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Remembering World War I at Old Westbury Gardens

Staircase at Old Westbury Gardens

Staircase at Old Westbury Gardens

As we get ready to celebrate Labor Day weekend, I wanted to draw your attention to Old Westbury Gardens, the former country estate of the Phipps family in Old Westbury, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I by presenting a number of exhibits and lectures.

My father was great supporter of Old Westbury Gardens’ preservation, and he was on its board of directors for a time. They used to allow him to go there in the early morning to photograph the flowers, as that was one of his great passions. Dad was a true believer in working hard, but also resting and pursuing his interests outside of work. I’ve tried to remember that and continue the tradition. It’s a great message for Labor Day, when we stop and appreciate the hard work of others by giving them an extra day off.

World War I posters

World War I posters at the Old Westbury Gardens exhibit

When I heard that the gardens were organizing an exhibit, The Great War: Portraits of Privilege, Duty, and Sacrifice, I offered to lend my collection of WWI posters. The show’s curator selected 16 posters to include from my collection of 30. I hope you’ll stop by to see the exhibit, open until Oct. 7.

I was inspired to start collecting the posters by my father’s passion for art. He collected 19th century British landscape paintings, 20th century lithographs, and Art Nouveau silver, I started collecting WWI posters in 1977. The posters attracted me because they were historical, colorful, beautifully rendered, and affordable. I selected posters focused on two main themes: helping the war effort and international refugees.

Women were featured prominently in many of the posters – certainly some of the most famous. There were other types of posters that highlighted the more violent images of war, but I wanted to live with the art I collected, so I steered away from disturbing themes.

Esther with Joan of Arc poster at Old Westbury Gardens

Esther with one of the posters that highlight women on the home front aiding the troops

I purchased my first poster for $40, a considerable sum in the 1970’s. Illustrated by artist Haskell Coffin, it uses the image of Joan of Arc to encourage American women to be strong and support their country and the war effort by purchasing war savings stamps. If Joan of Arc could save France, American women could save America! Coffin specialized in images of women and was one of the most successful illustrators of his era, designing covers for popular magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Redbook and McCall’s. The Joan of Arc poster remains one of my favorites.

I like to think that my father would be proud of my posters being shown at Old Westbury Gardens. He was a Renaissance man, and he’d be glad to see I’ve continued to be a collector, too, and that the gardens are still flourishing. Happy Labor Day!

You can learn more about the World War I commemoration activities at the gardens by clicking here:

Guest Blog: Jewelry to Bring on Your Summer Vacation

Alessia ArianasThis month, Fortunoff summer intern, Alessia Arianas, takes over for Esther. Enjoy!

Summer is the most popular time to go on a vacation, and what’s better than packing for your getaway – or afterwards, enjoying jewelry you purchased on your trip? Below is a list of my jewelry must-haves when traveling the world!

1. Pearl stud earrings – These are a classic must-have when preparing to go away! They can be worn for any occasion: on the plane, adventuring through a new city, lounging by the pool, or out to dinner.

South Sea Cultured Pearl Earrings, 10 MM, 14K White Gold

South Sea Cultured Pearl Earrings, 10 MM

Layering Necklaces with Diamond Accents, 14K Yellow Gold

Layering Necklaces, 14K Yellow Gold

2. A simple yellow gold necklace – I am a huge fan of small and simple necklaces. Something as plain as a yellow gold cross, flower, or even a dot can be worn with two or three other necklaces to create the “layers,” which is one of my favorite looks. A simple and petite necklace can pull together an outfit, especially when wearing a fun off-the-shoulder top.

3. A sapphire pendant – When on vacation, you’ll probably go to a fancy dinner at least once. A beautiful gemstone pendant will complement a summery all-white outfit or a colorful maxi dress, either of which could be worn to an elegant restaurant. This type of statement really makes an outfit.

Clover Shaped Sapphire and Diamond Pendant, 14K White Gold

Clover Shaped Sapphire and Diamond Pendant, 14K White Gold

Front and Back Chain Drop Earrings, 14K Yellow Gold

Front and Back Chain Drop Earrings, 14K Yellow Gold

4. Dangle earrings – When you find yourself with your hair up in a messy bun, accessorizing with a pair of dangle earrings brings some action to your bare shoulders! One of the big plus sides to these earrings is the weight, as they are light, which makes them very easy to wear for a full day of adventure. I love how fun they are and how they are able to add so much to an outfit.

5. Stackable rings – This is one of the most popular trends right now, and I am on board! You can usually buy these rings in a set, but feel free to wear them however you please! I think one of the coolest parts is that each ring has a completely different design, yet they look wonderful when all worn together. My fingers are always full of rings, so they are a must-have for me whenever I travel.

