One of the more enchanting aspects of hunting for vintage is imagining the story behind each piece. It’s easy to conjure up images of an object’s previous life and fabulous former owner. If Mahnaz Ispahani‘s exquisite collection of rare vintage jewelry could talk, we’re sure it would have lots to say.
A globe-trotter, policy scholar, and all-around patron of the arts, Mahnaz has curated an impressive array of pieces spanning centuries and reflecting her worldly views.
“My collecting strategy is a series of reinventions—built on a firm foundation of color, design, technique, and obsession with exquisite small objects,” she says.
From statement-making early Mugal rings to antique Navajo pendants to Aldo Cipullo’s original Love bracelets for Cartier, there’s hardly a corner of the world’s treasure chest Mahnaz has overlooked.
“Wherever I go, I seek out the color, feel, and design of the culture: Gzhel porcelain of the late Soviet Union, indigo textiles in West Africa, the fantastic Dogon doors of Mali, textiles in Panama and Gautemala, the sapphires of Sri Lanka, and the extraordinary variety of natural semi-precious stones in Brazil,” she says.
Don’t have time to country hop? Below, Mahnaz takes us on private tour of her favorites from the collection.
Vintage Buccellati Baroque Pearl Earrings
“I love Baroque pearls for their irregularities—they’re very jolie laide (a French expression that translates to ‘ugly beautiful’). They have been used since the Renaissance period in whimsical but important pieces of jewelry. This particular pair of Buccellati earrings from the ’70s would be a fabulous complement to a cocktail dress or gown.”
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Vintage Tiger’s Eye Collar and Earrings
“With shades of honey, amber, and black running throughout, tiger’s eye is one of the most dimensional and enchanting gemstones. It’s regarded for its healing properties and is often shaped into prayer beads that provide protection and wellbeing to the wearer. Typically, tiger’s eye is polished into a cabachon. However, the stones in these earrings and necklace have a unique geometric feel.”
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Vintage Van Cleef & Arpels Chrysoprase, Coral & Gold Pendant Necklace
“During Victorian times, coral was intricately carved into lacy structures. By the ’50s, designers were polishing it and using it in bold cocktail rings. Looking to India for inspiration, Van Cleef & Arpels brought cabochon coral back into fashion in the ’70s, often mixing it with other semi-precious stones.”