Store We Adore: Sarah Swell

215 Caledonia St., Suite 102,
Sausalito, Calif.

Fine jewelry meets museum-quality artifacts at this tiny shop in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Owner Sarah Greenberg prides herself on an inventory that rivals a museum collection for its eclectic, one-of-a-kind ethos. Roughly half of the nature-inspired pieces are her own designs; the rest represent seven different artists from across the United States. The result: a quirky, funky environment with “casual luxury” items to match.

The name Swell practically washed over Sarah Greenberg when she started selling jewelry back in 2009. At that time, most of her pieces were nautical in nature, and the notion of a “swell” or waves came literally from that. Today, many of the 34-year-old Cape Cod native’s most popular pieces still have that ocean theme. One collection, the Fishbone Series, features necklaces and earrings composed of trapezoidal pieces of metal attached at the middle, like fish bones on a tail. Another collection boasts a weathered look that Greenberg and her assistants achieve by hammering the pieces on a beach rock. “I feel there’s a certain life force and consistency to the ocean that has always been grounding and inspirational for me,” she says. “It’s nice to know others feel the same way too.”


Greenberg was in Boston studying to be a fine-art painter when a retail job at a local jewelry store turned into a gig doing simple repairs. “I couldn’t believe they were letting me do the repairs,” she remembers. “I did a few and thought to myself, ‘This is it.’ The rest is history.” After a few months, Greenberg dropped out of art school to pursue jewelry-making. She moved to San Francisco in 2004 to attend the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, and upon graduation took a job as metalworker Sarah Graham’s first employee. After five years, Greenberg went out on her own with a small studio space in Oakland, Calif.


In 2014, Greenberg moved into her current digs, a ­gallery/studio space on the bottom floor of a split-level office building—six feet below street level but still very much visible from the sidewalk. It’s bright, airy, and welcoming, with walls full of antique mirrors and fine art—some of it Greenberg’s (and yes, it’s for sale)—plus shadow boxes and curio cases covered with jewelry that lend the place a ­museumlike vibe. Greenberg wanted to create an environment where guests “could connect with the pieces comfortably” before even thinking about price. “That connection is so ­important for me,” she says. “That’s what makes a piece of jewelry something special.”


In addition to the fish-bone and weathered pieces, the real attention-grabbers of the Sarah Swell collection are her one-of-a-kind rings. Many of these have rose-cut and full-cut diamonds; most are set in 18k gold. Greenberg says she runs a “healthy” alternative wedding business on these rings alone: “I get people who don’t want traditional rings but still want something they’ll treasure. It makes me happy to be able to make those rings for them.”


Elsewhere in the shop, jewelry from artists such as ­Delphine Leymarie, Jessica Winzelberg, and Emilie Shapiro stands out—very different from Greenberg’s, yet almost all evocative of nature in some way. The store also carries perfumes, candles, and hand-hewn wooden boxes. “Even if you don’t buy something,” Greenberg says, “we want you to leave feeling like the experience was memorable.”

(Photography by Ken Gutmaker)

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