Entering Wayne Smith Jewels in some ways is like entering a pasha's lair — so many treasures within, each a rare beauty unlike anything we've seen before.
Credit for creation of the wealth of to-die-for pieces goes to the proprietor himself — the gentlemanly Wayne Smith, a trained bench jeweler and certified gemologist who has worked in the fine jewelry arena since starting with Cartier in 1983.
We recently visited Smith in his swank Uptown Park salon to seek out one or two pieces that might represent the best of the best. Of course, that is a purely subjective mission. Should we focus on the most fabulous diamonds in the house or turn our attention to the magnificent strand of faceted aquamarine stones, weighing in at hundreds of carats?
This was the largest collection of branch coral in the vibrant gem color that he had ever seen.
For our visit, Smith pulled out two very different items — one a contemporary creation, the other a redesign of a traditional brooch and accompanying double-strand pearl necklace. The two represent the broad range of possibilities within the Wayne Smith universe, everything from original creations to estate jewelry.
Highlighting his creative bent, Smith first displayed for us the coral, gold and diamond necklace, which he recently completed. "It makes a big difference in designing jewelry," he said of his credentials "because you don't design things that can't be made or can't be worn, like earrings that won't stay on."
The importance of the coral piece lies in the gem coloration. Smith explained that this was the largest collection of branch coral in the vibrant gem color that he had ever seen. He wove the branches into a necklace, supplemented with 14-karat gold branches (exact copies of the coral) that were dipped in 18-karat gold and embedded with diamonds. The necklace has just shy of four carats of diamonds and consists of two ounces of gold. Price tag: $18,000.
"It's really a specimen necklace. We can't replace it," he said.
The second confection was the redesigned ruby brooch, the original emerald removed for a stone more suited to the diamond setting. Smith replaced the emerald with a 30-carat ruby that sits majestically amid 10 carats in diamonds. The brooch features four detachable pearls that allow it to connect to a double strand of nine to 10-millimeter pearls.
The piece is priced at $55,000.
While Smith designs the various pieces or reinterprets estate jewelry, he has two bench jewelers, working fulltime at an off-site workshop, who actually construct the jewelry.