Today we will have a look at the luxury fake Cartier watch and accessory. Ever since he burst on the fashion scene as a young man barely out of his teens, Marc Jacobs has trained his polymath eye on beautiful objects of all genres. He is as passionate about Frank Lloyd Wright houses as he is about David Webb animal brooches. So what does this born and bred New Yorker enjoy most when he is in his hometown? A visit (sometimes with pals like designer Anna Sui) to the infamous Diamond District, the rough exterior of which conceals hidden gems. It’s something of an open secret among the jewelry cognoscenti, but when Jacobs, Stellene Volandes (the editor of this magazine), and I got together recently for an epic Zoom-a-thon, we realized we have all whiled away many an afternoon in that quintessential Manhattan destination. The only improvement to our afternoon chat about the pleasures of New York and the joys of jewelry would have been the IRL experience of 47th Street, the beating heart of this inimitable landmark. Soon enough, though.
Stellene Volandes: You know, this is my dream come true, talking to you about jewelry. Are you wearing pearls?
Marc Jacobs: That I wear every day. I’ve wanted a strand of pearls for years, but it’s never happened. And then this year we were in Malibu, and there’s a Mikimoto near Rodeo Drive. I said, “This is going to be the year,” and it was. From the day I received them, I haven’t taken them off.
Lynn Yaeger: You don’t sleep in them, do you? Or shower in them, right?
MJ: No, because they’re on silk. It’s the last thing I put on, because I wear fragrance, and I do the makeup and I do all that stuff, which is a ritual I learned from my grandmother. She always wore a strand of pearls with every outfit, and her morning ritual was to draw a bath, do her makeup, perfume, and then the pearls.
SV: Was it always a strand of pearls?
MJ: Yeah, I think somewhere in my mind there’s something very polite and proper and ladylike about it. Ladylike in a way that I both love and detest. I have imagery of Grace Kelly or whoever it might be in a strand of pearls, so I think like that was very demure, polite, and sort of proper jewelry.
LY: Do you think that made it kind of transgressive for you to embrace it so much?
MJ: Absolutely. That irony is why I love head scarves. It’s always how I felt, but I think more than ever I just want to normalize these things that have been exclusive to cisgender women. I’m not making an active statement, but it’s kind of the way I always felt. I mean, a twinset always belonged to a different gender, a strand of pearls belonged to a different gender, and you see with young kids today, it’s like, no, it doesn’t.
LY: The young kids don’t shop that way at all.
MJ: I’ve worn women’s Prada for, I don’t know, 20 years now, and I’ve worn dresses from Comme des Garçons’ menswear collection. And people say to me, “Oh, did Comme do that for men?” And I’m like, “What’s the difference?” Whether they did it for men or women, I’m wearing it. So I’ve always felt like clothing and jewelry have no gender. It’s been gendered over the years by people who thought differently, right?
SV: In fact, if you look back at portraits—Queen Elizabeth I in that Spanish Armada portrait where she is draped in pearls was a portrait of her as a victorious general really. That pearls being a very ladylike statement is not really how they began. If you look back, men were the great collectors and wearers of jewelry. Think about the maharajas, think about King Henry VIII. He was dripping in jewelry.
MJ: Think about the pope.
SV: Look at the pope! It’s a vocabulary of power, and how each person in each chapter of history uses it reveals so much about the power structures of that time. King Charles I wore a pearl earring until the day he died—when, you know, they cut off his…
LY: And where is that pearl earring now? Because Marc wants to buy it. We have a customer for it! Marc, do you buy antiques or only new jewelry?
MJ: My favorite currently is David Webb. I bought a pair of ’60s David Webb cuff links when I was living in Paris, while I was working at Louis Vuitton—white enamel lion heads, very classic Webb—and that was just a little taste. Then we were at a dinner for Steven Meisel, and Jane [Trapnell], Peter Marino’s wife, brought out her collection of David Webb, and of course Anna Sui and I were going crazy. And then Anna bought a bracelet, and I went shopping with my husband in the Diamond District. There are a couple of dealers across the street from each other, and I saw these Webb bracelets in the window, and I said, “Fuck it, I’m just doing it.”
LY: You said somebody with a window on the street. Was it Eric Originals & Antiques?
MJ: Yes. Yes. Yes. And then, across the street, they had a white one, so I went and bought this black one on a Tuesday, and on Thursday I went back and bought the white one. And then Anna Sui and I, when we got over the shock of quarantine and started to settle into lockdown, we started shopping online. I came across a brooch, a beaver made by Webb.
By the end of lockdown, I had negotiated the piece, so that’s one of the things that we shot for T&C. A man made it for his wife, who was a fan of David Webb, and her nickname was Beaver. I know, very unfortunate nickname.
