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Kentshire’s Generational Play

For Carrie Imberman, jewelry is a family affair. Imberman, the granddaughter of Kentshire founder Benson Imberman, worked in costume design, styling and...

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For Carrie Imberman, jewelry is a family affair.

This story first appeared in the February 4, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Imberman, the granddaughter of Kentshire founder Benson Imberman, worked in costume design, styling and even floral design before joining the business three years ago to focus on the company’s estate jewelry category.

Kentshire was founded in 1940 as a dealer of antique furniture and accessories. It is owned by Imberman’s parents, Marcie and Frederic, and her aunt and uncle, Ellen and Robert Israel. The men, including Carrie’s brother, Matthew, head the furniture side of the business. The women run the antique period and estate jewelry, which launched in 1980.

The firm recently supplemented its East 12th Street location in New York with a 3,500-square-foot, three-story boutique in a town house at 700 Madison Avenue. Jewelry is on the main floor and furniture and objects are showcased on the upper levels. The firm also has a leased space for jewelry in Bergdorf Goodman.

Imberman’s goal in working with her family is to introduce a new client to estate jewelry, which can seem stodgy and inaccessible. Imberman, 31, who was raised in Brooklyn and described her style as “downtown,” is associated with the fashion and celebrity crowd. She counts Chloë Sevigny and designer Benjamin Cho as friends and sometime muses.

“Every dealer says they’re surprised to see a young person involved in the business,” she said. “I’ve always been a thrift store junkie and this is the ultimate thrifting — but with a much larger checkbook.”

One initiative that Imberman believes will help draw a younger and perhaps a shallower-pocketed customer is a nascent costume jewelry department at the Madison Avenue boutique. She has sourced vintage costume jewelry by the likes of Christian Dior, Chanel and Miriam Haskell that ranges from $300 to $3,000 for a rare or intricate piece. One of the most in-demand designers is Chanel from the Eighties and Nineties.

“We don’t have a lot of occasions to wear a big diamond necklace,” Imberman said. “And the price point is more forgiving than fine jewelry.”

She is also at work on a trunk show of vintage handbags.

“In the last five years, there has been a renewed interest in estate,” she said. “Hollywood has been having a romance with all things vintage and one-of-a-kind and all of my friends are completely into antique jewelry. Buying estate is a great way to get pieces that are no longer out there and it’s likely that no one else will have it.”

Fine estate jewelry is a hot seller, as well. Prices for fine jewelry start at $2,000 and go as high as $600,000. One standout piece Imberman recently acquired is a Rene Boivin gold collar that has a segment with pavé diamonds that are reversible to wear for day or evening.

“We sought out signed pieces of brands that were at the height of their powers, like Rene Boivin, Fouquet, vintage Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Boucheron,” Imberman said. “There was a time where we never carried vintage Bulgari, but now that the look has swung to a more graphic Seventies look, we are sourcing more of it.”

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