For the last 20 years, fine jewelry atelier McTeigue & McClelland has been designing and crafting museum-quality pieces for sophisticated jewelry buyers. Within that period, the business built an enchanting retail shop-with-workshop inside a Gothic Revival mansion in Great Barrington, Mass. Jewelry collectors from all over the world, occasionally swooping in on private jets, flocked to the elegant jewel box in the woods.
But now co-owners Walter McTeigue and Tim McClelland are shuttering that brick-and-mortar business, which McTeigue says is untenable in a retail climate that most richly rewards brands with big marketing budgets.
“We’re an anomaly—we’re a small, independent designer-maker, and we make all our jewelry and retail it all ourselves,” McTeigue explains, adding that the company’s vertically integrated structure, located far from a major city center, resulted in a shortage of marketing power for the brand. Ultimately, he says, “It’s difficult to get the kind of exposure we need to sell the kind of jewelry we’re making.”
And both he and McClelland have little interest in social media marketing, which has become so crucial to small jewelry ateliers in recent years. “Our fatal flaw is that we have no interest in social media,” McTeigue admits. “I always feel like it’s is so disingenuous-feeling. We do it, but neither Tim nor I have been very interested in it.”
But while the store is closing—and currently hosting a sale that’s discounting some incredible jewelry for up to 35% off—the partners aren’t shuttering their workshop. They’re refocusing efforts on the creation of an engagement and wedding collection, Wildflower by McTeigue & McClelland, that boasts close to two dozen engagement ring and wedding band designs that McClelland’s been honing for more than a decade.
“The rings are timeless, they’re modern, they have a hint of an old-world feel, and they are utterly unique and different from anything in the market,” says McTeigue. There’s already a distinct website for the collection, but the jeweler says the collection (and its future) is a work in progress.
It’s also awaiting a powerhouse retail partner. “We realize that we’re not the right people to get the collection out there in the world,” says McTeigue, “so we want to partner with someone who has the resources and exposure to really get it out.”
First on the jewelers’ wish list of partners is Tiffany & Co.—a pick that may seem overly aspirational, were it not for the fact that Tiffany has McTeigue family ingenuity in its DNA.
Walter McTeigue is the great-grandson of Walter P. McTeigue, founder of turn-of-the-century jewelry-maker Walter P. McTeigue & Co., which manufactured impeccably crafted jewels for the major jewelry retailers of the day. Tiffany & Co. was one of its biggest and most enduring clients.
Whoever takes the leap with Wildflower “is going to have a unique design that’s almost impossible to replicate,” says McTeigue. “There are many techniques we use in the collection that are proprietary. It would be very difficult for someone to copy it. When we first made the rings, it took a master jeweler one week to make a ring, which was ridiculous! There’s no engagement ring in the world that takes that long to make. But the collection is a very special thing that would give a diamond bridal company a huge moat around their business.”
He adds that he and McClelland are looking forward to the next chapter, and compares the bittersweet feelings he has regarding the closing of his store to how his father—a third-generation jeweler—must have felt when he sold his manufacturing business decades ago to focus on precious stones and estate jewelry: “I can remember him living life again,” he says. “And there’s definitely something to that in this situation.”
Top: Wildflower by McTeigue & McClelland Flora Embrace engagement ring (all photos courtesy of McTeigue & McClelland)
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