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A Sterling Idea

Carolyn O’Keefe’s American Estate Jewelry

By Merrill Witty |

You may remember my good friend Carolyn O’Keefe, who, for several years, wrote the Home department for The Hunt magazine.

Now this style maven has turned her hand to another passion: estate jewelry. To be specific: American Estate Jewelry, the company she founded two years ago.

Carolyn’s idea for the company came from her late mother, Sally, a woman of great style who wore, every day, a gorgeous antique repousse silver cuff bracelet that had come down through generations of her family.

Carolyn loved the idea of wearing inherited family jewelry and sought something similar that her own two daughters would cherish. She realized that many American silversmithing traditions, like the fine art of repousse, were in danger of being lost; so she went in search of a master silver artisan who could fashion new family heirlooms.

Repousse, seen in early Baltimore and Philadelphia silver, is a technique whereby malleable silver is “pushed out” from the back to form a three-dimensional, embossed pattern. Carolyn grew up loving the Stieff “Rose” patterned repousse silverware her family used at the dinner table as well as the famous bracelet. Through a connection with the Stieff family—they of the famed table silver company, now merged with Kirk—she found Michael Galmer, a silver artisan dedicated to maintaining and furthering this American craft.

Carolyn and Michael teamed to make a line of distinctive cuff bracelets that any woman would covet. They possess a “wow” factor due to their very size and heft, but since they are silver, and unadorned by any gems, they are really suitable for everyday use—looking as fabulous with jeans as they do with a little black dress. The cuffs are all lined in gold.

In addition to the seven patterns of cuffs, Galmer is experimenting with pendants (seen here on Carolyn) and brooches (one owned by that pin maven and former secretary of state Madeline Albright).

For the holidays, Galmer has made some of the pieces with “a touch of gold”—great if the wearer likes to wear yellow gold jewelry. And, he has made to-die-for bell ornaments, just in time for Christmas.

Carolyn calls her new jewelry “untrendy,” saying it would have been as appreciated by a woman in 1910 as it will be today.

American Estate Jewelry is carried by a couple jewelry stores in D.C. and New York, and is available online at: www.americanestatejewelry.com. Pieces range from $380 for the bell to $695 for the most ornate cuff.