All posts by Esther Fortunoff

Spring Cleaning – Jewelry Style

As the daylight hours lengthen once again, our thoughts turn to spring cleaning. From windows battered by winter storms to outdoor decks and furniture, the added light quickly shows what needs cleaning – or repair.

Romantic Cushion Cut Diamond Ring, 1 Carat, Platinum

Romantic Cushion Cut Diamond Ring, 1 Carat, Platinum – $9,995

It’s just the same with jewelry. Once a year, it’s a good idea to bring your precious pieces into Fortunoff Fine Jewelry, where our expert jeweler can inspect settings, check for loose gems, and, when all is well, give your jewels a cleaning to make them sparkle for summer!

It’s always sad when a client brings us jewelry where a gem has been lost – and these annual inspections can prevent this from happening. This is especially important for valuable jewelry you wear every day, like an engagement ring. Rings and bracelets, in general, take more of a “licking”, because of how much we use our hands.

Though precious metals are durable, they are still vulnerable to the dings and arrows of daily work, chores, and caring for children. A prong can get snagged or moved, and a gem can loosen as a result.

Diamond Pave Ring, 18K White Gold

Diamond Pave Ring, 18K White Gold – $995

Be especially careful with pavé jewelry – where the many smaller diamonds are set with tiny beads that allow you to see more of a diamond’s brilliance. But that very advantage means you need to be especially vigilant to avoid sharp or abrupt contact with hard surfaces. As with all fine jewelry, you should not wear such pieces to the gym, out gardening, or when preparing food.

Want to learn more? Bring your precious jewels in for a “spa visit.” If you have broken, unworn, or out-of-fashion pieces, you can bring those too, and we can give you suggestions to use the precious metals and diamonds you already own to create a new style that you’ll actually be able to wear and enjoy! And you can play a role in the redesign. It’s a fun process that our team will walk you through. See you soon. And happy spring.

A Tribute to my Mother, Helene Fortunoff, for Women’s History Month

Photo by Patrick McMullan

Photo by Patrick McMullan

During Women’s History Month, I wanted to pay tribute to my mother, Helene Fortunoff, pictured here with my sister Ruth and me, who both followed her footsteps into the jewelry industry. My mother is well-known as a pioneering woman in the jewelry world. In 1957, she spearheaded our company’s first entrance into the jewelry category – because she understood the power and significance jewelry had for women. In 2000, after our father died, she took on the presidency of Fortunoff, ably steering our entire company.

Along the way, Helene picked up many honors and firsts from the jewelry industry: She was one of the first members of the Women’s Jewelry Association after its founding in 1983, recognizing that most women did not yet have a place at the table in jewelry businesses. Later, she received WJA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as being one of the first recipients of National Jeweler magazine’s Hall of Fame designation for prominent retailers.

She was also the first woman invited to join the prestigious Carat Club, a diamond industry leadership group sponsored by De Beers. She was a member of many boards of directors, both in the jewelry industry, and in her Long Island community, serving as chair for both the Gemological Institute of America and Hofstra University boards.

To my sister Ruth and me, she has been both mother and mentor, as we continue to pursue our jewelry careers. She taught us how to balance motherhood and work, so that we could raise our own children as she raised us. Her guidance and example have been central to our lives.

As women press forward again for equal pay, promotions, and relief from sexual harassment in 2018, it’s important we remember the pioneers who came before us. I’m grateful that my mother laid the groundwork upon which we continue to build today.

Hedy Lamarr: More Than Glamorous

Hedy Lamarr in 1948, at the peak of her beauty, burnished by gems.

Hedy Lamarr in 1948, at the peak of her beauty, burnished by gems.

As we get ready to watch the Academy Awards this weekend, I wanted to share what I learned recently about one of the most beautiful actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Hedy Lamarr. I recently saw a 2017 documentary about the late actress, “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. It made a lasting impression.

