Welcome to "Erté Luxury Jewellery: Celebrating Milestones and Memories." As I approached my 40th birthday, my husband posed a meaningful question: "How would you like to commemorate this special milestone?" My response was crystal clear, but it carried a unique twist, woven with a lifetime of stories and resilience.
Growing up in Las Vegas, I was raised by my loving grandparents in a solid, middle-class family. Life was pretty much perfect. Until my rather troubled mother re-entered the scene when I was 14, bringing with her a whirlwind of chaos and trouble. My grandparents were big believers in education and I was lucky to be sent to the only private school in Las Vegas at the time. When graduation rolled around, my friends and I went off to university fairs, researching our options for the next four years. I settled on a list of schools in California, Washington and Virginia, filled in my application forms and then sat back nervously waiting to hear if I would get in. But when the responses started to roll in, they all said the same thing: 'We can't proceed with your application until we have received your records from high school.
Confused and disheartened, I sought answers from my school's career counsellor, who told me that my last year of school fees had not yet been paid. A shocking truth faced me when I brought this up at home - my mother had drained my grandparents' finances, wiping out not only my college fund but also the means to cover my final year of high school.
So, I had to pivot. A year's delay in my university dreams became a reality and, thanks to the cost of out-of-state tuition, I had to settle for staying in-state. I took on two jobs, hustling to pay off high school fees and save for college. My path seemed set: earn a BSc in Animal Science in Nevada and then go to California for a master’s in marine biology. Job number one fit the plan perfectly as I took on three ten-hour shifts a week at a small animal veterinary clinic.
My second job was something a bit different and saw me step into the world of fine arts at the only gallery in Las Vegas. Run by the larger-than-life Dick and his glamorous wife, Clare, it was an environment where six-figure art purchases were the daily norm. As an 18-year-old trying to fit into this world, I not only immersed myself in the works of Dali, Picasso, Chagall, and Renoir but also quickly figured out that my wardrobe full of Levis and miniskirts wasn’t going to cut it here.
In that job, I embarked on a lifelong love affair with art and was particularly captivated by a small, delicate jewellery collection by Russian-born French artist and designer, Erté. An Art Deco genius, he left his mark in various forms - fashion, jewellery, graphic arts, bronzes, and even in film, theatre, and opera. He designed for Mata Hari, the Folies Bergère, and Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer. He designed over 200 covers of Harper's Bazaar, and his illustrations appeared in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Ladies' Home Journal.
Perhaps it was the elegance of these pieces, a stark contrast to the gaudiness of the '80s, or perhaps it was the price tags that made them feel out of reach for an 18-year-old like me that intrigued me. But I suspect the real draw was Clare, who wore these pieces daily and with effortless grace. As an 18-year-old starting to make her way into the world of adults as bosses and co-workers, Clare’s effortless grace and style found an eager student in me.
Clare was rarely seen without Erté’s Alouette ring and wing feather earrings. Special occasions would see her “borrowing” the gallery’s Sophistication necklace. One day, Dick asked me to wrap a La Mer ring as a surprise gift for Clare's 40th birthday. I couldn't resist trying it on when no one was watching, watching the jewels dazzle under the lights and feeling the comforting weight on my finger. Erté was an Art Deco genius, leaving his mark in various forms - fashion, jewellery, graphic arts, bronzes, and even in film, theatre, and opera. He designed for Mata Hari, the Folies Bergère, and Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer. He designed over 200 covers of Harper's Bazaar, and his illustrations appeared in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Ladies' Home Journal.
That year was hard work. Two jobs and days off saved up for weekends spent showing horses. But I was the woman in my family to have the chance to go to university and that fuelled my determination to get there. As did that stolen moment with Clare's birthday gift. Looking at the ring on my finger, I promised myself that one day I would own a piece of Erté jewellery as a reward for the hard work I was investing in my future. After getting my BSc, I left Nevada for London, opening doors I never imagined. Competing at the world championships when I showed horses for Paolo Gucci, champagne-filled opening nights and film premiers, and working with some of the biggest A-list Hollywood stars.
I even danced at a party with Patrick Swazye, talking for hours about horses after I told him that we competed against each other in the showring a few times! If I could travel back in time and tell my 18-year-old self everything that was to come, she wouldn’t even be able to comprehend it. Most days, I can’t believe some of the things I have been so privileged to do. Amidst the day-to-day of my 20’s and 30’s, my desire to own Erté's jewellery dimmed, almost forgotten. But as my 40th birthday approached, the milestone made me remember the promise I had made to myself 22 years ago. Searching the internet and auction houses, I stumbled upon an Erté fox ring in an online auction. It wasn’t a piece I knew, but I fell in love instantly. The fact that it was set with emeralds (my birthstone) felt like it was made for me. I wore it for the first time at my 40th birthday dinner party, and everyone told me how much they loved it. I felt like a princess that night. This ring was more than just a piece of jewellery; it was a link to my 18-year-old self, a reminder of how far I had come and all I had achieved.
As women, we know the power of jewellery. We recognise its ability to transport us back to the excitement we felt when we got a special piece. One that shows our personality and makes us stand out. Something that will never go out of style and that we will always be able to wear. But too often, we wait for someone else to buy it for us and here to say, buy it for yourself! My business revolves around empowering women in every aspect of life, and I assure you, nothing makes you feel more empowered than investing in something that sparkles and makes your heart lift. Friends of mine have purchased Cartier necklaces, Rolex Tanks, and Tiffany diamond earrings to commemorate milestones, financially successful years, or simply because they desired them. These pieces hold big emotions for them and they already speak of passing them down to female relatives.
Jewellery is intimate, and its significance lies in the emotions and memories it carries. For me, my ring symbolizes my journey from a young girl in Las Vegas to a woman in London. One day, that ring will pass to my daughter and the importance she’ll tie to it will be the memories of me. I have many pieces of jewellery that were bought for me that hold special meaning and treasured memories. But I promise you none of them have the emotional attachment and the significance of my Fox ring. So, the next time you have a milestone birthday or a significant achievement, before rushing to your favourite designer or treating yourself to a classic handbag, consider if maybe this moment is worth celebrating with a piece of jewellery that will continue to thrill and excite you for decades.
A note from BYICON - Jewellery, in particular, serves as an intimate form of self-expression and storytelling, encapsulating personal journeys, memories, and emotions. It becomes a tangible symbol of transformation, passing down stories and emotions to future generations and preserving cherished memories. Our Collaboration with Christina hopefully sheds that light and allows you to be inspired to celebrate moments worth remembering and cherishing, infusing the excitement and thrill of significant achievements into timeless and meaningful accessories that transcend the boundaries of time and fashion.