LY: Maybe it’s different in England, you know? I don’t know if I would like somebody to give me that nickname.
SV: Probably not but rendered in David Webb, it’s okay.
MJ: I’ve been into Webb for a while, but before that, what I have collected for years, and I think this goes back to, I don’t know, my midterm at Louis Vuitton, is I started collecting the jewelry of Andrew Grima.
SV: Amazing! How did you first find out about Grima’s work?
MJ: Katie Grand, who was working with me at Vuitton, had this watch that was Grima, and I was obsessed with it. And of course she got the obsession because Mrs. Prada was wearing that watch, and then Katie became obsessed, and then I became obsessed, and then there was no stopping. I was bidding on some of his pieces at auction and got this one-of-a-kind watch, one of those LED watches from the ’70s. They were all unique pieces that he did for Omega, from his About Time collection. One of the things I wore in the pictures for T&C is this beautiful pendant, which was like a rose quartz, and then the topaz watch.
LY: Stellene, do you shop online for jewelry?
SV: I don’t, but I do shop in the Diamond District. You and I were talking about this the other day, how people don’t give the Diamond District the credit it deserves.
MJ: They associate it with Uncut Gems or something, you know what I mean? I think it’s heaven. There’s all this wonderful, wonderful jewelry. I have a few vintage Van Cleef pieces from the ’70s that I’m crazy about. Elsewhere in New York, I bought some Jean Després from Primavera Gallery [which is now on East 91st Street].
SV: Primavera is where I first really learned about jewelry. She’s incredible, Audrey [Friedman].
LY: Do you remember the first piece you bought for yourself?
MJ: The first thing I bought was probably an antique watch. It was a Cartier. It was a model for a Swiss movement replica Cartier watch, and do you remember that boutique on Madison Avenue, Time Will Tell? That was my first purchase. For my graduation, I was gifted these Victorian studs, that were like an agate, and then they had little snakes wrapped around them. There were three studs for a tuxedo. I got them from James Robinson from my boyfriend at the time. Those were probably the first piece of antique jewelry I had, and then I bought myself a watch, and then it just went from there.
SV: My first piece of jewelry was from Lalaounis. I was in Greece.
MJ: Oh my god, that’s another thing on my bucket list, because when I was going to the High School of Art and Design, I used to take the number 10 bus across town on 57th Street, and the boutique was right there next to Bendel.
SV: That’s right. That was when they first came to New York, their first boutique. And you know, Mr. Lalaounis used to always say that he had to live on the street where the shop was, as if that was his intent. I wear a piece of Lalaounis every single day. It’s my good luck charm. When I think of Lalaounis, Lalaounis and David Webb have this boldness to them. And I wonder, what it is it about Webb that you think sort of like pulls you in?
MJ: They’re magnificent fantasies. I love fantasy in jewelry, when it takes you somewhere and you’re that. I don’t know it’s 1970, and you’re in a tank top and a Lalaounis gold choker. Or it’s the ’60s and you’re wearing your topaz cheap copy watch from Grima with a pendant and a turtleneck. Certain jewelry just takes you to a place and a moment.
LY: The other day Stellene and I were talking, and she said she thought jewelry had soul. Certain pieces have soul, and they just speak to you.
MJ: And you know that the jeweler had a story, like it really has soul.
SV: Speaking of jewelry and soul, someone told me yesterday that they went to a jewelry reader in India, who looked at the pieces they had on and said, “Don’t wear that for a few years, it has bad luck, it has good luck.” I’d never heard of that before. For me, there are certain pieces that I put on and I feel this is my good luck or protective piece.
MJ: That’s what’s happened with these pearls. Even on days when I don’t want to get dressed, I put on my pearls and I think, You know what, I’ve been healthy, I’ve been safe, I’ve been happy. I just think there’s something lucky about these pearls, so I’m very, very adamant about wearing them every day. With all the chaos and catastrophe that’s going on, I’m just like, you know what, somehow I’m still safe, so they’re doing something. And I heard once—I don’t remember who told me the story, but they used to wear their pearls when they flew because they believed that by wearing pearls on a plane, the plane wouldn’t crash. I can’t remember who said this legend.
SV: Once you hear that, you’re like, that’s what am I going to do.
MJ: I mean, I have to get dressed every day. I just have to. You know, even if it does come down to a sweatshirt and a t-shirt or whatever, you know, I just have to do the whole thing. Otherwise, I get too depressed.
SV: It’s true. From the beginning I have put on a pair of earrings and, like, a long necklace. Whatever, if I was wearing a white shirt, it just made me feel like…
LY: Because you don’t want to pass a mirror in your house and see someone who’s not wearing Mikimoto pearls.
MJ: Also, I’ve got all this stuff, and I just want to enjoy it. Now is the time for everything, you know what I mean? If not now, when?