Elizabeth Locke (???? – ) Among outstanding contemporary American jewelry designers, it would be difficult to find a more multi-disciplined one than Elizabeth Locke. Born and raised in Staunton, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, Locke studied at Duke University before earning a degree in Modern Italian Literature at the University of Florence.
Locke traveled extensively and ultimately opened and operated a furniture accessories business in Italy. She returned home in 1975 and, for six years, was a contributing editor for Town & Country Magazine. In this capacity, she covered everything from greyhound racing in England to carnival in Venice.
Among her magazine assignments, one proved particularly influential when she was dispatched to Bangkok.
“I found a group of very talented goldsmiths making really unattractive jewelry by hand,” she says. “Their pieces were beautifully crafted, but nothing you would want to wear. I thought with better designs and beautiful stones we could make wonderful jewelry together. That was the impetus for starting my business; I thought that their efforts were not being put to good use.”
Soon after, she moved to New York City to study Gemology and earned a degree in the subject.
Elizabeth Locke launched her jewelry collection in 1988. According to her official website, “Elizabeth … travels the world in pursuit of the uncommon elements that make up her designs: coins from classical Greece and Rome or from forgotten empires; richly colored Venetian glass intaglios made from 17th-century molds; antique carnelian and sardonyx seals; luminous South Sea pearls; cabochon stones of vibrant hues; minutely intricate 19th-century micro-mosaics from Italy; and 18th-century gambling counters carved in mother-of-pearl. Each piece is individually designed by Elizabeth Locke and completely handmade in 18k gold.”
Elizabeth Locke jewelry pieces are sought after by an international clientele. The materials used in her pieces are treasures from her travels to exotic international locales. All her pieces are thoughtfully crafted with outstanding quality and unquestionable originality.
The Elizabeth Locke jewelry collection includes exceptional pieces including Venetian glass rings, pendants, charms, and earrings that are designed to capture attention. Similar to cameos or classic stone reliefs, the detailed portraits subtly pop up from the material and are noticeably unlike other contemporary American jewelry.
The pieces reflect Elizabeth’s nature: bold, striking, and world-wise. They are designed for confident, ambitious women who are lively and strong. They are comprised of high quality materials, fashionable inspirations and iconic styles and are accessories that will fit in from the classroom to the boardroom.
Elizabeth Locke’s flagship jewelry store, The Other Elizabeth, is unlike other businesses in quaint Boyce, Virginia. The façade is festooned with Moorish-style windows and the jewelry inside has a soft, hammered finish complemented by colored stones.
She says, “On a trip to Bangkok I saw enchanting pools that captured the most vibrant shades of cerulean [and] inspired me to incorporate the hue into our intaglio pieces. What I design is completely dependent upon the stones that I buy. I design things that I would want to wear myself.”
Her enthusiastic clients included the late Elizabeth Taylor who was one of her line’s early aficionados. Locke’s pieces are sold across the United States and can be easily found in Neiman Marcus outlets. Prices start at around $1000 and can climb to as much as $30,000.
Elizabeth Locke Jewels are, essentially, antique gems repurposed. In interviews she’s remarked that she has always loved antique jewelry, especially Etruscan and nineteenth-century neoclassical designs. She also loves re-designing them.
She says, “The problem is that jewelry is always designed for the era in which it is worn, so antique jewelry frequently looks out of place when worn with modern clothes. I try to take the ideas and techniques behind antique jewelry and change the scale of the designs so they can be worn today.”
Locke’s advice to women about the one essential piece of jewelry: “I would invest in a gold necklace. You will never tire of it and it won’t go out of fashion. You can then wear different pendants [with it] depending on your outfit. It’s an investment that you will wear every day.”
In addition to being an entrepreneur and designer, Locke is also a passionate horse lover, fox hunter, and world traveler. Despite all this, she is unassuming about her personal style, “I wish I could say that I’m tremendously stylish, but for me clothes are the background for jewels.
“My mantra is “just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I like to wear one piece of jewelry that’s a statement piece—usually a large brooch or a necklace with pendant—and then keep the rest of the jewelry on the smaller, quieter side.”