If you wouldn’t dream of stepping out without a cool watch on your wrist or a pair of statement earrings framing your face, these five New England destinations will catch your eye like a brilliant-cut diamond. New Englanders past and present have made their mark on the jewelry industry, and these cities offer multifaceted experiences for jewelry lovers interested in collecting unique pieces and delving into the history and artistry behind them.
A Jewelry Lover’s Guide to New England | Favorite New England Jewelry Stores
Your Boston jewelry odyssey begins in ancient Egypt. That’s where the oldest bejeweled adornments in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston were handcrafted more than 2,000 years B.C. Make a scavenger hunt of finding jewelry treasures from practically every culture and era as you explore the first American art museum to hire a curator of jewelry. Next, head for Newbury Street. The city’s famed shopping thoroughfare is home to America’s oldest jewelry store: Shreve, Crump & Low. Extraordinary estate jewelry, dazzling new creations, and the world’s rarest and finest watches are specialties of this venerable shop, established in 1796. If your trip coincides with one of Skinner’s important jewelry auctions, held four times annually, you’re in for a treat. Register to bid, or join other curious observers as stunning estate pieces find new owners.
Brattleboro is a city of makers, and if browsing in antique shops or artisan studios like Cara Wolff Jewelry inspires your own creativity, you are in luck. Silversmith Bob Borter holds hands-on classes at Borter’s Jewelry Studio for those interested in learning gem setting, sand casting, or metalsmithing techniques. Wander into Beadniks, and you’ll find everything you need to string one-of-a-kind accessories: The colorful selection of beads from all over the world is second to none in New England. If you’ve called ahead to arrange a tour, you’re in for a rare treat. Owner Brian Robertshaw has transformed the basement of his shop into an impressive bead museum filled with the tiniest ancient building blocks of human creation.
Newport, Rhode Island
Just as the price of gold and silver began to skyrocket, Rhode Islander Carolyn Rafaelian introduced her line of bangles and other jewelry designed to be thoughtful and personal, yet affordable. Her first Alex and Ani retail shop opened at Bowen’s Wharf in Newport in 2009, and it’s still your place to see the company’s latest collections. Success has allowed Rafaelian to give back to Rhode Island in unique ways. While you’re in Newport, book a behind-the-scenes mansion tour at Belcourt of Newport, where Rafaelian’s fortune is funding restoration efforts. Next door to Alex and Ani, you’ll find another entrepreneurial Rhode Island retailer. The first Kiel James Patrick brick-and-mortar store carries the company’s line of classic pearls and nautically inspired jewelry. There are high-end jewelers aplenty in this seaside city, too: Jason & Co., Three Golden Apples, Grenon’s. But your jewelry purchase has a deeper purpose at Downtown Designs, where one-of-a-kind beaded pieces are created on-site by disabled artisans.
In Portland, opportunities abound to acquire distinctive jewelry pieces that will always whisk you back to days spent in Maine. Most coveted of all are rings, earrings, and pendants made with a harvest more precious than lobster. Tourmaline, the official state mineral, is typically mined in Maine’s western hills, and Portland’s Cross Jewelers has spent more than a century accumulating the largest collection of these bright-colored green and pink gems. Stop in and be dazzled by their tourmaline creations, including those made with newly unearthed SparHawk Mint Green Teal Tourmaline: discovered just 28 miles north of the store. The Old Port’s brick sidewalks lead to more made-in-Maine bling including Daunis Fine Jewelry’s handcrafted pieces inspired by Maine’s ocean waves and Folia’s diverse selection of works by several Maine-based designers.
Providence, Rhode Island
Costume jewelry manufacturing was born in Providence, and by the late 19th century, one-quarter of the jewelry produced nationwide got its shining start inside brick factories and workshops clustered south of downtown. Still known as the Jewelry District, this riverfront neighborhood retains its industrial aura, even as it is reimagined as a trendy place to live and work. Deena Liffmann of Providence Tours by Deena will take you on a walking tour of this important location in the history of American jewelry making, or head here to shop at Domaine Designs Outlet before the secret gets out. This overstock showroom sells striking jewelry pieces—the kind you may have admired in glossy catalogs—at radically discounted prices. While you’re in Providence, don’t miss the dozen-plus vintage shops downtown: Many stock jewelry finds. You might also want to plan your visit around a weekend-long jewelry making class at The Steel Yard.