Her story was fascinating. An Austrian by birth, Lamarr was discovered by MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, and emigrated to the U.S. shortly before World War II, where she was “lucky” enough to become part of the Hollywood star machine. I place “lucky” in quotes because the actress always felt that no one took her seriously, due to her stunning beauty.

Lamarr was a “pinup” girl and her face was said to have been the model for Disney’s Snow White. Yet, it was not just her acting skills that were underestimated. She was also an inventor who, along with partner George Antheil, received a patent for a secret communications system they devised, which Lamarr hoped would assist the war effort during World War II.

Hedy Lamarr, covered in stars in 1941’s “Ziegfeld Girl,” filmed a few years after she arrived in Hollywood.

Hedy Lamarr, covered in stars in 1941’s “Ziegfeld Girl,” filmed a few years after she arrived in Hollywood.

Though their invention of spread-spectrum broadcast communications technologies was rejected by the Navy during the war, it was finally used by the military during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Their invention eventually helped in the development of wireless communications, including Bluetooth and GPS. Unfortunately, the patent that Lamarr and Antheil had received for their work expired in 1959, shortly after Antheil died, and Lamarr received no credit or payment once the system began to be used.

It is a gripping tale, told with the help of rare audiotaped interviews with Lamarr when she was in her eighties. Though she received no compensation for her invention, she did finally receive at least one accolade before her death in 2000, the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award in 1997, given to individuals whose creative lifetime achievements in the arts, sciences, business, or invention fields have significantly contributed to society. In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were also inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Not every Hollywood star can achieve the kind of scientific innovations that burnish the legacy of the beautiful Hedy Lamarr. But we can look today at actresses like Reese Witherspoon, who has formed a joint venture called Hello Sunshine to focus on telling female-driven stories on film, TV and digital platforms.

Reese Witherspoon, in cool gemstone earrings, representing a new age for women in Hollywood.

Reese Witherspoon, in cool gemstone earrings, representing a new age for women in Hollywood.

The stories Witherspoon is producing, such as the recent “Big Little Lies,” are highly successful and award winning. As a vocal supporter of increasing equality for women and people of color in Hollywood, the producer is focusing on complex female characters, many over 40, and hiring the female screenwriters and women of color to make it happen. I think Hedy would be smiling at the new reality.

Vicenzaoro: Italy’s Moveable Jewelry Feast

Epag-riviste-vornest Hemingway once described Paris as a “moveable feast” – which, to me, also describes one of my favorite jewelry fairs of the year, Vicenzaoro, in the beautiful northern Italian city of Vicenza. In Fortunoff’s heyday, we would take a team of six buyers each January to this so-called City of Gold, headed, of course, by my mother, Helene, and her right hand woman, Mollie Wallman, along with other senior buyers. My sister Ruth, who studied in Florence and spoke Italian, helped our team navigate the show, and always made sure we were seeing the best of Italy’s wonderful villages and restaurants in our after-hours.

I really miss those trips. So, when I restarted our jewelry business, I knew that one of my first overseas excursions would be to this “moveable feast” again. The fair, of course, had been updated and changed, especially given the challenges Italy has faced, with a skyrocketing gold price that caused some businesses to close or switch products.

vo-janThe cleverest of the survivors however, learned to adapt, and I was really overjoyed to find one company, in particular, which I thought had closed. Family-run like ours, this great design firm now has a new generation in charge, but with all of its classic Italian design sensibility intact. While I loved seeing the new, lighter designs in 18k gold, I was also thrilled to find some old favorites that our customers always loved.

Italian design is so special – there is a nuance and flair others don’t have. And though there are many other jewelry centers worldwide creating wonderful pieces, I think my heart will always rest in Italy. Along with gorgeous gold, I also loved seeing so many luscious jewels studded with sapphires and emeralds and diamonds. It really is the truth that when it comes to jewelry, nobody does it better than the Italians.

the-design-roomIt was a great pleasure to be there in frigid snowy January and to greet old friends and see the new wares. I also caught up with my old friend, Paola de Luca, The Futurist, who produces regular trend books that help the worldwide jewelry design industry see the trends that are coming down the road in all design. Paola has correctly predicted so many trends, such as asymmetry in jewelry, the fascination with 1960s and 1970s design motifs, and many more ideas that have affected what we like to buy and wear.

