23A E. Market St., Rhinebeck, N.Y.
Rhinebeck, N.Y., has come a long way in the past 40 years. Hay wagons no longer crowd the streets, and visitors from New York City (100 miles to the south) practically outnumber the locals. The small, close-knit Hudson Valley community with a thriving population of artists is where Bruce Lubman, a GIA-trained gemologist and certified appraiser, and his wife, Peggy (pictured), have set up Hummingbird Jewelers, the only independent fine jeweler on Market Street, the town’s main drag. The husband-and-wife owners have had many retail-jeweler incarnations, and Hummingbird is the beautiful culmination of their hard work and artistic talents.
Have Van, Will Travel
Bruce was one of 12 in George Washington University’s first class of environmental law grads, but at the time there was only government work in that discipline, and he wasn’t interested. So he hopped into his Volkswagen van to travel the country and figure out what he really wanted to do. In Arizona, he found jewelry. “I met some people in Tucson who were opening up a store. They offered to teach me what they knew about making jewelry if I helped them. They got me started with basic silversmithing and some lapidary work,” he recalls. “I really loved it. I think it was the first thing in my life that I really focused on without interruption.” He told the Tucson jewelers he’d sell their work when he returned to the East Coast. By the time he got back, though, he had sold every piece of the Native American–style line he’d packed into his VW van. “The van kept breaking down,” Bruce says, laughing.
Jewelry as Fine Art
After Bruce got back to New York, he and Peggy began studying jewelry-making and painting with artist Rolph Scarlett, the grandfather of Peggy’s cousin’s wife and a major source of inspiration to the couple. A few years later, they began creating jewelry from their home in Rhinebeck and eventually rented space in a nearby craft gallery, which was “the only place in the area for artists to gather,” Peggy says. Their first store took shape after that. Manhattan’s Aaron Faber Gallery was another big inspiration. It was “the first place we’d ever been where jewelry was dealt with as fine art and where every piece had an artist’s name with it,” Bruce says. “And that was what we were aiming for,” Peggy adds.
Serving the Community
The current Market Street location is Hummingbird’s fourth manifestation. The staff includes the couple’s daughter, Jamie, who uses her deft stylist’s eye to marry just the right piece with the right customer; bench jeweler/master goldsmith Bruce Anderson (pictured, above), a 38-year store veteran; and an assistant who’s a GIA graduate gemologist. Hummingbird carries many established artists (Pat Flynn, Beverley K, Sethi Couture, to name a few), and the Lubmans are always on the lookout for new talent. The clientele is composed of tourists who wander in from May to October, weekenders from New York City, and loyal locals, who, Peggy says, “are the reason we’re here. We listen to what people want.” And, Bruce chimes in, “we still change watch batteries.”
Photographs by Peter Chin