Retailer Spotlight: Aaron Faber Gallery

I am a self-proclaimed jewelry geek, and that is a large part of why I was chosen to be this year’s JCK Design Ambassador. Since my jewelry journey inception in 2006, I’ve been following and admiring many a jeweler and retailer. At the very top of this list? The Aaron Faber Gallery. We are honored to have Patricia Faber on our advisory board this year for JCK Tucson. She is helping us curate a show worthy of her attention. Faber (pictured right, with a private client) is a true advocate for the jewelry artist. It was a dream to take time with one of our industry’s greats and find out more about her experience, her trajectory, and all that she does for our talented clan.

The store is called Aaron Faber Gallery. Your first name is Patricia, and your husband is Edward. May I ask, who is Aaron?

Patricia Faber: My husband and I opened the gallery in 1974, but we didn’t want to name the gallery after either of us. Instead we chose the family name Aaron. We see it as our nom de guerre, which can literally be translated in French as name of war or warrior’s name. We are a united front and attribute much of this to the longevity of our success. 

Cuff bracelet by Michael Boyd in oxidized sterling and 18k and 22k gold with green jade, lapis, green jadeite, blue sapphire beads, and turquoise

You and your husband have been working together for 40 years! Truly remarkable! Can you please tell us a few things that you attribute to your successful business partnership? Any challenges?

Faber: Passion is easily at the core of our success. We both love what we do. One of the reasons that I believe it adds a more meaningful layer to our relationship is that we get to witness our loved one bringing their best to their work. Watching your mate follow their dreams and excel has built a deep level of respect into the DNA of our partnership. From a practical standpoint it works, as our passions vary slightly: Edward is avid collector of vintage watches, and I have a fascination with contemporary jewelry artists. 

Yes, we face challenges as any business would, but we move through them fairly quickly by refocusing ourselves on our primary purpose: our love and passion for the gallery and the artists we represent.

How did you and your husband meet? How did you get involved in jewelry?

Edward and I met at Rutgers University. After graduation, in the 1970s, we were both working in the city but found ourselves traveling almost every weekend up to Rhinebeck [N.Y.] or to explore an art exhibition. It was a period when young people were turning to alternative paths, and we were witness to an explosion of decorative arts—ceramics, glassblowing, and, of course, jewelry. We began exploring the work of ceramic artists such as Karen Karnes and Bennett Bean and then became immersed in the new handmade jewelry world. We opened our jewelry business in a small booth on 47th Street in Manhattan’s Diamond District in 1974 and a tiny mezzanine gallery there in 1975 that was dedicated to handmade jewelry. We soon realized that we wanted to create our own environment and in 1977 moved to West 53rd Street near the Museum of Modern Art and opened the space that we are still in today. We continue to change and build out the space every 10 years; as our artists evolve, so must we.

Light-Space ring in sterling silver and 18k gold with turquoise and quartz by Claudio Pino, made for the “Referencing the Muse” exhibition

I see that both you and Edward are part of the American Society of Jewelry Historians. What about jewelry history excites you? Do you have a favorite piece? What era catches your attention the most?

I’m actually a past president of the society. It’s a wonderful organization filled with jewelry collectors, dealers, artists, lecturers, and anyone else with a deep passion to learn more about jewelry history. I love exploring the history of the craft, as I see a strong line of continuity of jewelry over all the centuries. I also find it very inspiring that fine jewelry is made of precious metals. I like to imagine that an artist we represent today has created an artifact of the future. Really, jewelry is a fascinating time machine.

If I had to choose jewelry from antiquity, most of my fascination lies with Etruscan jewelry. Again, this work is representative of a true time machine. Gorgeous pieces of work that we can witness today that were created thousands of years ago.

If you didn’t own a jewelry shop what would you be doing with your life?

Faber: Travel. I love to travel. I love to explore new parts of the world. 

What is your longest-standing relationship with a designer? What makes that relationship work?

A maker that I still work with today is Glenda Arentzen. Our relationship started in 1975. I attribute the length of the relationship to the creativity. Arentzen is a very talented, creative, and spontaneous artist who isn’t afraid to take risks. It’s been very exciting to watch her change direction, take risks, and grow over the years. Also, we represent only one-of-a-kind work in the gallery, which definitely satisfies the artist’s temperament. Some of our designers do indeed have wholesale lines they sell elsewhere, but this is really a place for artists to play, explore, and push themselves to do their best work.

Glenda Arentzen earrings with turquoise and ebony in sterling silver and 24k gold

How do you foster community within the jewelry community? Could you tell us more about “In the Gallery”?

Faber: We conduct two large exhibitions each year: In the fall we present at SOFA Chicago, and in the spring we hold another exhibition in our gallery. I select a topic (or I should say the topic selects me), and then we invite about 20 designers to create two or three pieces around the theme. The last one was titled “Referencing the Muse,” and it was a a wonderful show. One artist, Janis Kerman from Montreal, chose Instagram as her muse, as she discovered extraordinary artists on the social media platform such as the British graphic designer Richard Caldicott. We also had an exhibition titled “Master and Apprentice” and posed these questions to our artists: Do you have any apprentices? Do you have a mentor? We had approximately 15 pairs of masters and apprentices in the show that year. It was very inspirational.

We also put on two or three smaller exhibitions each year. This April we will have an event titled “Phenomenal Jewelry,” featuring phenomenal gemstones such as labradorite, which exhibits the iridescent optical effect (or schiller) known as labradorescence.

Where do you get inspiration for your shows?

Faber: It really comes from powerful synergy with the external: reading, conversations with artists, talking shop with colleagues, it just flows in. There is only one time in all the years that we’ve had an exhibition that was inspired directly from an idea from another institution. MOMA opened an exhibition called “On Line,” a wonderfully curated presentation on the line and totally turned my views around on the concept of line and form. So we mounted a show titled “In Line/In Metal.” We credited them with our inspiration, but it was a much different show, as the medium had shifted significantly. Thirty-three jewelry artists from around the world participated, and it was fun to watch artists play with the concept of line in fine metals.

Necklace by Beth Farber with boulder opal, 18k gold beads, and blue apatite beads

Any designers on the horizon that you think are ones to watch?

Faber: There are amazing jewelry artists at every age and level. We are delighted with the success of Beth Farber’s woven fine jewelry collection, which was featured on the television series Gotham. Michael Boyd keeps challenging himself as a lapidary and metalsmith, creating remarkable one-of-a-kind jewels. Claudio Pino from Montreal is finding great acclaim for his singular rings that debuted here five years ago, and the Radi Brothers are doing very interesting silver and gold jewelry, using filigree but in a modern style. It’s very popular.

Why are you excited for JCK Tucson?

Faber: I love the venue [J.W. Marriott Tucson Star Pass]. I love the organization [JCK Events]. I also love that the show is edited and much smaller, so I can really focus on what’s there. I’m also very excited to be around all the gorgeous gemstones. My trip to Tucson last year is largely responsible for inspiring the “Phenomenal Jewelry” exhibition. I’m so excited to see what this trip will inspire.

Erin Richards (wearing a necklace by Beth Faber) and Milo Ventimiglia in Gotham


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