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The past several years have marked lavish jewelry store openings across the globe, plentiful sales of high-carat diamonds and blockbuster marketing campaigns from the likes of Cartier, De Beers and Harry Winston.
Walter McTeigue and Tim McClelland, however, acknowledged early on that their brand McTeigue & McClelland would never compete with such heavyweights. So the pair kept their focus on making distinctive and whimsical handmade jewelry in Great Barrington, Mass., where the brand has been based for a decade.
Now the company has opened its first Manhattan salon, a 500-square-foot space in a suite at 608 Fifth Avenue, where they will show their rarefied wares by appointment.
“We weren’t ready for New York until now,” McTeigue said. “The office in New York is there to facilitate meetings with clients. We’re dealers, designers and [jewelry] makers.”
Walter P. McTeigue & Co. is a 114-year old jewelry manufacturing firm founded by McTeigue’s great grandfather. The firm once produced jewelry for many houses, including Tiffany & Co. Walter McTeigue followed in the tradition of the family business as a gemstone dealer, and at one point was the director of purchasing at Harry Winston responsible for acquiring all the house’s stones.
McClelland, who has a background in the arts, was a freelance jeweler. The two met in 1984, and in 1996 decided to join forces in creating a collection of handmade jewelry that echoed the way jewelry was made more than a century ago.
The brand is known for intricate metalwork, combined with color-saturated gemstones such as Padparadscha sapphires and nature-inspired elements. Standout pieces include the firm’s signature Flora ring in which gold petals peel away with a diamond set at center, various animal brooches and honeycomb gold cuffs.
“Our jewelry looks like it could have been made in a different age,” McClelland said. “It doesn’t look like anything made today. We try to reinvent the classic styles and keep it relevant.”
Prices range from $1,200 for a small pendant to as much as $750,000 for a piece with large and rare gemstones. Pieces take from a few days to almost a year to create by hand in the Great Barrington headquarters above their retail boutique.
The firm also sells in select high-end doors, including Gump’s in San Francisco, Tiny Jewel Box in Washington, D.C., and Bergdorf Goodman in New York, which it also sells loose gemstones.
McTeigue & McClell-and also works with clients to redesign, restore or reinvent their old jewelry.
The owners didn’t offer sales projections for the New York salon, saying the business is a piece-by-piece business and gains clients mostly by word of mouth.
The firm hasn’t been significantly affected by the hemorrhaging economy.
“We’ve been up against the glitz factor for so many years — against big corporations with big diamonds,” said McTeigue, who noted that the bridal business is taking off. “Our clients are connoisseurs. People don’t want pieces that are grandiose right now — they want pieces that can pass from generation to generation. The pieces people line up to see at museums are the pieces that are made in the greatest tradition of jewelry. That’s the tradition we want to be a part of.”