She’s recently released her 2019 predictions, which are fascinating. Look for more emphasis on gem-rich, nature-inspired designs, dark, moody looks, roughened metal finishes, and pretty enameling. I’ve included photos here of two of my Italian jewelry finds. First, some gold earrings in a basket weave in white and yellow gold. The yellow is hand-hammered by goldsmiths in Valenza, Italy’s high-end artisanal jewelry making center. Next, there’s a swingy amethyst station necklace that would have been right at home on the dance floor at Studio 54 in the Seventies.

Two Tone Basket Weave Earrings, 18 Karat Gold

Two Tone Basket Weave Earrings, 18 Karat Gold – $2,895

Pear Shaped Amethyst and Bead Station Necklace, 14K Rose Gold

Pear Shaped Amethyst and Bead Station Necklace, 14K Rose Gold – $795

The-Basilica-PalladianaVicenzaoro also sponsors the newest designers to come on the scene, and has seminars on not only design trends, but also the latest in 3-D jewelry design equipment, environmentally sustainable jewelry, and so much more. When you combine all this with Vicenza city’s majestic Palladian architecture, some of the best food on the planet, and the incredible magazines and graphic art on display, you can see why it’s such a feast for the senses. I hope these photos give you a small flavor for this great experience. You can depend on my jewelry selections going forward to reflect all that I’ve seen. Look for the Made in Italy designation in the descriptions on our website to find even more of our Italian jewels. Or stop by and we can show them to you in person.

Holiday Traditions

One of my favorite holiday traditions is passing down cherished pieces of jewelry from generation to generation.

holiday traditionsMy grandmother Clara, the matriarch and Co-Founder of the Fortunoff business, loved to wear jewelry sets, including coral strands with matching earrings, and heavy gold bangles with coordinating pins. When I was young, she gifted these pieces to my mother, and a few of them to me. Now, I’ve passed them on to my daughter, who never got the chance to meet her feisty, charming great-grandmother. When my daughter—Clara’s namesake—wears Clara’s timeless jewels, she can appreciate the special bond that the women in our family share.

holiday traditionsAt our Westbury boutique, we have many simple and elegant items that we hope your family can pass down through the years, too. Iconic styles, like diamond tennis bracelets, gold hoops, silver pendants, and pearl necklaces are perfect pieces to start your family’s jewelry tradition.

religious jewelryTo honor your unique heritage and special traditions this holiday season, we have pieces for all budgets that feature crosses, stars of david, hamsa hands, photo lockets, as well as birthstones.

Adding to Your Jewelry Wardrobe This Holiday Season

As you develop your personal jewelry wardrobe, it’s always good to add some pieces that reflect current trends – and are different from the jewels you already own.

To find such chic additions to suggest, Fortunoff spends the year traveling to faraway places, watching what celebrities are wearing to awards shows, and poring over fashion magazines. We’re also aided by the excellent jewelry fashion writers in our industry, one of whom recently identified four trends that she believes are worth acquiring, because, while they are of the moment now, they will also stand the test of time. These kinds of fashionable staples will be the pieces you turn to again and again as you wear your jewelry through the years.

So here are four suggestions, for jewels you might add to your collection this holiday season.

Already have diamond solitaire studs? Try a huggie or pavé-set earring.

Huggies have been spotted on many ears this year, sometimes alone, and sometimes complementing a diamond stud. Or, if you really like studs, try one of our many styles that feature pavé-set diamonds. Here are four examples you may want to consider.

Stud EarringsClockwise, starting from top left:

High-polished hinged hoop earrings with diamonds in 14k yellow gold.

Small pavé diamond swirl earrings in 14k white gold.

