I don’t normally double over with laughter while interviewing jewelers, but this happened several times during a recent conversation with Mick Edwards, wherein allusions to Nabokov novels and a barrage of good-natured f-bombs were often uttered in the same breath. Better known as @missmickster on Instagram, Edwards is technically a purveyor of mouthwatering vintage and antique charm jewelry, but those who come for the jewels end up staying for Edwards’ cutting wit, insightful commentary on social and political issues, and engaging observations about pop culture, along with glimpses of the charms and other jewelry in her personal collection.
Wordsmiths tend to be naturally drawn to Edwards’ cleverly crafted snippets and stories (her hashtags are a fan favorite), and it turns out that she has a background in magazines. After working as a talent manager, Edwards, who is based in Los Angeles, had a chance meeting at a party that landed her the role of style editor at Code, an upscale glossy targeting Black men that was owned by the one and only Larry Flynt (it has since closed). In the early aughts, she also wrote for Tina Brown’s Talk magazine as well as Mode magazine.
Later, she continued to balance life as a mom to two growing boys, this time while working as an interior designer at Ralph Lauren. “I had done some great work with celebrity and international clients, but it was very time-consuming and all-consuming,” says Edwards. Always wearing a stack of retro gold tank bracelets, which both friends and customers began to admire, she started to source fine jewelry for private clients.
“It was a struggle,” she says. Some friends would be enthusiastic about a purchase and then ghost her. Then, after leaving Ralph Lauren, “I started working for other jewelers a few days a week, and I did that for five years. It was great, I learned a lot, I got to go to shows, I got to know people, and I would buy my little bits, turn them over, and then buy more.”
Veteran estate and antique jewelry dealer Excalibur Kurt Rothner, also based in Los Angeles, was an early champion of Edwards’ flair for the nuances of the jewelry trade. “I would not have a business without their support,” she says. “They really helped me figure out the business and get access to really great inventory. And in 2015, I decided, I’m just going to do shows with Excalibur and do my own damn thing. And doing that—being brave about myself—it was intense.”
Ahead, more from my interview with Edwards. And a suggestion to scroll on by if you’re bothered by swear words. This is real talk.
On her personal connection to jewelry
“Jewelry is in my DNA. I was born in Panama and came to the U.S. when I was a year old to live in Illinois, where my father was getting his Ph.D. at Northwestern. My mother is from Colón, which is a city on Panama’s east coast where the boats come into the canal from Europe, and they have fabulous jewelry stores and my mother always had fabulous jewelry. And she always bought her own jewelry. We lived in the suburbs outside of Chicago and we would go into the city to get our hair done—because that’s the life of Black people in America—and our neighbor had a jewelry store in the city, and we would go there and shop and they would give me a tray of charms to play with. I knew that jewelry was important because my mom was the kind of person where if she was wearing blue, she was wearing sapphires, if she was wearing red, she was wearing rubies. Purple, you were going to see alexandrite and amethyst come out to play. That’s my mom. Going to the jewelry store with her, I was never impatient. It was quite the treat for me and always interesting.”
“I’ve always gravitated to charms. Now, I’m focused on them because they make me happy and I understand them. I don’t buy anything that I don’t mind being stuck with. I don’t buy things that don’t resonate with me. I don’t buy things because I think I’m chasing a trend, because that’s always so insincere to me. It’s worked out really well for me. I am super happy with the nature of my business right now.”
On charm styles
“I think bracelets are really hard on charms so I prefer charm necklaces. Anything with a hand motif is hot. Art deco charms are my amazing bread and butter because they’re so beautifully detailed, especially the ones by Enos Richardson, Sloan & Co., and Walter Lampl. Eighteen-karat charms are very hot. And signed charms by Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels do well because they’re so hard to find. Charms were so ubiquitous in my youth, but because of the last decade’s fluctuation of gold prices, people melted so much stuff, including gold charm bracelets, so that things that should be easy to find are very difficult to find.”
On Instagram sales
“I really amped up [my presence] on Instagram around 2016. When I first started, my page was private. I had to really drill into people how they needed to behave. After a while it was just so exhausting having to approve people, or having to cut people loose. And I was like, ‘What’s got two thumbs and ain’t here for this s—? This bitch.’ So I made [my profile] public. Early on, I used to block people that gave me a hard time. Now I let them stay around and let them see the dopeness I’m posting and then I just don’t respond to their inquiry.
