"Jewelry changes all the time. What we do is edit, from many different periods but always showing artists working in precious metals with technical excellence and signature style." That's the gospel according to Patricia Faber, owner with husband Edward of New York's Aaron Faber Gallery. But she is being modest. What they really do is showcase an extraordinary array of one-of-a-kind pieces in fine metals and gems, as well as an impressive collection of vintage watches, a subject in which Edward Faber is an expert.
The original gallery—which debuted in 1974—was much smaller and darker than the soaring, whitewashed space that opened in April 1999, but from the beginning the goal has been the same: to show studio artists and 20th-century designers whose work is in the great tradition of fine silver-and goldsmithing. Patricia, who earned a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America, has a great eye for such work, a passion for beautiful but also wearable pieces, and a talent for discovering artists like Michael Bondanza and David Yurman early in their careers. "We represented Yurman when he was handmaking pieces," she says.
These days they exhibit artists such as Bernd Munsteiner, who specializes in large, carved gemstones like tourmaline, topaz, and aquamarine; Ute Buchert-Büge, known for combining gold and platinum in exquisite, clean-line designs, and Michael Zobel, an artist known for boldness and flair, as in his 18-karat rose gold and platinum combinations. Ten years ago the Fabers began to exhibit estate jewelry, often Art Nouveau or Retro Modern, and they generally have on hand a number of signed Tiffany and Cartier pieces.They also have a bridal diamond salon known for gentle pricing, consumer education, and a range of settings from estate collections and modern designers like Whitney Boin and Van Craeynest.
The watch collection, which represents a third of their business, was, as Ed Faber admits, accidental. "About twenty years ago someone showed me a great watch from the fifties. I said, 'No one is interested in old watches,' but he was persistent, so I said, 'I'll take this collection of old watches and prove I'm right.' I was wrong. Within a week we'd sold half of them. Within a year I'd become knowledgeable about what was rare. We set up a repair/restoration facility, and there still aren't many of those. It's easy to deal in new watches, harder to restore the old ones."
Their collection spans the spectrum and includes such high-end items as a 1951 Vacheron Constantin with a backwind and 30 carats of diamonds ($75,000) and a vintage Patek Philippe platinum perpetual calendar with two chronographs ($152,000). Generally, Faber prefers watches from 1925 to 1950, when styles were understated and elegant. And he usually succeeds when customers ask him to track specific watches, such as the one-button porcelain-dial Patek Philippe chronograph wristwatch it took him two years to find. Currently he's promoting pocket watches. "You can find great workmanship and great value. The ones from 1900 to 1930 are unbelievable," he says. "I'm generally a contrarian. I like to look where no one else is looking." It seems to be in the right direction.
Aaron Faber, 666 Fifth Avenue; 212-586-8411; fax 212-582-0205.