Vintage look pavé diamond petite earrings in 14k white gold.

Diamond crescent moon and star stud earrings in 14k white gold.

Already have a traditional cocktail ring? Try a stacking ring.

Stacking rings reflect the trend of wearing multiples, whether on the finger, wrist, or neck. Varying combinations can keep your jewelry looking fresh. The great thing about stacking rings is how wonderfully collectible they are. The rings are fun to mix and match, and they’re often reasonably priced.

holiday-season-2From top to bottom:

Single row diamond eternity band in 14k white gold is in a French pavé cutdown style.

Cushion-cut, bezel set, London blue topaz ring in 14k yellow gold, is also available with other gemstones, such as citrine, purple and green amethyst, and peridot; in different gem shapes, such as round, oval, and trillion; and in white or yellow gold.

Scalloped design, .25 carat diamond band in 18k white gold features marquise-shaped design elements. Marquise shapes are staging a comeback, which is why you’ll see them among our newer styles.

Pave diamond design band in 18k yellow gold has alternating square and marquise shaped sections prong-set with 22 diamonds.

Flush-set, fancy brown diamond band in 14k rose gold features a matte finish and 10 diamonds totaling almost 1/3 carat. Flush settings are another great way to protect gems if your hands are busy at work.

Already have hoops? Try a dramatic drop

Long, slender drop earrings were everywhere on the red carpet this year, and their sexy drama will give you a reason to turn your head frequently.

holiday-season-3
From left to right:

Long diamond drop earrings come in 18k yellow gold. The sleek 2-inch drops contain 44 round brilliant diamonds totaling 1.43 carat.

Triangle black agate and diamond drop earrings in 14k white gold mix an Art Deco look in a minimal way. They feature almost a half carat of diamonds.

Italian-link dangle earrings in 14k yellow gold celebrate a return to links, and a nod to the 1970s and ‘80s.

Already have a diamond solitaire necklace? Try a personalized or message pendant.

Personalized or message jewelry will celebrate your passion for a jewel of your own. We’re lucky today that so much jewelry can be easily personalized, and no where is that more apparent than in charms and lockets. As with stacking rings, these fun pendants can be mixed and matched on various chains, for the kind of varied look that will make every outfit seem new.
holiday-season-4

From top left, clockwise:

The classic diamond initial necklace in 14k white gold is experiencing another surge in popularity right now. Let us know which letter you need.

Victorian spinning style locket in 14k yellow gold is suspended within a frame, so the locket can be turned to view either side. On one side is a single round brilliant diamond; on the other a high-polished center suitable for engraving. Holds two photos.

Open circle diamond LOVE pendant in 14k white gold
features elements that float inside a circle that’s rimmed in diamonds. Transparent glass sides hold LOVE secure.

LOVE Necklace with diamonds in 14k gold reminds us of the iconic LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana. Designed by Jordan Scott, jeweler to many celebrities; he’s the designer who introduced the then-new Y necklace on “Beverly Hills 90210.”

Want to see more in these styles? Go to FortunoffJewelry.com and click on the Earrings, Rings, and Necklaces categories.

Fall Harvest

Fall harvest - tomatoesI love the smell of tomato plants in the morning…

There’s nothing like the bounty of a homegrown harvest. Going out into the garden early in the morning, the fragrance of the tomato plant foliage as you brush up against it, instantly ​grounds me​. P​eek​ing your head under the overgrown vegetation, lush green with the cooling, fall temperatures, and discovering ripened jewels of red fruit (or orange, or green!), reminds me of ​searching through loose gemstones​. ​A​ late season vine-ripened tomato is like a great discovery, something precious and to be treasured!

bruschettaThe tomatoes do seem to be a bit behind this year, don’t they?​ A​ll the better to extend the season of summer! Just watch out for the brigade of the mosquitoes, as they are still out there too!

What is there left to do, but to pick up a good loaf of bread, chop some fresh herbs from the garden and have a meal that is both delicious and beautiful to behold, like jewels of the garden!

