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Before bling bling and Blahnik, girls dreamed of pearls. But, they also cooked — a lot — and ran carpools, not companies. We’ve said goodbye to those antiquated mores, but why throw out the pearls with the bathwater?
These days, jewelry designers are reworking the old-school status symbol in some decidedly unfussy ways. From affordable to aspirational, princess to punk, we’ve picked some of the best.
Designer Alex Woo offers a fresh take on the feminine ‘50s with delicate bracelets, necklaces, and earrings that feature tiny pearls dangling like charms.
By SARI BOTTON
A pearl necklace, diamond studs and even a gold locket are classic gifts from a man to a woman. But this Valentine’s Day, boyfriends and husbands might want to consider something more unusual: A floral band twinkling with pink sapphires, a choker made of aquamarine nuggets or a citrine-studded lariat. These are designs offered by some of the city’s up-and-coming jewelry designers.
Katherine Adler, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of fine jewelry and watches for Bergdorf Goodman, says pieces with lots of movement and dangling charms are popular, as are engraved, brushed or oxidized metals and brightly colored stones. Here’s a look at four designers whose designs are as beautiful as they are original.
When she started her company a little over two years ago, Alex Woo had to pull her father — and namesake — out of retirement. Alex Woo, who designed for and ran his own business in Chinatown’s jewelry district for many years, pitches in with a hammer and file. Father and daughter often sit side by side at their design benches, on lower Bowery, near Canal St., and produce Woo’s entire collection by hand.
Young Alex, 28, sells her modern, geometric designs in stores like Henri Bendel. “I like keeping my designs very clean,” says Woo, who studied sculpture at the High School of Music and Art, and later Cornell University.
Woo designs in silver, yellow gold and green gold, which has only a slightly green cast, but looks very modern. Her earrings, rings and necklaces — which range in price from $75 to $600 — are often embellished with semi-precious stones in pastel tones. “I especially love blue topaz, because you can find it in so many shades,” Woo says. “It can go from intense to icy.”
“Alex’s designs have an edge,” says Heidi Cohen, jewelry buyer for Henri Bendel. “They’re not too modern or uniform, which make them great gifts for women young or old. Because it’s all handmade, the quality is amazing and makes it really special.”
One rose-gold ring is a labor of love. It’s a simple wraparound style called the pink-ribbon ring, to remind women to get breast exams. It was created in memory of Woo’s mother, who died of breast cancer when Alex was a teenager. Inside, the ring is inscribed “Live, love, be involved.”