Epic Diamonds

3 Iconic NYC Jewelry Designers Everyone Should Know

Harper’s Bazaar Digital Fashion Director Kerry Pieri and Natural Diamond Council’s Grant Mobley talk diamonds and legendary jewelry designers.

New York City has long been ranked one of the most-visited cities on earth. After all, as far as travel destinations go, it truly has something for everyone: world-famous landmarks, world-class food options, unbeatable nightlife, endless shopping choices, museums to rival any other.

While many of the seemingly infinite list of must-dos were either fully or partially closed in the last year, the last couple of months showed a full reopening; you can feel the excitement and energy as you walk through the streets.

As a diamond and jewelry expert, I couldn’t wait for the city to open back up so I could once again visit my favorite iconic fine jewelry houses for a dose of what I like to call “diamond therapy.” And who better to join me to discuss NYC’s legendary jewelry designers than Harper’s Bazaar Digital Fashion Director Kerry Pieri.

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Kerry and I meet in the iconic Pierre Hotel, which overlooks Central Park only blocks away from the showrooms and ateliers of the cities’ most legendary jewelers. Lucky for us, a few of them have sent over glittering trays of jewels for us to drool over.

Oscar Heyman: The Jewelers’ Jeweler

First up is a selection from famous New York City jeweler, Oscar Heyman. Once known as the Jewelers’ Jeweler, Oscar Heyman founded his company in 1912 in New York’s original diamond district and soon after began making jewelry for the world’s most well-known houses and people, including Cartier, Tiffany & Co., and Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few.

new york jewelry designers diamond oscar heyman necklace
Oscar Heyman necklace with star sapphires, star rubies, and diamonds.

Among the pieces to catch my eye is an art deco emerald and diamond ring that screams old New York. Kerry quickly navigates to a bracelet with over 37 carats of marquise cut diamonds. We talk about changes in fine jewelry making throughout the decades and how, unlike so many crafts, it’s still very much a by-hand process that requires incredible skill. Exemplifying just that is a pair of sapphire and diamond earrings with 170 invisible set stones, which can take three hours each to cut and set properly. Kerry finally tries on a necklace that is a quintessential Oscar Heyman motif of scattered star sapphires, star rubies, and diamonds, instantly transforming her to Met Gala-ready, as she explains that “diamond jewelry has that power.” 

new york jewelry designers diamond oscar heyman ring
Art Deco emerald and diamond ring.
new york jewelry designers diamond oscar heyman bracelet
37 carats of marquise cut diamonds bracelet.

Lorraine Schwartz: Jewelry Designer to the Stars

Next up: atray of diamonds that lay in front of us is from celebrity-favorite jewelry designer Lorraine Schwartz, who is often named the Queen of the red carpet. A New Yorker who is said even to take design inspiration from the rooftops of the buildings as seen from her apartment windows, Schwartz has chosen New York City as one of only two places in the world (aside from paparazzi photos) where you can see a selection of her work. 

Kerry is quick to recognize a few pieces in front of us: earrings worn by Kendall Jenner, a set by Catherine Zeta Jones, hoops worn by Sofia Vegara and frequent Lorraine Schwartz collaborator Beyoncé, and a bracelet worn by Blake Lively. I pick up a couple of rings with a signature Lorraine Schwartz shade of light brown diamonds she calls “nude.” Kerry points out the brilliance of working with this natural color diamond because it allows you to go big without being flashy. A pair of large hoop earrings also uses rows of multiple shades of natural brown diamonds totaling over 120 carats! Kerry tries them on and is amazed by how comfortable they are, considering the size, a feat possible due to their titanium setting. 

new york jewelry designers diamond lorraine schwartz earrings
Pair of large hoop shades of natural brown diamonds earrings by Lorraine Schwartz, worn by Sofia Vegara and Beyoncé.

Taffin: Unexpected Elegance

Finally, a tray from the high jewelry house Taffin, by Parisian-born jewelry designer James de Givenchy. After attending university in New York City—a place he was drawn to for the “energetic diversity”—and having tenures at prestigious jewelry auction houses and brands, Givenchy founded Taffin as a private jewelry salon mainly making one-of-a-kind pieces on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue. 

I couldn’t help but immediately gravitate to a necklace that featured a 22 carat light brown marquise cut diamond set in rose gold and red ceramic; it’s this kind of use of unexpected materials and sculptural designs that are signature to Taffin. Kerry was itching to try some on as she noticed another east-west set marquise cut diamond ring, also with a touch of red ceramic.

new york jewelry designers diamond taffin necklace
Taffin necklace featuring a 22 carat light brown marquise cut diamond set in gold and red ceramic.

Kerry noted seeing a rise in popularity of the marquise cut with jewelry designers, which I have also seen recently. However, its origin is one of my favorites, starting in the 1700s when King Louis XV of France commissioned a diamond in the shape of his favorite mistress’s lips, the Marquise de Pompadour. While Kerry is trying on Taffin’s brilliant designs, we notice how each lets the diamond be the star while complementing each stone’s uniqueness in unexpected and playful ways. She decides to wear a pair of diamond briolette earrings but with both in different piercings on the same ear, a breathtaking choice that I still think about today.

Kerry and I chatted about the evolution of styling fine diamond jewelry and how years ago, pieces like these would have been saved for those elegant nights out, yet now you could wear them easily with jeans and a t-shirt and not look out of place. As Kerry put it, “if you have it, wear it,” a point she personally proved with a heavy diamond chain, set with a central emerald cut diamond framed by black jade. Heavy diamond chains have moved from the red carpet to an everyday accessory, this one, of course, with the extra Lorraine Schwartz flair. 

Watch: Kerry and Grant Discuss Why You Should be Buying Jewelry at Auctions

New York is unique because something about it inspires so many to jewelry designers to create and exhibit here. That something can be felt in the air, and luckily now visiting the iconic fine jewelry destinations can again be a reality for anyone.