Sifting Through the Vintage Treasures of Elizabeth Doyle’s Jewelry Box

An emerald-studded engagement ring and a ruby necklace with baby teeth are the sentimental stars of this jewelry dealer’s personal bijoux collection

Elizabeth Doyle with jewelry from her personal collection. (Photo: Melody Melamed for New York Observer)

Elizabeth Doyle with jewelry from her personal collection. (Photo: Melody Melamed for New York Observer)

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But so are sapphires, emeralds and especially rubies, according to jeweler Elizabeth Doyle, one half of the team behind Doyle & Doyle, the estate and vintage boutique in Manhattan’s trendy Meatpacking District.

Glittering diamond baubles and delicate flashes of silver and gold line the walls of Doyle & Doyle in glass vitrines like paintings. Here, a pale yellow old mine cut diamond is set into a platinum and gold ring. There, a Victorian locket is decorated with touches of enamel and tiny pearls.

Ms. Doyle’s father’s gold wedding band, (ca. 1880). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

Ms. Doyle’s father’s gold wedding band, (ca. 1880). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

Ms. Doyle, a gemologist, opened the shop with her sister Irene Pamela, who previously worked with one of New York’s top colored diamond buyers, in 2000. Together, they are a powerhouse duo sought after for the city’s most rare and unique vintage gems.

We sit in the back of the store on two cushioned chairs with two velvet-lined jewelry boxes between us. But this isn’t inventory from the store; today Ms. Doyle is sharing pieces from her own personal collection of jewelry.

Jewelry has been a lifelong passion for Ms. Doyle. She began making her first pieces in high school, but it was a lapidary club in college where her jewelry education truly began.

Locket with demantoid garnet, old European diamond, ruby, onyx and gold, (ca. 1880). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

Locket with demantoid garnet, old European diamond, ruby, onyx and gold, (ca. 1880). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

“It was an amazing setup with polishing wheels, benches and torches. You were free to go there whenever you wanted and work with their equipment. I learned how to cut stones and make simple mountings”

While some studied abroad or interned with large jewelry houses in New York, Ms. Doyle scored gigs at jewelry stores across New England. The first was an apprenticeship with a jeweler in Massachusetts. The second, a store in Mystic, Conn., where she cut her teeth in store management.

“The guy who owned the store invested in a mine in Tanzania, so he ended up going for the summer to work. I got to be in the store and basically run it,” she said. “He was mainly known for really cool gemstones.”

It is no wonder then that Ms. Doyle has an affinity for colored stones, especially phenomenal stones, such as star sapphires or chrysoberyl cat’s eye. Even her 1930s engagement ring, which features a hefty diamond, has an unexpected flash of color from tiny emeralds.

“Rings are easy. They’re so close to you and you look at them when you’re wearing them,” she confessed, when asked to name her favorite type of jewelry. “With necklaces or earrings you don’t see them; they’re really for other people.”

‘Rings are easy. They’re so close to you and you look at them when you’re wearing them,’ she said. ‘With necklaces or earrings you don’t see them; they’re really for other people.’

Some of the pieces Ms. Doyle shared with the Observer were received as gifts. There is a playful brooch in the shape of a floppy-haired golden lion with a red ruby nose, diamond-crusted whiskers and emerald eyes. It was a present from her son. A white and yellow gold pendant set with small diamonds in the silhouette of the New York skyline was another piece given to her by her children.

Gold Lion Brooch with emerald, ruby, diamond and gold, (ca. 1965). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

Gold Lion Brooch with emerald, ruby, diamond and gold, (ca. 1965). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

And then there is a gleaming diamond bracelet, peppered with deep green emeralds, bought at auction by her husband as a companion to her engagement ring. It’s a bit fancy for everyday wear, she tells me, but a pesky clasp had her flaunting the cuff nonstop for several weeks, although not by choice.

“People said, ‘That’s an amazing bracelet!’ and I was like, ‘It’s kind of big for just going grocery shopping, but I can’t take it off, it’s stuck.’ I had to pry it off with a knife because [the safety] was really, really tight.”

Other pieces acquired over the years have been on the quirkier side; items that only true connoisseurs of niche accessories would seek out,  such as Victorian mourning jewelry. But Ms. Doyle’s biggest kick is “mechanical jewelry, jewelry that does a trick.”

An enamel and gold ring made in the late 19th century features a small mouse in place of a central jewel that moves back and forth. The mouse is set over a red guilloche enamel background.

Enamel and gold Mouse Ring, (ca. 1880). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

Enamel and gold Mouse Ring, (ca. 1880). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

“The background is engine-turned engraving, which was [created] just around the beginning of industrialization. And it moves, so it’s considered kinetic jewelry,” she explained when asked why she found the ring so intriguing.

With this many sparklers in a small space, the eye naturally bounces from jewel to jewel, but still, a large ornate diamond and pearl necklace commands attention.

Potential vendors send Ms. Doyle packages of jewelry to evaluate, and every so often she’ll spot something she can’t part with. “This I kept for myself because it was the most special necklace I’d ever seen. It’s Georgian [from the] 1700s, with rose cut diamonds, which are rare. It splits into two bracelets and these can be worn as a small choker if you put them back together. Or it can be worn as a necklace with the central piece and you can remove the big drop.”

‘My son designed it. There’s a tradition of making jewelry with baby teeth from the Victorian era,’ she said. ‘I told him, “I’m going to make a necklace when you lose your tooth.” And he sat down and he drew a picture and labeled the whole thing.’

Ms. Doyle still makes jewelry—many pieces can be found in Doyle & Doyle’s signature Heirloom collection—a handful of the pieces in front of us are of her own design. She twirls a necklace made of red ruby beads with two pendants hanging from her neck.

Tooth necklace made of baby teeth, diamond, ruby, gold and platinum, (2013 & 2014). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

Tooth necklace made of baby teeth, diamond, ruby, gold and platinum, (2013 & 2014). (Photo: Courtesy Elizabeth Doyle)

“My son designed it. There’s a tradition of making jewelry with baby teeth from the Victorian era,” she said. “I told him, ‘I’m going to make a necklace when you lose your tooth.’ And he sat down and he drew a picture and labeled the whole thing. In the center he wrote ‘tooth jewel’ and it had little red dots. He said, ‘Mommy, these are rubies because that’s your favorite stone.’ I was like, ‘I hadn’t planned on doing something that elaborate but since you designed it I guess I have to!’ ”

She has since added a second tooth—her daughter’s—to the piece. Most days you’ll find her wearing that necklace, along with her engagement ring, two stacked wedding bands and a large Victorian enameled locket.

“I’m very much a creature of habit,” she told me. “You get attached to certain pieces, and they kind of become a part of you.”

Sifting Through the Vintage Treasures of Elizabeth Doyle’s Jewelry Box