Going strong for more than four decades, the Antique Jewelry & Art Conference (Jewelry Camp) has taught a generation of jewelry professionals and hobbyists about the ins and outs of the craft. Appraiser and Jewelry Camp Director Ed Lewand joined the Jewelry Journey podcast to talk about the speakers and events that he has in store for this year’s event being held on July 26th and 27th. Read the transcript below.  

Sharon:  Welcome to the Jewelry Journey. Today my guest is Ed Lewand, a professional independent appraiser of fine and antique jewelry as well as director of Jewelry Camp, now in its 41st year. Today we’ll be talking about trends in the jewelry marketplace as well as getting an overview of this year’s Jewelry Camp, which will be held in New York at Phillip’s Auction House on Friday, July 26th, and at the Newark Museum on Saturday, July 27th. Ed, welcome back to the Jewelry Journey, so glad to have you.

Ed: Thank you, Sharon. It’s an honor to be back, and thank you so much for inviting me.

Sharon: We’re looking forward to hearing all about this year’s Jewelry Camp. First, can you tell us about your jewelry journey? How did you get interested in gems and jewelry? I know you have a deep background in it.

Ed: Well, let me see. My parents were antique jewelry dealers and antique dealers.

Sharon: I didn’t know that. That’s interesting.

Ed: Then, out of high school I didn’t want to go to college, so I went to GIA instead, which was part of going to college.

Sharon: Let me stop you a second.

Ed: Sure.

Sharon: Explain what GIA is. Not everybody will know.

Ed:  I’m sorry, the Gemological Institute of America. They developed the grading system we use for diamonds. It’s one of the top labs in the world on identification of gemstones and research on gemstones and synthetics and other things. They are probably the catalyst that started everything.

Sharon: So, you got your graduate gemology degree. Is it a GG? Is that the accreditation?

Ed: That’s correct. It’s a GG earned in residence in New York. Shortly after that, I started working on 47th Street. I started managing a jewelry store, then another jewelry store, and finally I settled on appraising. I enjoyed dealing with the public and being able to do investigations and research more. I eventually did go back to school and got a pre-law degree in business and other fun stuff, but I continued as an appraiser. Today, I appraise for several large accounting firms around the world. I also vet the TEFAF Show in New York twice a year. I used to have a program at NYU, and we have Jewelry Camp, which originally started with Dr. Joe back in the 80s and 90s. Then Joyce Jones took it over, and I worked with Joyce for a number of years until she finally retired after her husband passed around 2000, 2001. My wife and I have kept it going up until now.

Sharon: I know you were operating it before I started going, which has to be at least five or six years ago. It’s been a good run for you, and I know it’s going to continue. Just to stop and explain some things, can you tell people what 47th Street is in New York?

Ed: 47th Street in New York is the jewelry diamond district. For one block between 5th and 6th Avenue, you have jewelry stores, exchanges, diamond dealers, pearl dealers, cold stone dealers, cutting houses, lapidaries. Everything related to the jewelry business is right there.

Sharon: It’s a very interesting area to walk down the street and see what’s going on. Can you explain what TEFAF is?

Ed: TEFAF is the European art fair that’s held in Maastricht in the Netherlands once a year. They brought it to New York about three or four years ago. It’s held with contemporary art and jewelry and antiques in the spring, and then all antiques in fall. It’s one of the most highly prized shows. It is extremely vetted. They have vetting for every discipline there is in art. The show itself guarantees everything that is sold, so the vetting is very important for them. They provide us with a full laboratory for testing paintings, paints and gems. Whatever we need is there for two days as we vet all the show and all the dealers.

Sharon: Wow! I knew it was stringent. I didn’t realize it was to that degree. You said you went back to school, but there are also degrees and accreditations you have as an appraiser. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ed: Sure, the appraisal industry is still in its infancy, in my opinion. Not that much has changed in the last 70 years. There have been some rewrites and redos here and there, but basically the theories and concepts have been the same. We actually use evaluations and appraisals every day in our lives. You get an estimate on something. That’s an appraisal of what the job will cost or what the repair might be. Insurance, they’ll tell you you’re going to have the car appraised so we know what the damage is. It’s something that’s done all the time.

