One cannot actually eat jewelry, but, as Truman Capote told us in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the allure of it — what it is and what it stands for: success, wealth, power, sex, a unique sort of urban striving — is as real and visceral and compelling as that of food. While the founders of premier fine-jewelry website the Stone Set, New Yorkers Jenna Fain and Emerald (yes, really) Carroll, share Holly Golightly’s gemstone-seeking gaze, theirs is the impassioned view of businesswomen who love one thing even more than regalia: the stories behind it.
“There’s always a story to jewelry,” Jenna told me. It’s expensive, it’s durable, and therefore, as Emerald says, “More thought goes into choosing it than anything else you wear. And you wear it forever.” Jenna loves jewelry’s “symbolic meanings,” while Emerald finds herself drawn to how jewelry “transcends the human lifespan.” The stones are “older than humans, and jewelry also gets passed down.”
“And it lasts,” Jenna says. “Ancient Egyptian jewelry in the Met looks new. It’s incredible that we have that commonality with a woman from 3,000 years ago.”
The dearth of design-focused sites for such finery led Jenna and Emerald to create the Stone Set, a clean digital gem that reads like short-form literature and looks like it was published by a boutique poetry press; focusing on emerging talents, eschewing almost all ads, and operating (so far) without an attached store, the Stone Set translates Park Avenue to Park Slope and switches traditional jewelry-business values like “luxury” for sophisticated downtown cool. This is not your mother’s website — unless your mother is a restauratrice who bought a Spring Street loft next to Donald Judd’s in 1968.
The site’s most popular feature is “On the Rocks,” which uses a woman’s accessories as a point of entry to her style and sensibilities. It’s not just the jewelry that draws readers: “People love to see how women style what they wear,” Jenna explains. Her background studying creative writing and literature takes the column out of the gossipy and into the realm of memoir; Emerald’s wistful photographs present still lifes as entrancing as the text.
The Stone Set is not a vanity project. With their impressive backgrounds in digital marketing, Jenna and Emerald built it themselves. Emerald, who seems to have been lifted from a Hitchcock movie and who conjures up visions of mink-collared suits and matching pillbox hats, technically has design experience, too: As a teenager, she says, “My parents drilled it into me that you had to make money, but I never wanted a normal job.” Naturally, she started a “bedazzled headband” business. Jenna, a character from an as yet unmade Pixar animation set in an art-inflected corner of one of the more polished tracts of Brooklyn, is as intellectual as her glasses pronounce. She had no aha! moment with jewelry, but says, “I love sparkly things. I love narrative. And I just love jewelry.” You wouldn’t guess either woman works in an industry so often accused of frippery. They are as serious, thoughtful, and ambitious as the Stone Set itself.
On even a short canter through the modern but stately site, you begin to both love and hate Jenna and Emerald, or, as they jokingly call themselves, “Jemerald”: On the one hand, the two women provide access to exquisite objects that enjoyed no dedicated outlet before; on the other, the site incites a rabid acquisitiveness that might not be slaked until one has summoned up the next Snapchat or discovered a rich maiden aunt with abstemious habits and a generous disposition. In this sense, it inspires a true New York state of mind, where success is always available, yet always just out of reach — Tantalus as a city and a website. Visit www.thestoneset.com.
Jenna and Emerald dish on the three jewelry designers who rock their worlds:
“New York–based, Australian-born jeweler Jordan Askill was one of the first jewelers we featured on the Stone Set. We love that Jordan marries his love of sculpture with his jewelry designs. This Panther Pendant necklace is inspired by his Panther Wave sculpture, which was developed using 3-D printing technology.”
Where to find it:
Opening Ceremony, 35 Howard Street
“Jessica Biales’s fondness for art, photography, and collage comes across in her elegant and bold designs. Formerly a lawyer, Biales was always an artist at heart, and we love that she chose to pursue her passion of jewelry. Her Signet Rings are a favorite of ours — effortlessly blending classic and modern, they are sure to stand the test of time.”
Where to find it:
“Born-and-bred New Yorker Andrea Lipsky-Karasz started her fine-jewelry brand Tilda Biehn as an ode to her glamorous and worldly grandmother and great-grandmother. Both women influenced the designer in their pursuit of their creative passions. When we first met Andrea through a mutual friend, the connection was immediate. These rose-gold Orbit Earrings personify her blend of modernism and old-world grace and elegance.”
Where to find it:
Bird, 203 Grand Street, Brooklyn
[This is part of the winter 2015 edition of The Seen, a quarterly style supplement by the Village Voice devoted to exploring and sharing the most dynamic elements of New York City’s fashion and design worlds, from the iconic to the as yet undiscovered. Check out the rest of The Seen’s featured stories here.]