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NEW YORK — Angela Cummings is ready to turn the page — and her new chapter will take place away from jewelry and retail.

This story first appeared in the March 26, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We are permanently closing Angela Cummings Inc., which was founded in 1984,” Michele Ateyeh, president and chief executive officer, said in an interview. “This will officially happen at the end of our fiscal year on June 30.”

Cummings, who is based in Greenwich, Conn., started her career as a design assistant at Tiffany & Co. in 1968, and in her 17 years there rose to become one of the Fifth Avenue jeweler’s key designers before branching out on her own. Cummings is known for her strong craftsmanship, a special inlay technique that allowed her gold designs to have a seamless, print-like appearance, and a signature interlocking clasp that was widely copied.

This June, Cummings will celebrate her 35 years in jewelry with an event at the Grill Room in the Four Seasons restaurant here, which also will be her official send-off party, since she is moving with her husband, Bruce, outside of Park City, Utah.

“Why not?” Cummings said. “We’re able to do this now. There’s a big change in retail and it’s a good time to step back.”

At its height in the mid-Nineties, Angela Cummings was sold in about 35 doors. Besides an in-store boutique at Bergdorf Goodman, her jewelry was sold through Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Marshall Field’s and Bloomingdale’s. The company once had annual sales of more than $10 million.

“The industry changed dramatically,” said Ateyeh. “In the near term, it’s far more profitable for us to reward our employees and ourselves than to continue. We would rather really reap the rewards of that for ourselves and our employees at a time in Angela’s career when we’re in a landmark situation.”

A contributing factor was that the artisans who mastered Cummings’ signature inlay technique, which accounted for 27 percent of sales, have all retired.

The idea to close down was hatched about a year ago, said Ateyeh, and the company spent the past few months pulling back merchandise from retailers.

“We didn’t buy it back, but we allowed ourselves to become a 100 percent consignment business,” Ateyeh said. “We then exercised the option to call the jewelry back. We called back $5 million in retail value from Neiman Marcus, in addition to about $1.5 million from other retailers and our own inventory.”

Cummings will offer the remaining inventory to special clients from the company’s 57th Street showroom and Bergdorf Goodman boutique in May.

“The way we are able to accomplish this is because we’re self-financed,” Ateyeh said. “We are in a financial position to realize everything we have been working toward.”

Cummings also has been in a partnership with Shiseido for 10 years, during which time the company opened five freestanding boutiques in Japan.

“We are working with them for total consolidation,” said Ateyeh.

But Cummings fans need not completely despair. Cummings will continue to sell on QVC, where she launched a silver collection last January. “For a period of time, I will oversee the QVC situation,” said Ateyeh.

For her part, Cummings will be spending the time building a house and working on her other passion: oil painting.

“It sounds hokey, but we’re going to enjoy life,” said Ateyeh.

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