Photo courtesy of Emili Vesilind
Rarely does a writer dive into every single story assigned to them with such a passion and vigor as Emili Vesilind does. The journalist has been at it for almost two decades, establishing her prolific career as an editor and reporter for The Robb Report, Los Angeles Times, Vogue Australia and currently for JCK, the jewelry industry “bible” that professionals and jewelry lovers in general turn to for market reports, retail news and trends.
Combing jewelry shows from Hong Kong to Mumbai, Vesilind sees some of the most impressive gems in existence. She writes about many of them in her JCK column “The Vault”, interviewing jewelers about the most impressive pieces they’ve ever created.
Needless to say, she truly knows her jewels and has herself become an avid collector, particularly of estate pieces.
Here, Vesilind discusses her love of jewelry both old and new, and why it’s often the story behind the most brilliant gems that is truly the most valuable aspect of a piece.
Photo courtesy of @emilivesilind
Have you always been interested in fashion and jewelry?
Yes, for sure. I’ve loved fashion since I was a kid. But in my thirties I started to really understand that you can pay hundreds for a bag or a coat, but if you wear it a lot, eventually it’s going to get old and worn-looking. Fine jewelry is a much better investment. It’s the only fashion that’s forever.
What do you love most about writing about jewelry?
I love the stories behind the designs. I write a column called The Vault for JCK where I talk to these incredible jewelers about a single extraordinary piece they’ve created — the whole journey from inspiration to fabrication, from designers like Lydia Courteille, Liv Ballard and Solange Azagury-Partridge. I also love that my job introduces me to designers who are somewhat off the radar.
In your work you must come across some really stunning pieces, what are a few that truly stand out?
The first time I saw a Freestone Peach Australian Opal bracelet, I literally gasped — they make the most incredible bangles by shaping woods and opals into these smooth, wide bracelets. At JCK this past summer, designer Wendy Brandes showed these incredible ‘Maneater’ rings where you’d see a super-detailed curled-up dragon on the top of a ring, and underneath the band — where no one but the wearer sees — there’s the figure of the man the dragon slain, like Han Solo in carbonite! I love that drama. And Irene Neuwirth has done these one-off mixed-gemstone necklaces that look like hard candies strung together — they totally knock me out.
What do you especially like about estate jewelry? And do you tend to wear a lot of it?
The bulk of fine jewelry I wear is estate or vintage because it’s usually a better deal! I also love estate because chances are slim you’re going to see your ring/brooch/etc. anywhere else. And you hardly every fall into the “trend” trap when you’re shopping pre-owned and vintage. You tend to buy what appeals to you viscerally, which I think helps you build a unique personal style. Right now I’m looking for an estate posy holder brooch — I want to put a huge faux purple thistle in it!
Do you have a favorite era for vintage jewelry?
It’s probably a tie between the 1950s and the Victorian era. I love the glamour of 1950s jewelry design — all those humongous gemstones, floral bouquets and bows. I inherited my mom’s brooches from the 1950s and even though they’re costume pieces, they’re super well-made and very gem-y. But I also gravitate toward the intricate metalwork and mystical/occult motifs you see in Victorian pieces. Give me a crescent moon motif any day…
Who are a few of your all time favorite jewelry designers and why?
Paul Flato, who some say was the first celebrity jeweler! I had to write a piece on the history of American jewelry design in my first year at JCK and I was floored by his ingenuity. He was fearless in trying new things. As far as modern designers go, I love Daniela Villegas and Polly Wales — they both use color and stones in such innovative ways and they’re basically design geniuses. Repossi is making pieces that are refreshingly un-bohemian, which appeals to me. Anna Sheffield is my favorite bridal designer — I think her engagement ring sets are stunning. ManiaMania also does cool bridal, with lots of smoky grey diamonds. On the less pricey side, Cat Bates is a guy in Portland, Maine, who does things like cast seagull skulls for bracelets — his stuff is unisex and has a compelling purity of design. Annie Costello Brown in L.A. was the first jewelry designer who made me want to actually buy jewelry in my 20s, and I still love literally everything she makes.
See Emili’s favorite pieces from Beladora below!
Antique Victorian Diamond Brooch in Silver over Gold
“This is so full-on feminine glam — I love it! I would put it on my jean jacket, and maybe sleep with it on my PJs.”
Antique Victorian Enamel and Pearl Bracelet in 18K
“This is just totally my jam — love the gold tone with the turquoise. I would wear this every day of my life.”
Antique Victorian Necklace and Locket Pendant in 14K
“Why is this not mine already? It’s so incredible! A little Game of Thrones/medieval, too…”
Mid-Century Charm Bracelet in 14K and 18K
“Charm bracelets are so awesomely personal. You’re actually carrying your good memories and experiences around with you. I wear my grandma’s when I’m not sitting at a computer all day.”
Bulgari Multi-Stone Chain Necklace in 18K
“This Bulgari necklace is a dream piece — it’s so beautiful and unique. I would have to think about how to wear it, but I would find a way!”