Sometimes it’s misused in the jewelry business. They’ll appraise your jewelry when they’re looking to buy it, but again, professional appraisers only appraise. We don’t buy or sell or trade jewelry. We are basically there to evaluate and give an unbiased opinion in our findings. Back in the late 80s, because of the savings and loans fiasco, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice came into being. Real estate appraisers have to be licensed. Personal property appraisers don’t. The Appraisal Foundation was formed and authorized by Congress, and most of the major appraisal organizations, such as Appraisers Association of America, American Society of Appraisers, International Society of Appraisers and others are members of the foundation. We adhere to USPAP, which is updated and changed every two years. We have to be recertified every two years by taking a seven-hour program.

Sharon: Wow! So, you want to make sure when you’re talking to an appraiser that you know who you’re talking to and find out about their background.

Ed: Exactly.

Sharon: We talked a little bit about Jewelry Camp and the history of it. You mentioned Dr. Joe. Is that Dr. Joe Sataloff?

Ed: Sataloff, yes. He was one of the major collectors of art nouveau and arts and crafts  jewelry. He and his wife, who I believe may still be alive—Dr. Joe died a number of years ago—originally held Jewelry Camp up in Bangor, Maine, at Maine University, which is how it got its name. People actually stayed in dorms, believe it or not.

Sharon: During that period, yes.

Ed:  You’re lucky now, because you didn’t have a private dorm with a private shower. You had a community shower and a community dorm. It was quite interesting when you’re a little bit older and not used to college anymore, but people enjoyed it. Back then, people used to go for five days, usually Wednesday to Sunday. It was offered as a number of different classes in different locations on the campus. Eventually Joyce took it over. When we used to have it up in Maine, we actually had an auction. People would grant uses into auction and Gloria Lieberman of Phillips used to host the auction. We also used to have a dealer’s night back then, too.

As society changed, we moved it from Bangor down to Rhode Island, then eventually to Long Island. We shortened it to just a long weekend of three days to fit people’s busy lives and schedules. It tries to offer you actual education, not just speakers who are trying to sell something, but people who actually do research and present interesting information about period, styles, motifs, stones and treatments. They bring their knowledge willingly and love to speak and make themselves available to the attendees to ask questions.

Sharon: I’ve attended quite a few and I’ve never felt sold to. It’s always been educational. Nobody has ever tried to sell anything.

Ed: Yeah, the speakers enjoy speaking at Jewelry Camp. It really is a fun venue for people. There’s a lot of networking. Each year during lunch, we encourage people to bring pieces with them to show and tell each other and to the speakers and other experts who will be there. We’re going to make lunch a little bit longer than an hour and a half and give people a few minutes to walk around. We’re serving lunch, so that’s included. We’ll be in one giant room, and people should be able to have fun learning. Phillips is going to host the cocktail party Friday night and talk about this amazing collection they have of all signed pieces. That’ll be quite educational and they’ll be hosting cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, so that should be fun, too.

Sharon: Who should attend?

Ed: That’s an excellent question. I would say anybody involved in the jewelry business that wants to have an idea about the industry, antique and estate jewelry, trends that are happening and making contacts. I would say the young people coming into the business. I would say established dealers, because you’ll always find something to learn from every speaker. There’s always something there that you’ll pick up from them. No matter how long you’ve been in the business, how educated you are, how much of an expert you are, you will always pick up something, or you’ll learn where to find new information and research it yourself or connect with the speaker. It gives you a very good network for learning more and advancing. We have a number of private collectors who just buy jewelry to collect, who come just to have an idea of what they’re doing and understand what they’re buying. A lot of young graduates from GIA and the design groups come in to understand periods and styles and motifs. We have a lot of dealers, from young people to older people, who, as I say, are weekend warriors and do antique shows on the weekends. We get a very large group across the board.

Sharon: You do get quite a mix, and it is a great networking opportunity to meet dealers and auction people and fill in your gaps in knowledge. I would also add that being an art jewelry aficionado, which really isn’t a focus of this, it fills in the background in terms of history and where things came from as jewelry continues to move along. It helps to give a foundation, so you’re not just looking at a piece of art jewelry but understanding what it’s reminiscent of or how it came about.

Ed: Exactly. Designs have been there for years and years and years. Sometimes they’re repeated. It’s like fashion, but its history goes around again. Understanding the history, the styles and the motifs from those periods, you can assume they’ve been reintroduced again. The retro period is a retrospective of the deco period, 1950s jewelry. All this plays an important part in understanding today’s jewelry and where designers may be drawing their inspiration from or where the designers back then drew their inspiration. It helps you put things together to understand why this antique piece is so important, what makes this special over other pieces. The only way you learn that is, one, by reading, two, by visiting auction houses and their previews, and three, by hearing as many people speak as you possibly can, because the more you get to meet and listen, the more you’ll understand and see.

