Inside Washington, D.C.’s Newest Fine Jewelry Destination, Shelter

1258 Fifth St. NE, Washington, D.C.

mallory shelter
“People actually come in just to see her,” says Shelter of Foxy, store manager Damaris Hay’s dog.

Shelter, a fine jewelry, gift, and accessories shop that debuted in D.C.’s trendy Union Market district last year, has the feel of a serene and stylish fashion boutique. But just beyond its tastefully glassed-off back wall is a full-fledged jewelry workshop where owner Mallory Shelter is often perched, at work on her namesake collection.

Mallory Shelter opened the shop in a former wholesale-industrial space across the street from Union Market—a local hot spot featuring artisanal food stalls—to retail her collection and highlight contemporary jewelry designers that weren’t formerly stocked in the nation’s capital. “I knew there wasn’t really a jewelry store in D.C. that was carrying lots of midrange fine jewelry,” she says. “There’s the super high-end with the security guard kind of store, and then there’s the really affordable [non-fine] jewelry store. I was interested in creating a store for that in-between.”

shelter interior


Alchemilla earrings
Alchemilla earrings

Shelter designed her store as a minimalist space so she could carry various product categories without worry that her wares would clash with bold decor. Also, “things like candles are gateways to other [purchases],” she notes. “Maybe someone buys a candle this time, but next time she graduates to jewelry.” Roomy shelves and tables are stocked with myriad gift-y items, including bowls of $3 loose crystals and swanky candles from Tatine and Night Space. There’s a tight edit of millennial-friendly clothes from Voloshin, Emerson Fry, Hackwith Design House, and other cute apparel brands and handbags and wallets by cool-girl accessories maker Clare V. Taped up beside the occasional product are handwritten notes (and Polaroid selfies) from staffers explaining their amour for that particular item.

jewelry display shelterSHARED STORIES

The shop’s fine jewelry collections, which include Suzanne Kalan, Bario Neal, Corkie Bolton, Zoë Chicco, Young in the Mountains, Ariel Gordon, and Page Sargisson, are displayed in elegant wood and glass-topped cases custom-crafted for Shelter by Asheville, N.C., furniture maker Foxwood Co. Next to each collection is a pretty printed card that shares a brief bio of the designer and brand. Shelter’s own collection, Mallory Shelter Jewelry, is filled with the kind of delicate 14k gold pieces many young women live in—think stackable rings with a single gemstone and lovely pendant necklaces.

jewelry cases shelterFLAIR SQUARED

Shelter, who took courses at GIA and studied with local goldsmith and jewelry-making teacher Daniel Valencia ­before debuting her collection in 2012, has a knack for making affordably priced furnishings and accessories look chic, and even expensive. Examples of this abound at Shelter: Gold-framed mirrors in various shapes hang in a sweet cluster above a table; they look like $200 mirrors that came off the wall of ABC Carpet & Home, but they’re actually from Target. The designer sourced the store’s vintage Moroccan-style rugs—covering the space’s polished concrete floors—on eBay. The white wall shelves were an Ikea score. 


ariel gordon necklaces shelter
Ariel Gordon necklaces

Shelter, 30, says her core customer is the 30- to 50-year-old self-purchasing woman “who has disposable income and is excited about independent designers.” The fact that shoppers can observe her at work in the store—and know she can fix or customize pieces—is also a draw. “People really like seeing the bench and seeing that jewelry is being made,” she adds. “We’ve become desensitized to the fact that [artisans] actually make things, and I think we’re seeing a resurgence of people interested in the handmade.”

(Photography by Morgan Howarth; jewelry: Mallory Shelter)

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