Lisa Stockhammer-Mial’s first office for her online jewelry store, the Three Graces, was her bed. The retailer started her virtual store in 2002 from the cushy comfort of her boudoir—mailing packages filled with vintage jewelry from the Georgian and Victorian eras to customers all over the world.
Ten years later, the Wimberley, Texas, company has five full-time employees, including an in-house photographer, and has widened its inventory to include pieces from the early 1700s up to 1935—with a few modern pieces mixed in.
A Georgian-era bracelet depicting Zeus at the Three Graces
Stockhammer-Mial says a decade in business feels like “a big milestone,” because, “I did everything by myself for years. But it’s so true—when you do something that’s really right for you and that you believe in, it just comes together.”
The former art history major, jewelry designer, and corporate executive was holding down a corporate job that saw her working online almost constantly when the idea for an e-commerce website specializing in 18th- and 19th-century jewelry started taking root.
“Jewelry was always my first love,” she says. “And our sole purpose was to sell online only.” Why? “We were so specialized, especially at the beginning, that it seemed like a better idea to be in a world economy instead of a local economy. I saw the potential. When you have a [brick-and-mortar] store, you’re so tied to the local economy. And if that economy has a dip, your business dips with it.”
Of course, getting products in front of potential customers without a storefront remains the biggest challenge for independent online retailers. But now 10 years in, the Three Graces boasts a robust online presence (with easy searchability), clean, user-friendly Web design, a forgiving return policy, and an inventory mix that’s both timeless and deeply on-trend.
Early 18th-century rock crystal and paste brooch at the Three Graces
But finding intact jewelry that dates back to Charles Dickens is getting more and more difficult, says Stockhammer-Mial, who credits TV series like Antiques Roadshow for the dearth of antique jewelry on the market (and in garage sales, where she says you used to be able to pick up bona fide gems). “Suddenly, everyone realized, ‘Oh, these things have a lot of value.’ They don’t want to give them up. Which is good and bad for us.”
She travels frequently to buy jewelry, traversing a familiar route dotted with dealers she’s grown to trust—which is of particular importance when you’re hawking $25,000 diamond rings. The average price for merch on the site is roughly $2,500.
And she personally vets every piece. “I have to be confident that if I say it’s from the 1800s, it’s from the 1800s. You have to find dealers and experts you trust—they all have their specialties. I try to ask a lot of questions and find people who are willing to share their information. When you do it day after day, your eye picks things up. You start to discern and learn.”
Art Deco almandine garnet ring, circa 1920, at the Three Graces (photos courtesy of the Three Graces)