Sharon: Absolutely. You understand that it’s not just jewelry standing alone, but it’s history. Whatever was going on in the culture at the time is reflected not only in fashion, but also in jewelry, and it’s so interesting to learn about that.

Ed: And buildings, too, and architecture.

Sharon: Yes, absolutely. Can you tell us about this year’s lineup? I’m sure all the speakers are great, but who are some of the highlights?

Ed: All the speakers are great. This year we have Christopher Walling speaking. Christopher is a designer. He has a beautiful boutique here in New York and also in Aspen. He’s been around for years. He’s very inspirational, a great person. He’ll be speaking about how he came to be, his place in the industry, his designs and what inspires him to make those designs. We have Susan Abeles and Eva Violante from Phillips speaking on Friday night about this collection they have. The collection, from what I understand, has everything from Tiffany to Van Cleef to others in it, and they’ll be talking about all different people, their styles and their designs. It should be quite an interesting talk on Friday evening. I would not miss that for anything, really. Then we have Katherine Ward from The RealReal. She’ll be talking about her duties there and how The RealReal does things. It’s quite interesting. We have Amanda Womack from Replacements, Ltd., and she’ll be talking about how they have developed and grown a market on the internet with antique and estate jewelry, and how she finds and buys pieces for them around the country. Again, it gives you insight into internet dealings. Sarah Davis will be talking from a historic viewpoint about several collections that she had the privilege of writing about and researching, and that is always extremely interesting. Bill Drucker will be talking about Scandinavian silver, Jensen and other designers from that area and those periods. Who else is there? I must be missing someone.

Sharon: Is Levi Higgs speaking?

Ed: No, Levi can’t make it this year, but he is part of everything and does help and advise us. Ulysses won’t be speaking. He’s the co-director this year, but he will be emceeing everybody and providing introductions. I know I’m missing one person from the group and for the life of me, I can’t remember. Do you know?

Sharon: Let’s see, who do I have?  Neil Marrs?

Ed: Neil Marrs is a dealer and he’s a very good friend of Noel (Chhut), who’s helping us this year. If you ever heard Camilla Dietz Bergeron speak, Neil is like Camilla. He is elegant in his speaking. He does a phenomenal job, and a lot of people are looking forward to hearing him talk—how could I forget him? I think everybody will enjoy his talk, especially since he is a private dealer in the very high jewelry market. Then, of course, we have a representative from the museum who’s now the Curator of Decorative Arts, Amy Simon Hopwood. She will be speaking about the jewelry collection there. In case you didn’t know, Christopher Walling actually has pieces in the collection on display at the museum.

Sharon: Did Amy Simon Hopwood take over from Ulysses when he retired?

Ed: Exactly, I was going to get to that. She did, and she’s also a lovely person and she really does a great job of speaking.

Sharon: I’m getting excited just listening to the lineup. One thing, I’m concerned that listeners are going to think—I know I certainly don’t collect Van Cleef and Cartier. Is there jewelry and information for the rest of us, let’s say?

Ed: It’s the jewelry for the rest of us in our everyday lives, that’s what you’re going to hear more of than anything. It’s not just focusing on the big brands. It’s focusing on everything, so you have an idea of styles and motifs. So, when somebody says to you, “This is Victorian,” you’ll be able to look at it and say, “99% yes, it is Victorian,” or, “No, there’s something missing from the elements there. It is not Victorian.” You’ll have a very good idea about everyday jewelry, which is what we try to cover in Jewelry Camp. It sounds like we only talk about the top houses, but actually we do talk about everything.

Sharon:  That’s been my experience, and I just wanted to emphasize that. I didn’t want to scare anybody off, because it really is just learning about jewelry, the timeline, what to look for and all the interesting things that go along with it.

Ed, thank you so much. To everybody listening, Jewelry Camp is going to be Friday, July 26th, at the Phillips Auction House in New York, and at the Newark Museum on Saturday, July 27th. I haven’t been to the museum myself, but I understand it’s a fabulous, interesting place.

That wraps up another episode of the Jewelry Journey. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, we’d love it if you would go to iTunes or wherever you subscribe to podcasts and rate us. We’ll have the information about Jewelry Camp in the show notes so you can sign up. Please join us on the next Jewelry Journey as we continue our travels from antique to art jewelry. Thanks so much for listening.

Ed: And thank you, Sharon, for having me. Take care.