“I have recently been dividing all of my inventory up by price point—I used to do [these kinds of posts] infrequently, but since last year I have started doing more of them. The idea of [customers] not having to ask about price was great for them and great for me. People would buy five charms at a time!
Then, when Black Lives Matter happened, all of a sudden, all of these people were looking around for the Black dealers, and in the world of vintage and estate there are very few. There is @particulieres.nyc, there’s my friend @louis_et_cie who does watches, and Joyce Austin who is out of Amherst, Massachusetts, who is definitely the grande dame, she’s been doing it forever. And me. I got a lot of attention from [new customers] and all of a sudden I had to train a whole new group of people [in how I work].”
On not suffering fools
“I am closer to my death than I am to my birth and I ain’t got time for your nonsense. I have a very no-nonsense policy in jewelry because I have a very no-nonsense policy in life. I am a Sagittarius with a Leo rising and a moon in Aries—that’s a triple-fire sign. I am out of control. Most days, I want to slap the s— out of myself! I don’t have as much patience as I should. I’m at an age where I’m not going to change a lot. I’ll grow, but I won’t fundamentally change. I know how to walk away from things that make me unhappy. Those are the ruling dictates of my life. I don’t know that I’m right. I just know that I am.”
On brand voice
“I think I am very much the same person on social media that I am in any other conversation in life. I tell stories about charms and what they mean to me. My writing is very much Proustian memory. When I write, I’m just recording the voice in my head. I’m not forcing my opinions on anyone. I’m just saying what I think. I’m saying what I think about jewelry. I’m saying what I think about my children. I’m saying what I think about football. I’m saying what I think about politics. I try to eulogize people who have influenced me as a way of coping with my emotions in the moment. I am all text. I am not subtext. I try to be really direct with who I am, what I have, how I am. And I have the expectation of the same for others.”
“My whole existence has had politics and political awareness interwoven in it. I am an immigrant who had very smart parents. Outsiders are always naturally more observant of the status quo than those within it. The first election I paid attention to was 1968—I woke up one morning to a dead Bobby Kennedy and I was devastated. That, on the heels of the Martin Luther King [Jr.] assassination. So it’s always been a thing for me. Growing up in Illinois, I could see the value of Republican policies and I could see the value of Democratic policies. I had a very big awareness of politics early on. Learning about government was such a heady thing in my youth. Reading the newspaper was a competitive sport.
“I started posting political stuff [on Instagram] in the same way that I also post a s— ton of football stuff or singing in the car on the way to the Vegas show, and people would push back. And I was like, ‘Look, this is my feed. And these are just my opinions. They are nothing more. But they are the nuanced opinions of a pretty smart girl. If you don’t like them, step off.’ I am not for everyone. I tell people that all the time. I might not be right for you. I am heavy cream.”
Finally Edwards closed out the interview for me with a little rapid-fire fun:
Number of charms in your inventory at any given moment: 750
Number of charms you’re wearing right now: 3
Morning glory or night owl: Night owl
Coffee or tea: Black unsweetened tea
Go-to breakfast: Eggs made with sautéed broccoli leaves and a side of grilled salmon
Favorite L.A. restaurant: LA Hot Wings or Mr. Chow
Reading: Going back and forth between Negroland by Margo Jefferson and Moving Pictures by Budd Schulberg
Listening: “Funkin’ for Jamaica,” Tom Browne; “Fight the Power,” the Isley Brothers; “Still Not a Player,” Big Pun
Streaming: Hanna (Amazon Prime Video); The Deuce (HBO); Lupin (Netflix); The Long Song (PBS); Jesus and the Black Messiah (HBO Max)
Who would play you in a movie: “When I was younger there was an actor named Diana Sands who played Sidney Poitier’s sister in A Raisin in the Sun and everyone said I looked just like her. Today I would totally cast Angela Bassett.”
Top: Vintage charm jewelry dealer Mick Edwards lives in Beverly Hills, Calif., with her husband of 30 years, screenwriter and producer Rob Edwards. (All photos courtesy of @missmickster)
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