Hunting for Vintage Jewels with Briony Raymond

The jewelry designer and vintage curator is an expert at spotting natural diamond treasures.

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Joining Briony Raymond for a day of estate diamond jewelry shopping at the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry Show is a treasure hunt and an adventure into a world of fine jewelry history and artistry. It’s also a peek into the mind and process of an expert with exquisite taste. As the founder of Briony Raymond New York, Briony is known for her expertise in sourcing rare and exquisite estate jewelry, and an antique show like this one is where the magic happens. 

The Las Vegas Antique Jewelry Show is an industry-exclusive event that gathers the world’s most renowned antique, vintage, and estate jewelry dealers and experts. This event is a hub for buyers and sellers in the trade, offering a global selection of fine jewelry for all tastes. From signed masterpieces by Cartier, David Webb, Harry Winston, Patek Philippe, and Van Cleef & Arpels to unique, one-of-a-kind pieces spanning various eras, some made hundreds of years ago, some once owned by Royals or celebrities, the show is a treasure trove of historical jewelry. “These shows are quite large and are bringing a really global selection of vintage jewelry into one place, and everybody’s unified in their love of wanting to both curate for their own collections but also set free some of their pieces and let them go off and have a happy new life and share with other people,” Briony explains. 

Briony Raymond’s approach to shopping for her specific clients at a show like this, which she does a handful of times yearly, is personal and highly detailed. She begins by reaching out to her clients before the show, gathering their current desires and any specific pieces they may seek. This proactive communication ensures that she has their tastes and preferences at the forefront of her mind as she navigates the vast offerings at the show. Briony’s extensive experience and strong relationships in the industry allow her to source genuinely unique pieces, such as the Victorian Collet-style diamond necklace with perfectly matched old mine-cut diamonds or a striking retro bracelet featuring chunky yellow gold and diamonds she inspects as we speak. Each item she selects is chosen with a particular client in mind, reflecting their style and adding a significant piece to their collection. Briony presents each piece with a vision, imagining different contexts in which it can be worn and styled to make it shine. Whether it’s a timeless Van Cleef & Arpels piece or an intricate Art Nouveau brooch, Briony ensures that each jewelry item is a perfect match for its future owner and advises on styling tips for each piece. 

When I’m here, I’m very laser-focused. it’s easy to get sensory overload at these shows.” 

In addition to her tailored approach to client shopping, Briony also shops for pieces to add to the famously beautiful collection at her atelier. “We try to focus on pieces that aren’t necessarily super obscure when they’re for inventory, although people will love really unusual things. I always emphasize acquiring the best version of whatever a specific genre is. For instance, we love retro bracelets, but that category can include a wide range of styles and flavors—some amazing, some less so, some signed, and some unsigned. I always say I don’t like to be dictated by whether something is signed or unsigned. It’s more about whether it’s beautifully made, has a gorgeous style, and the workmanship and elements are particularly stunning. That’s how we like to curate our inventory.”

Briony’s keen eye and vast knowledge are on full display as we navigate the show. She examines each piece with a discerning eye, considering both specific clients and the broader appeal of the jewelry. Her vision for how a piece can fit into various collections and be styled for different occasions adds a rare personal touch that everyone who works with her deeply appreciates.

Briony deeply appreciates antique diamond cuts, frequently the stars of her vintage pieces, and often included in her contemporary designs. She says that these older cuts, such as the old mine or rose cut, offer a unique charm and character that can’t be replicated in modern cuts. She explains that antique diamonds often feature fewer facets and larger planes, creating a different, more romantic play of light than the precision sparkle of contemporary brilliant cuts. You can easily see her genuine fascination when examining each piece and her knowledge of the style and period each represents. Briony gladly finds herself as an educator to her clients, saying, “I love to discuss the origins and stories behind each piece. Where did this come from? What is the genesis of this design? Why was it popular? For example, during metal shortages due to war or when a mine ran out of supply, these factors contribute to a piece’s history. Some clients may see an old piece and think it’s pretty but do not understand why the diamond looks different from what they are used to. That’s because these diamonds were cut 100 years ago. We discuss cutting techniques, fastening patterns, and how technology has evolved, changing diamond cutting over time. It’s fascinating to me. Sometimes, we look at Georgian pieces from 1810 and marvel at the intricate craftsmanship achieved without lasers, microscopes, or magnification. Isn’t it wild that, 200 years ago, someone could create something so exquisitely intricate without the advanced tools we have today? I often find myself diving into these deep rabbit holes, educating consumers about what this genre of jewelry is all about.”

Perhaps with the help of her education, Briony has noticed a growing trend among her clients towards vintage styles, appreciating the individuality and historical significance they bring. These pieces’ rich stories and expert craftsmanship draw clients, adding a timeless quality to their collections. Briony’s dedication to her clients is evident as she thoughtfully considers each item, envisioning how it can fulfill someone’s specific desires and enhance their collection. Her atelier specializes in modernizing and reinterpreting these vintage jewels while also creating bespoke and limited edition pieces. Above all, she ensures that each piece she selects is not just a purchase but a future cherished heirloom.

Before we started, I imagined shopping for vintage jewelry with Briony Raymond would be about finding the prettiest pieces or perhaps the best value, but it was so much more. It’s about understanding the story and craftsmanship behind each piece, determining if it fills a void in a collection, and assessing whether it is the best example of its style. Briony shares invaluable insights into why certain designs were popular and how they were made, adding depth to the jewelry and making the shopping experience as educational as it was fun. She explains how different jewelry eras reflect their time’s technological advancements and cultural shifts, from the intricate Georgian pieces to the bold retro designs. While the number of gorgeous pieces at this, maybe the most important antique jewelry show of the year, was overwhelming to me, Briony explains, “When I’m here, I’m very laser-focused. While the inventory may seem overwhelming, I’m extremely selective and have a clear sense of what should or shouldn’t be acquired for myself or my clients. I’m rarely indecisive. This refined sense of taste is something I had to hone early on, as it’s easy to get sensory overload at these shows.” 

Spending a day with Briony Raymond at the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry Show is not just a shopping trip; it’s a journey through the tapestry of jewelry history. Her deep knowledge, discerning eye, and genuine passion for each piece elevate the experience. I was also fortunate enough to walk away with some new jewelry styling ideas for myself and, not surprisingly, a significantly longer jewelry shopping list than when I started.