Broken English

225 26th St. #17, Santa Monica, Calif.

Since the late 1940s, the Brentwood Country Mart has been West Los Angeles’ go-to spot for a shoe repair, a lovely gift, and a down-home snack in an exceedingly pleasant environment. And since Broken English opened in 2007, Laura Jay’s collection of contemporary and antique necklaces, bracelets, rings, and scarves has made the open-air shopping center a bijou lover’s destination.


Encased on three sides by windows, the store has a cozy, fish-bowl feel Jay describes as “your own personal jewelry box.” It’s an apt metaphor, since her shoppers—many of whom reside in the surrounding tony neighborhood—return again and again to find treasures for birthdays, graduations, and weddings. “I have dream clients,” says Jay. They range from young girls who follow Jay’s blog and Twitter feed for her latest finds (priced as low as $100) to the more refined: “My price point can go up to over $100,000, so that’s for a more mature buyer.”


Celebrities wear Broken English pieces on red carpets and in the pages of Vogue. Recently, Ellen Page showed off Parulina’s diamond cuff at the Inception premiere; Michelle Trachtenberg rocked Carla Amorim’s Lumina ring in New York City; and model Irina Shayk was spotted with Anita Ko’s baguette-diamond-studded double leaf ring. “We work with stylists every day,” says Jay. It is L.A., after all.


Jay got her feet wet in the L.A. market working at Kaviar and Kind, a now-shuttered jewelry and furniture store on Sunset Boulevard owned by Sunrise Ruffalo (wife of actor Mark), who taught Jay how to curate a collection. “Sunrise is a wonderful woman,” says Jay. “She has an amazing eye for artists and for merchandising.” When Jay left, she found new designers—like C. Green, whose surprisingly feminine horns and snakes are among Broken English’s best-sellers—to forge her own identity on the other side of the 405.


For Jay’s senior thesis at the University of San Diego, she created an economic model of how to choose the best retail spot, which she later applied when she decided to open the shop. “The Brentwood County Mart was really the best location,” says Jay, citing the high-income community and all-important foot traffic. But she won’t reveal her full assessment. “If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” she laughs.


Having grown up in Utah as the daughter of a Parisian showgirl, Jay developed her wide-ranging taste early on. “I think it’s very important to have a well-rounded collection, not too organic, not too modern, a piece that represents every style and era,” says Jay. When she opened Broken English, she was inspired by Marianne Faithfull’s song of the same name. “It has a lyric, ‘Say it in broken English,’ and I loved it because so much of the things that we mean can never be expressed with words. It’s what is meant and not said, and that’s what I believe is the sentiment behind any jewelry purchase. It symbolizes moments that can’t be expressed with words. That’s why ­jewelry is so special—it’s a symbolic expression of our life ­experiences.”

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