Stacking Rings, 14 Karat Gold

Stacking Rings, 14 Karat Gold

Tri Color Pebble Ankle Bracelet, 14 Karat Gold

Tri Color Pebble Ankle Bracelet, 14 Karat Gold

6. An ankle bracelet – I personally have always loved ankle bracelets during the summertime! They are so trendy and cute, and many people do not think of wearing them. I love how they look when wearing a simple set of flip flops while lounging by the pool, since they add another layer of color and pizzazz. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t advise you to take your anklet off before diving in, and giving it to a companion for safekeeping. As Esther wrote last month in her blog about “Caring for Your Jewelry in Summer,” Chlorine, salt water, and strenuous activities don’t play well with most fine jewelry.

Bracelet with Charm

Bracelet with Charm

Back From Vacation – With Memories
One way to remember a vacation is through the jewelry purchased during it and charms are a perfect way to keep the memory alive. Charms will keep important parts of your trip as close as your wrist – where you can gaze often during work or play. Happy memories!

Caring for Your Jewelry in Summer

Ah summer. That moment in time when you can spend more time outside, enjoying hiking, swimming, gardening, and other outdoor activities. We hope you’ll be wearing your jewelry to sparkle in the added light, but, perhaps save most of it for luncheons, dinners, and parties after you’re active. Here’s why.

gold editorialIn essence, jewelry doesn’t play well when you’re swimming, gardening, or doing other strenuous sports. Sand is abrasive and can scratch stones and metals. Chlorine, salt water, and sweat aren’t good for precious metals and gems either. If you’re a gardener, dirt can wedge itself under gem settings. And some gems and sterling silver jewelry may also be adversely affected by swings in temperature, exposure to strong sun, and very cold water.

In addition, the chemicals in sunscreen and bug repellent can dull the polish of many metals and gems (though not diamonds). Lotions and sprays can also get into crevices and make jewelry seem dirty. Because we want you to be safe in the sun, and protect yourself from harmful bugs, we think these lotions and sprays are more important than wearing jewelry during your outdoor activities.

Pave diamond editorialBe especially careful with pavé jewelry – where many smaller diamonds are set with tiny beads that allow you to see more of a diamond’s brilliance. These settings are lovely, but, due to the added exposure of the gems, you need to be especially vigilant in avoiding sharp or abrupt contact with hard surfaces, in addition to all the warnings above. That’s especially true for pavé in rings and bracelets. Save pavé jewelry for less strenuous moments – and remove them also during cooking, cleaning, or gardening.

If you have worn your jewelry during activities, be sure to give it a cleaning afterwards. If it’s been lightly worn, just wipe it with a clean, soft, non-scratchy, and lint free damp cloth to remove any dirt or cosmetics. For jewelry containing more delicate gems, such as opals, pearls, emeralds, and tanzanite – stop there.

pearl editorialTo do a more thorough clean on diamond jewelry or pavé, place gently in a clean plastic cup, add warm water and mild dish detergent, and let soak overnight. The next day, using a very soft old toothbrush, lightly brush the piece, then rinse (over the cup, to ensure that if a gem is loose, you won’t lose it). If you do see a gem has come loose, put it in a plastic baggie and bring it in – we’ll reset it.

Speaking of bringing your jewelry in, you should plan regular trips to us, so our jeweler can inspect your fine jewelry to make sure all the gems are secure and not damaged. After checking that everything is secure, he can clean it professionally so it sparkles anew. Now get out there and enjoy your summer!

Going Royal

Harry and Meghan It was truly a joy to watch the royal wedding on May 19, and to see happiness on the faces of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. We all probably had a soft spot for Harry, due to the untimely loss of his mother, Princess Diana, when he was at such a tender age. Great to see him find his princess.

As a jeweler and a fan of British royal history, I was also eager to see the jewels that Meghan Markle would wear for her big day. Of course, the first thing everyone noticed was her beautiful diamond tiara, which turned out to be a loan from her new grandmother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II.
meghan markle tiaraThe tiara was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mary. It features a magnificent, floral-shaped, suspended brooch in the center, made of a large, round diamond surrounded by nine smaller circular diamonds.

Harry-QueenMaryCrownThe brooch, which is detachable, had been an earlier gift to the then-Princess Mary in 1893, when she married. In 1932, she had London’s Cleave Court Jewellers — an official jeweler to the crown — create the platinum tiara to hold the brooch.

The flexible bandeau portion of the tiara is made of 11 intricate glittering sections, pierced with interlaced ovals, and pavé-set with large and small brilliant diamonds.

Queen Mary bequeathed the bandeau and the brooch to her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II, upon her death in 1953. And now, it has a new place in royal history, as the “something borrowed” at this splendid wedding.

IMG_20180521_234204Perhaps because the tiara was the focal point, Meghan chose not to wear a necklace, which seemed just right. Her Givenchy bridal gown was simple, and the tiara was, well, a crowning touch. She also went small on her diamond earrings, which were from Cartier, and added a Cartier diamond bracelet.

If all these diamond jewels are whetting your appetite for more, we invite you to visit and check out our beautiful diamond selections. Everyone deserves to feel like queen (or princess) for a day.

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.

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.

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 and click on the Earrings, Rings, and Necklaces categories.