1169 Valencia St., San Francisco
Handcrafted. Small-studio artists. If customers take away nothing else from their visit to Betsy Barron’s Love & Luxe, she hopes they remember those two important concepts. The store, which Barron founded in 2011, sits smack in the middle of the Mission District, one of San Francisco’s most diverse neighborhoods, and sells pieces from more than 40 artists who specialize in handmade jewelry. With such a cross-section of designs—and an eclectic clientele—Love & Luxe offers everything from $20 bracelets crafted of recycled skateboards to $10,000 diamond necklaces. Yes, it’s jewelry. But Barron prefers to think of it all as art.
A Rhode Island School of Design–trained jeweler who got started at a makeshift bench under her loft bed on Haight Street 25 years ago, Barron had dreamed of owning her own store for more than a decade. Then, one day about five years ago, she spotted the perfect space right around the corner from her Mission District apartment. Once the signatures dried, Barron spent $30,000 in three months to build out the space—a shop for her in the front, a studio behind two giant sliding metal doors, and an office for her husband’s advertising business in the back. Initially, the 500-square-foot jewelry store was sparse; it had only 12 collections after the first three months. Since then, Love & Luxe has grown to include pieces from 40-plus designers, including a number of handcrafted cases—some of them fabricated by the artists themselves.
The retailer describes her pieces as well crafted, wearable, and approachable. “We don’t sell anything that’s not comfortable,” she says. “I want people to come in here and be able to see themselves in anything.” While about half of the artists are from the Bay Area, the other half hail from places near (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara) and far (Africa, the United Kingdom). Among the luminaries on display: Petra Class, Karen Kertesz, and Heidi Nahser Fink. Among the newbies: Nick Engel, who specializes in CAD (his rings that read I LOVE YOUR FACE are a customer favorite). Barron even displays her own work in a case on one wall; her weighty, sometimes chunky metal creations juxtapose brilliantly with the softer, more gem-heavy designs elsewhere in the store.
Love & Luxe’s customers are just as varied as the jewelry on display. Some days, Barron will see Silicon Valley executives who leave the town car (and a driver) idling out front. Other days she’ll serve locals who are looking for a friend’s birthday present. Barron notes that the vast majority of her business is composed of young lovers looking to purchase a custom engagement ring or a pair of wedding bands. “Because almost all of our selection is handcrafted, people know they can come here and work with us to get something they really want,” she says. “It’s really fun to help people pick out such important pieces.”
Barron is proud to display other forms of artwork by her designers—and other local artists—as well. Two pieces in particular exemplify this commitment: voluptuous female forms composed of bent wire that stand in the front window. They are by local sculptor Kristine Mays; Love & Luxe is one of the only places in San Francisco to display her work. Elsewhere in the store, customers can spot prints, collages, and cards from local artist Bill Zindel. “We embrace all kinds of art,” Barron says. “If it’s handmade and it’s beautiful, we want to have it here.”
Proud of your windows and display cases? Send us photos.