Retail Tales: How NYC’s Love Adorned Went From Tattoos to Fine Jewelry

Few jewelry retailers tell as distinctive a visual story as Love Adorned, the downtown NYC boutique that’s opened shops in Santa Monica, Calif., and Amagansett, N.Y., in recent years.

All three stores—which also sell creative homewares, art, and objects—boast beautifully curated collections of new and vintage fine jewelry, with an emphasis on elemental and global-feeling designs.

But owner Lori Leven didn’t mean to go into jewelry when she opened her first-ever store.

New York Adorned in NYC’s East Village was a tattoo shop with a retail store “front.” Because when Leven opened in 1996, “tattooing was a health-code violation in the five boroughs of New York City,” she explains. “So we set up shop with tattooing in the back, behind a glass and metal wall, and needed to create a front for the business.”

Leven was already a jewelry collector, so began selling her personal collection of vintage and Eastern/tribal jewels in the space. Word of her chic eye for jewelry quickly got out. And she eventually opened Love Adorned in NYC’s Nolita to stock her special, globally procured wares.

The boutique has since become something of an incubator for startup jewelry collections that go on to become very big deals. Leven was among the first to stock Anna Sheffield, Polly Wales, and Elizabeth Street, to name just a few.

Love Adorned Santa Monica
Love Adorned’s Santa Monica shop (Image: @loveadorned)

“When I opened New York Adorned I did so with the idea of elevating the perception of tattooing,” she recalls. “I was most interested in appealing to people in the arts and creative industries.… I want to appeal to the type of person I am most interested in. And I want them to tell the people that inspire them and that are inspired by them.”

And Leven says there’s definitely crossover in all categories of adornment in her stores, including with jewelry and tattooing, “like in the way things drape on the body, or being drawn to symbols of strength.”

Mostly, she says, “I try to stay as true to myself as possible. It’s easy to think to yourself, ‘What would my customer like?’ when in reality I think that clients see authenticity and they come to Love Adorned because of my point of view. So, I buy what I love.”

Top: Love Adorned’s art director Vincent Martinelli and company founder Lori Leven in a pop-up flower shop the NYC store is currently hosting (Image: @loveadorned)

JCK Magazine Editor