Couture Musings

Time Travel with Oscar Heyman

When you step into the offices of renowned brand, Oscar Heyman, it feels like stepping back through time. The office itself is in a beautiful, modern facility, and yet there’s something about the way the sound of your heels on the plush carpet is absorbed, or perhaps it’s the inherent knowledge that masterpieces are in the process of being created in this same office, that immediately inspires a sense of reverence.

Maybe it’s the breathtaking clock that is situated in the waiting area, which was lovingly made as a gift for the company’s founders by its employees. This labor of love, which took two years to complete, indicates an unprecedented sentiment of mutual respect and admiration in the employer/employee dynamic. A plaque on the front lists all of the Heyman family founders and proclaims this work of art a “token of esteem” in celebration of the company’s 25th anniversary in 1938. The clock features a depiction of Hermes with the caduceus, symbolizing the protector of merchants and commerce, sitting across a workbench from an artisan with all the tools of the jewelry making trade (made miniature!). Each of the employees’ names are also inscribed on the base of the clock, ensuring that their place in the great legacy of Oscar Heyman was recorded.

Maybe it’s the intricately carved bronze plaques that line the waiting room walls. The company’s artisans created these plaques during the Great Depression, which kept them busy when demand for high-jewelry was low, and provided a much needed creative outlet to true masters of their craft who couldn’t tolerate being idle. Or perhaps it’s the collection of archived pieces that rest in a credenza in the waiting area; each stunning one-of-a-kind piece is shown with its respective original wax or clay model.   

Brothers Nathan, Oscar and Harry, who emigrated from Russia, founded Oscar Heyman in 1912, an era when jewelry aficionados with sir names like Morgan, Astor, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt were the biggest celebrities in one of the greatest cities in the world. The brothers’ years of experience working with Fabragé provided them with the foundation for the development of exquisitely crafted fine jewelry that would go on to be universally coveted. Many of their signature creations, like their Entourage rings, and their Pansy and Gardenia brooches, have become eponymous with this important design firm. And still other pieces have gone on to infamy, like the Burton-Taylor diamond necklace they set on behalf of Cartier in 1969.

While the company received their first patent in 1914, and went on to acquire dozens of additional patents, it would be impossible to replicate the sophisticated level of craftsmanship that goes into each and every piece of jewelry that Oscar Heyman creates.

Every piece is lovingly shepherded through each touch point in the complex process of jewelry design and fabrication. The gemstones are directly sourced and hand-selected; all components and findings are made in-house in their tool and die shop; metals are alloyed in-house; each hole into which stones are set is thrummed by hand! This level of meticulousness is the dividing line between very fine jewelry, and superlative jewelry.

Yet perhaps the aspect that was most impressive to me is the precision with which they record their process. In this digital age, when everything is stored in a cloud or on some unknown server, the tactile experience of an all but antiquated, yet fundamental, method of documentation is in itself, art. Once a design has been established (two designers currently work with the firm….they have gemstones placed in front of them, they beautifully render and paint a few ideas for the stones until a design has been signed-off on), it gets its own card. This card stays with the piece throughout the entire process, and everyone who played a part in bringing the piece to fruition signs off on this card. Once the jewelry goes off to its final, loving home, the card gets archived in the registry of the company’s vast, two-story, mid-Manhattan office. Oscar Heyman currently has over 175,000 cards in their impeccably organized archives!

Nearly 105 years after it was founded, Oscar Heyman continues to maintain the quality of craftsmanship, creativity and commitment to excellence that its first customers enjoyed. After getting a personal tour and learning from a 3rd generation Heyman about the company’s history, methods and philosophy, we at COUTURE have no doubt that they will continue to maintain these traditions for the next century and beyond!

  

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Michelle Orman

Michelle Orman

Michelle Orman is the president of Last Word Communications, which spearheads the public relations for the COUTURE show. A 15+ year veteran of the COUTURE community, Michelle is obsessed with all things jewelry and watch related! To be included in COUTURE Musings, email Michelle at michelle@LastWordComm.com.

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