Sidney Garber jewelry is a rare hybrid of streamlined modernity and unique heritage. We first took note of the brand when we saw intelligent women around New York sporting stacks of their covetable Domed Cuffs. While we were in Los Angeles, the jewels again caught our eye at The Row store on Melrose Place. Upon further research, we became intrigued by the woman at the helm of reviving her family’s legendary jewelry brand: Brooke Garber Neidich. We were thrilled when Brooke invited us to visit the the art and jewelry-filled Sidney Garber store on Madison Avenue, which evokes intimacy and elegance as soon as you step inside.
Brooke grew up watching her father build Sidney Garber in Chicago from the ground up with no formal training. A New York transplant with a commitment to philanthropy and art, Brooke chose to revitalize her family’s brand and reception has been swift and remarkable. She invited us to her corner of the Upper East Side for an afternoon of storytelling and sparkle. -Jenna Fain for The Stone Set
“My father started Sidney Garber in 1946. I grew up at the store and loved being there at my father’s side. It was a grown up world; very magical. Later, I traveled with my father to all the great ateliers in Paris and Milan, from the small workshops and large factories in Vicenza and Valenza and Arezzo to the stone cutters in Idar-Oberstein. From when I was a little girl, I worked starting at age five or six to support my father at the store. He was there all the time. I sat in front of the safe and they would give me trays of charms (those were huge then) and I’d play and organize them. Then I would put the watches or bracelets out. Using the Windex was a huge deal for me…being able to clean those beautiful cases!
When my father started going to Europe, I was in my teens and I traveled with him to the Milan Fair before the Basel Fair ever started. He always wanted to be at the stores and work with the key manufacturer that made the chain, instead of the middle men. He insisted on providing all his own stones, diamonds, and pearls and eventually we were doing all of our business in Italy and shipping stones there. The pieces were made in Italy, but he picked every single stone. That was unusual: at the time, no one singlehandedly did all of that.
My father was a legend, had a great eye, and asked a million questions. I learned that his curiosity was his way of learning the business because he didn’t grow up in the jewelry industry. Most people sat at their stores in America and waited for a traveling salesman with a suitcase. My father started by going to New York but once he saw what was happening in Europe, he went there. He was known for his amazing sense of style and design and was incredibly mechanical. I grew up with the ability to say, “This is the best stone.” Our pearls are still the best quality and are a huge part of our DNA. Back then, diamonds weren’t graded. You had to live quality. Now, the GIA system is behind you. There is some magic and life that isn’t just conveyed in a GIA report or on paper. Having them in your hand, they sing.
As I got older and then married, one Christmas there was little I liked at the store and I asked him to go to Italy in January. He was thrilled about that and for the next eight years, I would go, buy, and design with him, but I wasn’t in the store on a day to day basis. I inherited the business and I thought I would close it but it was the recession and I had six employees. What would they do? I hired a consultant who told me to open a store in New York. Being careful through the recession and hiring amazing talent has allowed us to soar. I also had the idea to give away my profits. We donate Sidney Garber proceeds to the Whitney Museum and the Child Mind Institute. Also to Lincoln Center Theatre and 52 other charities, many based in Chicago. I am passionate about children’s brains, as I feel we can understand and unlock so much knowledge with research. I love theatre and art; they feed my soul. The joy of supporting what I am passionate about is immeasurable!
People love our continuing romance with bracelets, from the Domed Cuff to the Rolling Bracelet and a new bracelet called the Wave—a wonderful mesh link bracelet you slip over your hand. I think of jewelry as permanent. If you buy our jewelry, I want you to wear it every single day. I don’t want it to sit in a drawer. I love jewelry, I wear jewelry every day! Our new Wave Link bracelet is my current favorite. I wear five stacked together on my right wrist. I was wearing another five on the left but we cannot keep them in stock and I keep having to sell mine!
I also wear an earring every day, most often a large oval titanium hoop with tiny diamonds, it is weightless. My necklaces are always layered. Our Flat Tivoli Link necklace is my perennial favorite layered with my charm necklaces. It sounds like a lot when I write it! I wear very tailored clothes: no prints, no ruffles. Black, grey, and navy are my favorite colors, mostly from The Row.
For the Sidney Garber store on Madison Avenue, I used a wonderful architect, A+i, whose specialty is retail. I added art and books and objects I love and it was done! I had been doing trunk shows at The Mark and was using a model apartment. There were tables and chairs but no cases. It informed how I felt about the store. I wanted it to feel like a living room with easy chairs and sofas. I wanted it to feel residential and have books, art, and objects and things I love being around. Except for the cases, I bought almost nothing. Everything else was from our storage.
My father had an amazing eye for quality. I hope mine is half as good. I know what I do and do not know. The best thing I did was hire Susan Nicholas to be president of Sidney Garber. She was at Tag Heuer and H. Stern and has built successful companies. Her skills, honesty and knowledge guide our growth. I also learn from Mary Kate and Ashley every time I am with them. Their style informs mine! I am true to myself, I believe in my eye, I know what women want to wear. It is as simple as that!” -Brooke Garber Neidich
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set