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By Zahra Al-Kateb | August 17 2015
Originally inspired by her grandmothers jewelry box, Penny Preville has become an award winning jewelry designer whose signature filigree and engraved pieces define femininity, luxury and intricate detail. She told Elite Traveler about her biggest accomplishments so far, where her ideas come from and her upcoming projects.
Tell us a bit about the history of Penny Preville.
This year marks our 40th anniversary. I started making jewelry and engagement rings back in the 1970s mostly for friends and family. I first sold jewelry out of a red wagon on Fire Island. In 1975, my husband and I established our jewelry company in New York City. What started out as a hobby turned into a business when Bloomingdales bought and successfully sold my debut collection.Then word started to spread about my designs. I then went on to win the 1978 jewelers of America New Designer of the Year Award
You are in a family run business with the next generation now involved. How does that impact your day-to-day decisions.
I love working with my family. They inspire me every day, they are honest and they bring a fresh perspective to our business. We have to stay young, to stay relevant, so my family is really my sounding board.
Tell me about your biggest accomplishment of the past year.
I am proud of so many things the team has accomplished this year. But probably the most important thing we’ve done for our business is expanded our range of price points to appeal to a wider demographic. So far, retailers have responded really well and we’ve seen quite an increase in sales.
Who/What has been your biggest inspiration and why?
My original inspirations were my mother and grandmother. My mother was an artist, an interior designer and an antique dealer. My grandmother was a painter. I used to visit my grandmother every Sunday. I would sneak into her room where she kept a beautiful jewelry box that looked like a bejeweled treasure chest. Inside, I found gemstones, jewelry creations from Cartier, Tiffany, Van Cleef and others. Each piece represented a story from my grandmother’s life. That was the beginning of my love affair with jewelry.
What upcoming project are you most excited about?
Well, you’re the first to know that I’m currently working on a collection of one-of-a-kind pieces. It’s giving me such a platform for creativity and innovation. I love working with an array of metals and gemstones. I’m very excited if you couldn’t tell!
I love going to the shows and seeing the trends. For us, we focused on nature – specifically feathers and leaves, stars and the moon – I find so much inspiration in natural elements. I’m also very inspired by the art deco trend. I love that era and to be able to design updated pieces that have that 1920’s vintage feel, is a dream come true.
What have been some challenges you have had to overcome in the past year?
One of my biggest recent challenges has been recovering from a (successful!) spinal fusion. I was definitely bed-ridden for a while, but it gave me an opportunity to focus on my creative energy and not be distracted by every day things. As a result, I very proud of my newest collection coming out this Fall/Winter 2015.
What materials and techniques do you favor? Has that changed through the years?
I think I am most well known for my signature detailing, such as engraving, filigree and milgrain. Even as my collections evolve and mature, I always stay true to that. It’s a romantic and timeless look that’s iconic to my brand. So I always strive to incorporate that into my designs.
How do you define luxury?
Luxury is very personal and different for everyone. To me, luxury is not a dollar value, it’s the way it makes you feel. To me, jewelry expresses a woman’s personality and has a sentimental value like no other luxury item. Jewelry evokes emotion, memories and marks moments in our lives. Every day, my goal is to create jewelry that emotionally affects people, and becomes a part of their life’s story.
How do you approach a new collection? Where do your ideas evolve from?
When starting on a new collection, I draw inspiration from the world around me. I study past and present cultures and ancient civilizations, along with nature, the arts, and fashion. I romance these elements, making them feel fresh for a contemporary woman. . The results are reflected in my Art Deco and Edwardian designs, as well as in design elements incorporated into all my creations.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to travel and be exposed to other cultures. So, in my free time, my husband and I travel all over the world. But, when I’m home in New York, my favorite thing to do is spend time with my four grandsons! Hopefully, I’ll be making their engagement rings one day!