Introducing our third installment of the Maison Ray Muse series — interviews and profiles on the women who inspire me in their work, their lives, and their philosophies on what it means to live boldly, unapologetically, and with style.
Grace Lavarro of Jewels by Grace is a self-proclaimed “jewelry addict”…a sentiment I can completely, 100% relate to! As she puts it, she lives and breathes jewelry, and I’m so inspired by how Grace transformed her passion into a career and a loyal following of fellow jewelry lovers who look to her to share her expertise.
In honor of Grace’s fabulous, legendary pair of “Olsen Twins” earrings — or, a perfect pair of 9.46ctw Antique Cushion Diamond Drop Earrings — we’re hosting a giveaway featuring a nod to their namesake: Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s out-of-print book Influence, a gorgeous book sharing interviews between the twins and some of the individuals who are most inspiring to them in the fashion industry, featuring conversations with everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Diane Von Furstenburg. Click here to enter the giveaway, and read on for our Maison Ray Muse Conversation with Grace.
Can you share more about how you’ve gotten to where you are and where you started: what were some of your first jobs? Were you always interested in jewelry?
I started as a hobbyist and collector, and while I am always somewhat embarrassed to recount this story, I remember one afternoon I was watching Oprah and she announced to her viewers that we must all try to follow our bliss. And that if we did, what we do for a living would never feel like work. Needless to say, that was my AHA! moment. I was so taken with that message that I initially wanted to call the business “Jewels of Bliss.”
I have a degree in journalism, but worked in several industries (accounting for the film and music industries + engineering) as administrator, and in HR. I started in the business with a partner and had a day job for many years. I have been on my own for close to four years now and have enjoyed and toiled solo through every backbreaking, sweat-inducing moment of it. I rise and fall on my own merits, and cannot imagine it any other way now.
My interest in antique jewelry was fueled by my husband’s family, whose matriarch had a vast jewelry collection (she was friends with Imelda Marcos!) I loved them all, and wanted to build a collection that I could someday leave my children also. I never thought I was a jewelry person for a long time, but apparently I am! I am now that woman who loves seeing jewelry on other people and wondering about the stories behind each piece.
Have you had mentors or women whose careers you’ve looked to for guidance?
I am a fluke — I do not come from a family or even background of jewelry. Everything I know I taught myself from listening to other dealers, getting my hands (and eyes) on every single piece of jewelry I could, and watching how others transact.
I asked questions, absorbed everything like a sponge, and trusted my instincts. My gut, and my taste in jewelry has guided me all these years — and I feel like either one has yet to steer me wrong. The pieces I hand-select and sell seem to resonate with my followers and clients so I really just let my instincts guide me. I have no magic formula, other than one guiding principle: If I love it, I can sell it.
What are some of your favorite pieces you own? What do you love about them, and how do you style them?
My children always tease me that I am always lit up like a Christmas tree, even if I am only going to Costco (I ignore them).
What are some of the most fabulous pieces you’ve come across in your career? What’s a dream jewelry find for you?
I remember drooling over an eight-carat elongated emerald-cut some years back…it was just spectacular, and it gave me a serious case of the wants. Dream jewelry pieces are the ones I find intact — diamonds in their original settings, stunning Deco pieces, and Victorian + Georgian pieces with special messages are some favorites.
Which jewelry pieces do you wear regularly?
Plenty of times, I will leave the house with only the Olsens on. Earrings are my favorite piece of jewelry. I find they frame the face beautifully, and they make for a beautiful canvas (along with a smile).
How has your style evolved over time?
I used to almost exclusively gravitate toward Art Deco and Edwardian pieces. I also wore a lot of platinum jewelry. However, for the last three years, I have worn mostly yellow gold as I my interests have shifted toward Victorian and Georgian-era pieces. I love the warmth of yellow gold.
What to you are items (clothing, jewelry, or both) that never ever go out of style and can be worn for any occasion?
Nothing can transform any outfit more dramatically and drastically than great shoes and jewelry. You can transform a staid business suit into a softer look by adding an antique brooch to your lapel; you can add texture to a plain tee with a long chain necklace; or add drama to a dress or gown with a plunging neckline by wearing layered necklaces on your décolletage. Great jewelry and great shoes — we all should have these in our arsenal!