The Royal Jewellers S01 ep10 : Barry Kieselstein Cord Jewellery [NY]
Interview with Barry Kieselstein Cord
NEW YORK - Barry Kieselstein Cord - Jeweller/Artist whose work is exhibited in the Louvre
A few weeks ago, I had some people in here and they said "Oh you like old cars?" and I said "Yes I have a car racing team, we travel all around the country racing cars" They said "Excuse me...Wait a minute I thought you were a jewellery designer?" And I replied "Well, yes, I do that too". My dream when I was young, besides getting into these great museums, and making an indelable American brand, was very much to have an atelier very much like one of the Sun Kings.
I am a trained artist. I illustrated for a living partially, I have done commercial
films. My work is in the Louvre, it’s in the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, it’s
in the Eastern Museum of Fine art, Los Angeles Museum, it’s in the Louisiana
Museum of Fine Art, I can keep going...
I came from an artistic family, my father was an architect, my mother did
illustrations, my grandfather was a shoe designer with his own factories, my
grandmother sang with Caruso. So I really followed my whim, and the first
things I did were really recreations of Native American artefacts, based on the
things that I had seen in the Museum of Natural History - totem poles and
KM: This is not at the age of 9 or 10 surely?
KM: You're kidding?
KM: You were really doing this stuff at that early age?
Oh I totally remember, and as a matter of fact I remember please this is not
ego, I remember friends of my parents saying I want you to sign these
because you are going to be famous someday and believe it or not they still
have the piece.
People have a tendency to assume I do eye wear, people have a tendency to
assume I do belts, or I do handbags, or I do jewellery - I mean it is always
something that someone has the wrong opinion... which is fine, they are
always getting surprised. A few weeks ago, I had some people in here and
they said 'Oh you like old cars?' and I said, "Yes I have a car racing team, we
travel all around the country racing cars" They said excuse me... Yes I have a
12-man team, we have 6 cars and we go all around the country racing. Wait a
minute I thought you were a jewellery designer. Well, yes, I do that too.
I used to do all the models myself, I do the drawings, I no longer do finished
renderings except on the rare occasions and I no longer physically make the
models myself, only on rare occasions. I no longer have the time, so what I will
do the conceptual renderings and the scaling and I will watch every step of the
process, so I commission it within my own organisation. I am totally vertically
oriented; we have our own foundry in house.
KM: Why jewellery, why not just statues, why not..?
It was really by accident. A girlfriend invited me to take a jewellery course one
Summer when I was in the film business and it was for 3 weeks, 2 nights a
week, and since I was hot after her I decided that I might stay glued to her
side, made a few pieces of jewellery and when I abandoned that business a
friend by the name of Michael Braun admired the three pieces I had made, and
Michael suggested that I do it as a living. I thought so highly of Michael that I
decided that I would do it, and low and behold through long trials and efforts
and through 15 years of an overnight success, it actually turned into a
We are probably the only luxury company in this country, because we make so
many different products under the one luxury brand. Where you have handbag
maker, yes you have a jeweller here, yes you have a stem wear manufacturer,
but you don't have a conglomeration that forms one luxury company. My
dream when I was young, besides getting into these great museums, in
making an indelible American brand, was to really have an atelier very much
like one of the sun kings had, where you had the furniture, the baker, the
candlestick makers, the jeweller, the coiffure, and the courtier all in one
environment and they made these incredible things.
KM: How would you characterise your jewellery?
I would say traditional contemporary.
KM: Why have you gone for that genre?
I am comfortable with it; I did probably more and have continued to do more of
my fair share of ground breaking introductions. Initially for five years I could not
sell jewellery, because it was so earth shaking compared to everybody else
which lead me to abandon trade shows, which we did not return to until two
years ago because people would literally pick up things and throw them at me.
People would present me with books and say you need some ideas, your
finishes are insane, your representation have no reference, they ....it was
ridiculous, I earned a lot of fights with ah.....
KM: You're kidding?
No, no, no because it was really ground breaking. It is still considered ground
breaking. Do you know that if you go to law school, you must study my
lawsuits for plagiarism on copyrights? It is required, you cannot get out of law
school without studying my cases, because I made history, not only in
collections I am in, not only with people who own my product, because some
of the intellectual product that was ground breaking.
I don't really make jewellery; they are power symbols - that is all I make. That
is what the jewellery is, a power symbol, it says this is who I am, and this is
what I have to say and if the potential client or collector understands the
message and they can afford to buy the product they do. Sometimes I do a
thing that is whimsical and it is meant for amusement but there is usually a
message with every piece that I do – they are all power symbols. You are
wearing a watch of a particular manufacturer and designer, it is not a Rolex, it
is not a Timex, it is a status symbol, you are saying to somebody, and that is
the only thing that you are wearing that I recognise as a status symbol and you
are saying I may be dressed as casual as you can believe it, but dam it I am
wearing a $10,000 watch or whatever the cost of it is. So you are telling me
that you have the wherewithal, to have that, so you are saying I am part of a
certain club and you are projecting that.
It has a million meanings, but it always gets down to status - you got married
you gave a piece of jewellery as part of the dowry. You were a tribal chief and
you had to signify it somehow. You were a deity who you prayed to you had to
give an offering. Look at the Military how do you know where you rank, by an
accessory. What does the accessory say, either I am a buck private or I am a
general, or I am a 4 star general for that matter. What does the president
wear, the highest status symbol possible, just a little flag.
We are talking about how to sell to customers. What do you do when a
customer is... this is in Texas, which is pretty funny; this is a number of years
ago when I went to Texas to do a personal appearance. I was relating a bunch
of stories, this woman comes in wearing a fur coat, I had been warned about
her, being eccentric, she comes in with two body guards wearing a fur coat,
and I won't use her name which I remember all too clearly, and she said, "Well
Mr. Cord, welcome to Texas - I said it is so nice to meet you Miss So and So, I
have heard you have already come into the store. She said, yes, you know,
my husband and I are really rich, and I said that is great. I am wearing this
necklace, see this, this has got an oil well on it, it has got a hamburger stand
on it, you know it has got this and it has got that, and that is a jet plane. And I
said oh yes that is very, very nice, well I need something for my waist.
Something for your waist, what can it be? So she said take a look at my waist
and let me know. So she opens up her fur coat and she had nothing on.
KM: Oh come on!
It is a true story.
KM: Are you serious?
Bodyguards reached over and closed shut the coat and say that will be enough
Mrs. Blank - I think he has got the idea.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Barry Kieselstein Cord Jewellery