Rectangular Bezel Set Mocha Zircon Pendant, 22K Yellow Gold

Rectangular Bezel Set Mocha Zircon Pendant, 22K Yellow Gold – $2,250

Bezel Set Golden Colored Zircon Stud Earrings, 22K Yellow Gold

Bezel Set Golden Colored Zircon Stud Earrings, 22K Yellow Gold – $1,150

On Being Part of a Community

Last month, in honor of Labor Day, I talked about how my family always felt responsible for giving back to our wonderful employees over the years — an obligation I still feel today. But, as a long time Long Island business, I also feel a responsibility to our wider community. It is for this reason that I support a variety of local causes, many of them serving women.

Power of PInk Jewelry CollectionI have a series of events coming up this fall, which I hope you’ll support, and consider participating in. First, Fortunoff will be running a promotion called the “Power of Pink” during October. As a way to support breast cancer awareness, we will donate 10% of the cost of any pink item you purchase to the Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program, with the goal: “to educate, support, empower and advocate for breast cancer patients, professionals and the community.” From rose gold to pink gems, in styles for toddlers through to grandmothers, our store and our website are filled to the brim with pink. Click here to see our assortment: Power of Pink Jewelry Collection.

On October 16, I will speak at an evening event sponsored by the Long Island Center for Business and Professional Women, an organization that’s been a part of our community since the late 1970s, as professional women began to realize the need for networking and supporting each other in our careers. The group continues to provide women with skills for leadership, knowledge for improving business through networking, and personal and professional motivation opportunities today. The topic of my talk is: “Leadership in Business and the Community.” The event, at Fox Hollow in Woodbury, starts at 6 pm with an hour of networking. Dinner and the presentation will begin at 7 pm. I hope you’ll join us. Click here to learn more.

On October 19, I’ll be attending The Safe Center LI’s A Safe Home Gala at the Garden City Hotel, which raises money for this worthy organization. The Safe Center LI is the only agency in Nassau County providing comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and trafficking – women, men, children, and the elderly – all under one roof. Its mission is to protect, assist, and empower victims of family violence and sexual assault while challenging and changing social systems that tolerate and perpetuate abuse.

Elongated Mother of Pearl Oval Pendant, 18K Rose Gold

Donated for auction — Elongated Mother of Pearl Oval Pendant, 18K Rose Gold

I currently serve as vice president of the board of directors of the Safe Center LI. As a gesture of support for its mission, and to help raise money for the cause, Fortunoff has donated four pieces of jewelry to be auctioned off at the silent auction taking place at the gala. In addition, if you visit our boutique and mention the Safe Center, we will donate 20% of your purchase to the center. If you are shopping online, use the code SAFE17 and we’ll make the same donation. To attend the gala and/or support this cause, click here.

Finally, on October 26, I’ll be attending the 6th Annual Moxxie Mentoring Foundation’s Emerald Summit from 11 am – 3 pm at Carlyle On The Green, Bethpage State Park, in Farmingdale. The Emerald Summit is a career advancement and leadership development forum that brings together seasoned professionals from the corporate, nonprofit, academic and entrepreneurial fields. Speakers address the importance of developing and promoting women to address gender disparity in top corporate positions. If you’d like to join me in attending, click here for more information.

I hope to see many of you this fall, either in store, or at one of these wonderful events.

A Shout Out to Our Employees and Customers – Past and Present

Esther Fortunoff and FamilyOne of the greatest pleasures in my life has been becoming part of the fabric of the community. My grandparents began their married life in the 1920’s in Brooklyn, then moved to Nassau County. My parents established their own home and built the flagship Westbury store in the early 1960’s, in a then groundbreaking vote for the future of Long Island. I still live here, and consider myself a proud Long Islander.

For almost a century, my family has worked hard. We provided employment to thousands of employees along the way; helped young families establish and grow. We have always supported local charities that help to protect the world around us, and the people who live here. I’m honored to carry on this tradition.

