Valentine’s Day is sneaking up on us (where did January go?), but instead of stressing out over gift-giving, we’re feeling grateful for the holiday that’s pretty much synonymous with fine jewelry. Whether you want to pick up a little something special for yourself or print out this post and helpfully affix it to your significant other’s mirror or computer screen, the experts at McTeigue & McClelland—makers of exquisite hand-crafted gold, platinum, and precious-stone jewelry—have some terrific shopping tips for you.
Walter McTeigue and Tim McClelland met in New York City in 1994, when Walter was working as a specialist in diamonds and estate jewelry (he even did a stint as Harry Winston’s estate jewelry buyer and director of purchasing) and Tim, who apprenticed with some of the country’s top master jewelers, was a freelance designer. They began collaborating, with Walter hunting down stones and Tim designing and making the jewelry. In 1998, they decided to go into business together, and founded McTeigue & McClelland in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. They now have a staff of 9 gemologists, salespeople, administrators, and jewelers. Every one of their vintage-feel pieces is created and perfected by hand, using traditional metal-fabrication techniques—no casting or metal clay, thank you very much—right their studio. Take a look at the incredibly rich detail on these necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and pins, and you’ll be as wowed as we are.
On a recent trip to McTeigue & McClelland—a tough gig, we know—we tore ourselves away from playing dress-up with the jewelry just long enough to get some shopping guidelines from graduate gemologist Samantha Larson. Here are Samantha’s top tips for buying jewelry gifts for Valentine’s Day:
- Aim for something she doesn’t already have. If you always see her wearing earrings, go for a bracelet.
- Look for pieces that “sing” to you. If you’re enthusiastic about your choice, chances are she will be, too.
- If you’re not sure of her style or best colors, take in a photo and explain her typical style—favorite colors, casual vs. dressed-up, etc.—so the in-store experts can help you out. Or plan a romantic outing to the jewelry store to let her pick out a gift, followed up by dinner at a favorite restaurant.
- Earrings are always a good choice. Not only is sizing a nonissue (unlike with rings, necklaces, and bracelets), but they’re an easy way to accessorize just about any outfit, so a woman is likely to get more wear out of them. Plus, Samantha points out, “The box size doesn’t look like a ring box, so it won’t be misleading.”
- Go for color. “Colored jewelry, especially earrings, are going to be huge for Valentine’s,” Samantha says. If you’re not sure of the best color for your significant other’s complexion, ask the gemologist for help.
- If you’re shopping for an engagement ring, think beyond the four Cs. Your first consideration should be making it personal; if she loves antique and you’re looking at modern, neither of you will be happy with the result. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—both of your significant other and the gemologist. And when it comes to the diamond itself, sparkle is important, but, as Samantha points out, “The cut and beauty of the stone aren’t defined by any piece of paper; it’s about how it looks to you. If you trust in the store you’re buying from, go with what feels special to you. Create your own meaning.”
McTeigue & McClelland has amassed a loyal international following, from Japan to Qatar. (One Australian client even made it a point to visit the studio on a trip to the United States!) They’ve been featured in magazines like Martha Stewart Weddings, Elle, W, and Town & Country, and they’ve become favorites of former secretary of state Madeline Albright, who counts two of their pins in her legendary collection. Learn more about them by visiting their website.