In 1988, Elizabeth Locke was writing for Town & Country when she was sent on assignment to Bangkok. “I really had no history with jewelry, [but] they sent me to Bangkok to do a shopping story, and one of my assignments was to find where to have jewelry made,” she says. Locke was immediately taken with the process, and upon returning stateside two weeks later, enrolled in the Gemological Institute of America.
With little direction and before going completely broke, she found her way back to Bangkok to make jewelry–at the very least she would wear it herself, in the case it didn’t sell. But her efforts did not go unnoticed: six months later, in June of 1990, her tourmaline ring was on the cover of W magazine. And, the goldsmiths she found then are the same ones she works with today, 28 years later.
Unlike many contemporary jewelry designers, Locke prides herself on quiet referrals and an ever-loyal clientele. She now sells all over the country. “I don’t like to give names of people who bought, but there were and are a lot of names there, a lot of interesting fashionable ladies,” Locke demurs.
Locke now spends most of her time between her farm in Virginia, overseeing her production in Bangkok, and visiting her store on Madison Avenue in New York City. Not much has changed in her designs over nearly 30 years in business, particularly the quality, craftsmanship and aesthetic. “I know what I can do and I know what I feel comfortable doing and I stick to it,” she says. Perhaps it’s her consistency that’s made her so successful. After all, brand identity is crucial for any return customer.
Locations: Elizabeth Locke Jewels, 968 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021, 212-744-7878, and The Other Elizabeth, 17 E. Main Street, Boyce, VA 22620, 540-837-3088
The Mix: Charms to mix on bracelets and necklaces, hoop earrings, gold chunky bracelets and bangles.
Best Sellers: Little hoop earrings and bangles.
Shopping Experience: Elizabeth thinks ‘that it is important to try things on and to feel it in person. Unless you have someone at the other end of the telephone to walk you through it, it’s difficult to shop for these pieces online’.
Tribes: A loyal following of all ages. “People either like my aesthetic or they don’t. If they like it, 80% will come back and buy more,” Locke says.
Range of prices: $1,200-$30,000
Favorite Stone: Tourmaline and Spinels
Designer’s Favorite Gift to Give: Fresh bouquet of flowers picked from her Virginia farm
Favorite Era of Jewelry: Late nineteenth century of classic revival, people in the late 19th century were inspired by Etruscan jewelry, gods, goddesses, and mythological creatures. ‘Jewelry is designed for the era in which it is worn, so I take inspiration from them and change the proportion’