Sisters Elizabeth Doyle and Irene Doyle are the founders of Doyle & Doyle, an antique jewelry collective based in New York. A graduate gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America, Elizabeth seeks out antique, estate and contemporary pieces in addition to designing Heirloom, the brand’s in-house jewelry collection. In 1998, Irene, who worked for one of Manhattan’s premier buyers of colored diamonds, joined her sister to officially debut Doyle & Doyle in 2000.
How did you both first start in jewelry?
Elizabeth: I have always had a passion for jewelry. As early as I can remember, I was begging to rifle through my grandmother’s jewelry box. I would covet the treasures she managed to escape with from the war in China, and was fascinated with the stories surrounding the pieces my grandfather designed for her after they settled in the states. I started going to flea markets and learned how to spot fine jewels mixed into boxes of costume jewelry. As my love of jewelry developed, I pursued more formal training, which led me to the Gemological Institute of America where I completed my Graduate Gemologist degree. I ended up working in the lab as a staff gemologist, grading diamonds, then testing colored diamonds, colored stones and pearls and working on gemological research projects. During this time, I was also pursuing jewelry design and manufacturing with classes both at GIA and FIT. We started Doyle & Doyle in 1998. By 2000, we had an extensive collection we were able to unveil to the public at our first retail location.
When you enrolled in the Gemological Institute, did you intend to design your own collection?
I worked and studied at the Gemological Institute of America to gain a solid understanding of gems and gemology. At the time, I knew I wanted to work in jewelry but I wasn’t sure what form my career would take. Designing our in-house collection was really a reaction to a void we saw when buying estate and antique jewelry. There are certain items that are very scarce in the antique or estate market that we wanted to provide to our customers. Designing our line lets us to help our customers get the pieces they want.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience there? Are there tricks to valuing stones?
The Gemological Institute of America is an amazing place. The best stones go through the lab. I was able to see and touch things that I never could have anywhere else. We saw 100 carat diamonds, fancy red diamonds, huge natural pearls, just to name a few. At the lab, we never valued any stones. We would provide identifications. Clients sent us diamonds to determine if they were natural or synthetic or if a diamond had been irradiated to cause the greenish blue color. We would test for all kinds of treatments. Natural vs. synthetic and treated vs. non-treated are major factors in value.
What are the most obvious changes within the jewelry industry since you launched in 2000?
The launch of online shopping and social media has really changed the way the jewelry industry interacts with the public and with one another. It’s so amazing to connect with customers from around the country – that they can read about a piece or see a piece online and with the click of a button have it delivered to their doorstep! Through our social media channels, we now have a way to talk to our clients and fans and to share the beautiful bejeweled world we live in every day!
How much of the store is dedicated to estate and vintage versus contemporary and your in-house brand, Heirloom?
We like to mix and match the merchandising in the store. Heirloom and the West 13th Collection pieces are meant to be layered with antique and estate pieces and other personal pieces in a client’s wardrobe. That is how we showcase pieces throughout the shop.
Do you find your customers come to you for vintage pieces or newer pieces?
We have an extensive collection of vintage and antique pieces, so we attract many customers who are serious collectors and are searching out specific period pieces. But our customers are mostly jewelry lovers who can appreciate jewelry from all periods. We tend to attract customers who are very confident, especially in their fashion choices. Depending on the event or day, they could pick a large tri gold retro bracelet, a delicate Edwardian lavalier or our huge Heirloom North Star medallion.
How often are you traveling to estate sales and flea markets?
We have a network of global dealers who bring us amazing things on a regular basis, so not very often! But we do take inspiration trips abroad now and then to stay abreast of developments in the antique and estate world. This past year we went to London to view the amazing Cheapside Hoard collection at the Museum of London. What an incredible experience.
Any tips or words of advice for the average flea market-goer who is looking for vintage pieces?
I think this would be valuable advice for any shopper, whether you’re looking for a vintage or new piece of jewelry: if purchasing for yourself, would you wear this on a regular basis and what is your gut response to the piece? Does it set your heart aflutter? We truly believe that each antique and estate piece has an owner that it is meant to be with at that time. So if you feel you have found your match, and of course, it’s within budget, go for it! We also believe that antique and estate pieces, while beautiful objects, should be worn and enjoyed, not put away in a box…
How long have you had your shop in the Meatpacking district? Do you find the Meatpacking shopper is representative of your core customer audience?
We moved our shop to the Meatpacking last November. We are a destination shop so our customers come from all over the city and abroad. The great thing about Meatpacking is that it is such a vibrant and exciting neighborhood. There are so many great, different and varied businesses. Pretty much everyone has a reason to visit the Meatpacking on a regular basis, whether for a haircut, to visit a gallery or restaurant.
Do you and your sister have a similar vision about what works for the shop and your collection?
We do have the same vision for our brand. We truly want to make exceptional fine jewelry accessible in a welcoming and accepting environment. This is our main goal and what drives our business. We may disagree on little things along the way, but everything falls into place for us as long as we stay focused on this one goal.