As Labor Day and the end of summer approach, I remember the employees who worked at Fortunoff stores. When our staff members or I meet them, or converse with them online, they remember their working experiences fondly, and speak of the professional way my family and our management ran our businesses.

Esther Fortunoff at Jewelry BoutiqueWhen I reopened my boutique three years ago, I felt a sense of excitement at continuing the family legacy. I have a great passion for jewelry, of course, but more importantly, I sensed that our customers missed the connection we had shared.

What I did not realize was just how powerful the response from our customers and well-wishers of all sorts would be.

We re-opened our doors in September 2014 and our customers and neighbors flooded in, each with a story or two about how Fortunoff was part of their own family’s history. There were tears of joy, re-connections between customers and our own staff (from the old Westbury team), and, over and over, the thread common to us all: personal relationships, built on trust and friendship.

Fortunoff Fine Jewelry - staffSo many previous employees have come in also – from the stores throughout the tri-state area. Sometimes they say their Fortunoff jobs were their first – or laid the groundwork for their future careers. They remember and comment on our great employee benefits, the Fortunoff policy to promote from within, the very diverse group of employees who grew with the company, the tuition reimbursement, and the very unusual profit sharing and pension plans.

The foresight of my parents and grandparents helped thousands of families to work and prosper and retire – and enjoy the American dream. I try hard to live up to their example in the business I run today. Thanks to my entire team, and to all of our customers, and enjoy a great weekend off.

Fortunoff Jewelry Store Staff

Celebrating Women’s Suffrage on Long Island

I attended an inspiring event for women recently, hosted by the Women’s Collaborative of the Long Island Association (LIA). The evening gathering at the Crest Hollow Country Club celebrated the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York State.

Author Gloria Feldt, striking the Wonder Woman pose, with the LIA Women's Collaborative.

Author Gloria Feldt, striking the Wonder Woman pose, with the LIA Women’s Collaborative.

Our state gave women the right to vote in 1917 – three years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment made women’s right to vote the law of the land. Barbara Williams, the executive director of the New York State Women’s Suffrage Commission told us they will spend the next three years celebrating what women have accomplished and inspiring younger women to keep up the fight for complete equality.

Along those lines, our keynote speaker at the Women’s Collaborative event was feminist author Gloria Feldt, who pointed out that in 2010, the gender balance in the workforce equalized, and women now earn 57% of college degrees. Yet there is still a 20% pay gap between men and women, and women make up less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs. The speaker also retold some stories of the original suffragists, pointing out their differing political tactics and leadership styles.

It was a beautiful summer evening for the almost 300 attendees.

It was a beautiful summer evening for the almost 300 attendees.

Feldt argues in her book, “No Excuses” that the most confounding problem facing women today isn’t that doors of opportunity aren’t open, but that not enough women are walking through them. She encourages them to embrace the power they have to lead, through a series of leadership power tools.

I serve on the executive committee of the LIA and the Women’s Collaborative is a favorite of mine — because it presents opportunities for the advancement of professional women. As such, I was happy to donate “suffragette” style necklaces as raffle prizes to the event.

Here I am congratulating the winners of the raffle at the Women's Collaborative event: Karen Holm of Wells Fargo and Lauren Candela of T. Weiss Realty Corp.

Here I am congratulating the winners of the raffle at the Women’s Collaborative event: Karen Holm of Wells Fargo and Lauren Candela of T. Weiss Realty Corp.

Congratulations to Karen Holm of Wells Fargo and Lauren Candela of T. Weiss Realty Corp. who won! Thanks also to Ivy Algazy, CEO of the Ivy Network and executive director of the Women’s Collaborative, for the great photos, and for all her hard work on behalf of the Collaborative. Joy Fernandez, office managing partner for Ernst & Young LLP (EY) Long Island; and Cheryl Korman, partner at Rivkin Radler, put together great events!

Happy summer, everyone!