Philadelphia designer John Wind (pictured) admits his involvement turning vintage hotel chandeliers into jewelry came about by chance.
“A few years ago, the Waldorf Astoria closed for renovations,” he says. “They were auctioning 16,000 lots, including all their old chandeliers.”
When his partner discovered the sale in a Facebook group, it turned on a glittery light bulb in Wind’s head.
“The second I heard about it, I knew there was something in it for me,” he says. “My jewelry is always based on vintage inspiration and giving it a twist. The chandeliers were a natural to turn into jewelry.”
Then Wind got a lucky break. After he won the auction for the Waldorf Astoria chandelier, he told the person at the auction house what he was using it for.
“He said that they were clearing out the hotel and they gathered loose chandelier crystals,” Wind says. “So he gave me a box of additional chandelier crystals.”
Since then, he’s also bought an old chandelier from the Plaza hotel. Together, old crystals from the two hotels have become the basis of Wind’s Grand Hotels collection, which includes handcrafted huggies, layered necklaces, and friendship bracelets (though, so far, not chandelier earrings).
In many ways, the combination makes perfect sense: Chandeliers sparkle, and so does jewelry. But Wind views the items he uses as not just as glittery crystals, but as little bits of history.
“They are loaded with storytelling and meaning,” he says. “People have responded to the line with incredible warmth and nostalgia and excitement.
“So many people have shared special moments they had at these hotels, like going on special trips to New York for Thanksgiving. There was one woman who reached out to us whose father used to work at the housekeeping crew at the Waldorf. His job was dusting the chandeliers.”
Wind notes that while he is not associated with either hotel, at least one has bought pieces to give as holiday gifts to its employees. He’s talking to two other luxury hotels, he says, and is open to buying other old chandeliers.
Wind has found that crystals used in these old chandeliers were “top-quality Austrian crystals, beautifully hand-polished and -faceted. They are clearly well made, very solid. They have some weight to them.
“Some of the crystals show tiny imperfections,” he adds. “We don’t use ones that have obvious flaws, but it’s not like you’re getting a brand-new, right-off-the-factory-floor crystal. With some, you can see that a little bit. But I like that. It gives it soul.”
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