traveling the globe, Scosha Woolridge became fascinated by how jewelry was worn and used by peoples everywhere from India to far up the Amazon River. The Australian landed in New York City, determined to launch her own jewelry line and in 2007 Scosha was born. Today the store is unique in that it serves as atelier, office and retail space. The vertically integrated business model suits the ethos behind the brand: though divided into men's and women's, most of the pieces feel appropriate for either gender. Nylon bracelets and necklaces fit nicely together with finer pieces like hammered 14k-gold solitaires and emerald-drop earrings. A variety of price points means you can walk out with a guilt-free impulse buy—or a set of wedding bands.
Doyle & Doyle
412 West 13th St.,212-677-9991, Meatpacking District, Manhattan
For over a decade now, Doyle & Doyle has been the go-to downtown destination for antique jewelry. The store stocks a full range of pieces, but it's primarily known for its superb collection of vintage and antique engagement rings from the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods. The namesake sisters Doyle, Elizabeth and Pamela, have helped establish antiques as a viable, affordable and unique option for guys looking to pop the question. It's not all nuptial-based, though. Make sure to see the store's brooches and vast Victorian-era necklace collection.
Erstwhile Jewelry Co.
589 Fifth Ave., 347-875-0096, Midtown, Manhattan
J.S. Klusner opened Erstwhile Jewelry in 2010, but his family has been in the business for well over a century. His great-great-grandfather opened Belle Epoche Jewelry in 1887 in Odessa, Russia; generations of Klusners were forced to flee both Bolsheviks and Nazis and eventually found their way to New York City, specifically to 47th Street, also known as the City's Diamond District. J.S. grew up honing his eye for antiques, and the resulting collection at Erstwhile reflects that experience. Rings definitely take center stage—don't overlook the '20s-era cocktail rings. Note: the store is open by appointment only.
In God We Trust
265 Lafayette St., 212-966-9010, SoHo, Manhattan
129 Bedford Ave., 718-384-0700, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
70 Greenpoint Ave., 718-389-3545, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
What started as a small storefront in Williamsburg has expanded over the last eight years into three locations that stock full eponymous jewelry, apparel and accessories collections. Designer and owner Shana Tabor bases all design and production of In God We Trust jewelry in her Greenpoint studio. Tabor has used this standard in stocking like-minded brands with a local-made mind-set. Her designs are rooted in traditional antiques, yet each piece conveys a sense of modernity and individuality, taking shape in hammered gold wedding bands and rope gold molded from real hair braids.