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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Only Place To Buy Jessica McCormack Luxury Jewels Is In A Magnificent London Townhouse, But That May Soon Change

The Jessica McCormack Townhouse Boutique

In less than 10 years, Jessica McCormack has earned an international reputation for her antique-inspired contemporary jewels. Sharing this attention is the 19th Century townhouse in Mayfair that her company calls home. It operates as the headquarters, workshop, showroom and boutique. After my first visit in March to the five-story red-brick building on 7 Carlos Place, I must say it’s quite impressive. 

The interior, designed by London architects, Powell Tuck Associated, contains high ceilings, plenty of light through bay-style windows, aged wooden floors, fireplaces, and a well-manicured and inviting backyard patio. Throughout the first two stories (the public area) are antique furnishings and chandeliers, contemporary sculptures and paintings. One room has a wall-length, floor-to-ceiling bookcase and a player piano filling the space with music. 

The Library

The “grand” townhouse is the only place in the world where one can purchase Jessica McCormack jewels. More importantly, it serves as the perfect showplace for McCormack’s aesthetic. The New Zealand native grew up around antiques at her father’s auction business in Christ Church. She served a one-year internship at Sotheby’s jewelry department in London where she grew an appreciation and love of baubles. Her style reflects both her foundation in antiques—particularly in Art Deco and Georgian and Victorian periods—and the edginess and casual nature of contemporary culture.

The jewelry gallery

The art and antiques are primarily from one of McCormack’s partners, Michael Rosenfeld, a diamantaire and art collector who sources diamonds and gems for her designs. Her other partner is Rachel Slack, a businesswoman and a member of the Oppenheimer family, which until recently was the owner of De Beers. So McCormack is well financed.

What about the jewelry?

McCormack’s collections (which includes Tattoo, Jewels of the Urban Night, Messenger of the Gods and Perfect Storm) are well defined with specific personal stories and signature motifs. For example, the Urban Night collection is inspired by the jagged edges and geometric features of the architecture of the New York skyline. The Art Deco motifs are created through channel-set diamonds in geometric lines and grids. 

The Ruby New York Ring from the Urban Night collection

Meanwhile, the Tattoo collection is inspired by The Maori people of McCormack’s New Zealand home country. The jewels are based on their facial tattoos that tell individual stories of family lineage and social status within their tribe. Books about the Maori culture and artifacts she has collected over the years are included among the eclectic collection of contemporary art and antiques in the house.

The Tattoo Ring

While diamonds is McCormack’s preferred stone, she isn’t afraid to add color. This is most evident in the Party Jacket collection. In this versatile group, McCormack will often take a client’s existing ring—such as a solitaire, engagement or heirloom—and create a removable gem-specific “jacket” that surrounds the original gem. It provides another way to express oneself with the same jewel without altering it. 

Oval diamond ring with ruby Party Jacket

This clever nature and versatility is evident throughout her pieces. Another thing that makes her pieces special is that it is luxury jewelry that can be worn everyday and for all occasions. These are a couple of reasons why McCormack is in high demand for her bespoke work, collaborating with clients to create something special and unique. Clients include Rihanna and Madonna. As the story goes (as these stories often go) Rihanna was McCormack’s first customer when she operated a small, private appointment studio. The singer and fashion icon purchased a single “Wings of Desire” earring.

Wing of Desire Earrings

McCormack’s petite, edgy and versatile diamond-centric jewels have attracted a strong following throughout the world (particularly in the U.K. and U.S.), despite their limited availability. 

It is a successful business that is at a crossroads. The challenge is fueling growth while maintaining its high quality standards and continuity with the Jessica McCormack brand. 

The Romance Room

There are at least three issues facing the company. First, there is demand far exceeding her ability to supply it. The craftsmen produce about 100 handmade pieces per year. Second, the big, beautiful art-filled space, which is as much of the Jessica McCormack brand as her jewels, comes with huge costs. Third, the boutique is away from the busier shopping areas of Mayfair, such as Bond Street. This makes it primarily a destination for clients already familiar with her work. The primary source of casual walk in traffic is from The Connaught luxury hotel directly across the street. 

To diversify the product selection, the brand recently released a bridal jewelry collection with the same relationship to McCormack and her brand as her other jewels. 

The Little Mermaid Ring

For additional help in planning this next phase of the business they recruited New York resident, Colleen Caslin, who just finished a successful eight-year run as the chief operating officer of Verdura and Belperron. She is serving as the interim CEO till June. The veteran luxury executive’s resume includes leadership positions at Movado Group, Graff and Asprey. She is well respected in the industry. I’ve known her during her time at Verdura and Belperron and can’t imagine a better person to guide the business to its next level. 

I met with Caslin during my visit in March and she discussed many ideas that are being considered. Nothing yet has been approved but those loyal clients should be prepared for some changes. 

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