Welcome to JCK Behind The Scenes, a new series where we take you behind the scenes with jewelry influencers in the JCK community. For our first issue, we headed over to Oscar Heyman’s headquarters and workshop in New York City! Watch the video and read about our tour below.
Oscar Heyman has been part of the JCK Community for years and you can discover the magic in their collections first hand at LUXURY and LUXURY Privé. Oscar Heyman maintains its own tool-and-die shop, alloys its own metals, and shepherds each piece from inception through completion. Every piece of jewelry is made by hand in their workshop, signed and numbered, assuring the quality and pride of craftsmanship. Tom Heyman, third generation owner took us through how it all started, how each piece is made and what to except from them in the future. After touring the workshop and offices, we met every person who touches a piece from initial design to packaging.
First, we had to get the scoop on where it all began and it starts in the year of 1900. The company’s founding brothers are Tom’s great uncles, Oscar and Nathan Heyman. The two worked as apprentices in the rigorous workshops of Fabergé in Ukraine for five years where they learned the craft of being a jeweler. Alloying Platinum and such metals at that point was a brand new technology and a skill set the two picked up and carried on throughout their career (which we see below). In 1905 Oscar and Nathan left for New York without knowing any English and set out to become jewelers, a classic American story. The next year, Tom’s grandfather and father followed and within a few years the whole family was back together again. They found jobs in the jewelry industry having had experience in Fabergé and platinum, and in 1912 six Heyman brothers founded Oscar Heyman Brothers Inc. A particular style they were known for was the Garland style which took advantage in platnium’s strength to make very light wire with necklaces and bracelets. When crafting with light wire, it deemphasizes the metal and showcases the gems, something that remains a key characteristic in their designs today.
The facilities had a unique balance and appreciation of both the old and the new.
Looking back at old designs and revitalizing them to be relevant today is something they frequently do in the ideation process. Wouldn’t you if you had filing cabinets filled with hand rendered designs dating back to 1921?
What inspires you?
“It goes back to the gemstones for us. With our designers trying to realize wearable jewelry that really showcases the gems, deemphasizes metal, something that the store’s client buys today and 30 years from now the grandchildren fight over who can keep it – something that has lasting quality and enduring style.”
How do they select their stones? Well, first, they call it treasure hunting (we loved this term!). Oscar Heyman is known for the indisputable quality of its gemstones and all are carefully selected by hand (and usually as they are newly mined). They work with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, and also specialize in esoteric gemstones including alexandrite, chrysoberyl (cat’s eye), opals, aquamarines, star rubies and star sapphires.
Can you tell us how a product goes from inception to completion all on Madison Avenue?
“It’s all about collaboration. Our workshop of craftspeople includes jewelers, setters, engravers, polishers and lapidaries. We maintain our own tool-and-die shop, alloy our own metals, cut and polish our gemstones and shepherd each piece that leaves our premises—engraved with its own number.”
Designs are imagined, envisioned, sketched, laid out in flat wax model and hand-crafted by Oscar Heyman’s team of jewelry makers. Above we sat with a designer who was trying to find a perfect balance of remaining true to the brand’s aesthetic without loosing the uniqueness in the ring to the customer.
Before the platinum was transformed, it weighed around 6 lbs. After Milton torched the platinum, it was time to let it cool down. When we came back we saw it evolve; glowing at first sight, then hammered down and flattened. Tom put it best, the very delicate part of making jewelry.
Oscar Heyman’s team of lapidaries cut and polish the gemstones with the greatest expertise passed down through three generations. Stones are cut and polished to bring out their best color and luster.
For the complete photo gallery, videos, and more from our Behind the Scenes visit at Oscar Heyman please visit our website.