There are certain constants when it comes to jewelry designer Eddie Borgo. He invariably opts for designs that are graphic and geometric. Aside from the occasional black-tie event—the CFDA Awards this past June, for instance, when he nabbed the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design—Borgo almost always wears a black felt fedora, as he does now, in the pre-dawn hours at Penn Station. And given the opportunity, he will deliver his impassioned pitch—to anyone who’ll listen—about Providence, R.I. Which is exactly why we’re here, waiting for Amtrak 190 to barrel into the station. Our destination: the onetime costume jewelry capital of the world and home to a number of Borgo’s factories. “It was really a flourishing artisan jewelry community,” he explains. “You have these trades that have been passed down from generation to generation.”
Settled into a window seat, coffee cup in hand, Borgo delves into a lengthy narrative of the place, name-checking the brands that have had a history with the city—Sarah Coventry, Coro, Joseff of Hollywood and others. The CliffsNotes version: Providence, one of the first industrialized cities in the U.S., was a major player in the jewelry industry dating back to the late 18th century. During the Depression, when the city’s other core industries, such as textiles, took a hit, costume jewelry exploded. By the Eighties, the state produced 80 percent of the costume jewelry made in America. Basically, Providence was to bijoux what Detroit was to the automobile.
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