"Jewelry has always been a purchase that is tied to an emotional connection," Ashley Zhang, the fine jewelry designer behind her eponymous fine jewelry brand, tells TZR. During the pandemic-induced upheaval of the luxury market, Zhang saw a new opportunity in antique heirlooms, which she has been joyfully collecting for over a decade. "Many of these pieces are over 100 years old. They have been through wars, tough times, and still remain beautiful, or as I would argue, even more beautiful with time." Serving as tokens of resilience, Ashley Zhang pivoted to selling vintage pieces during COVID-19 — and the response was overwhelming.
As a lifelong collector of antique designs, Zhang has been reconciling the old with the new since she launched her namesake brand in 2018. "I knew [that] I didn't want to choose between selling only my designs or only antique finds," she shares. "I want my customers to mix these pieces as I do for myself." Since then, the vintage side of her business has steadily run parallel to her collection of signature rolling rings and limited edition jade talismans. It was only once COVID-19 forced brands to pause production that Zhang was able to focus on the secondhand venture.
To get started, Zhang pooled finds from her stockpile of antique fine jewelry, while also working with private collectors across the U.S. and Europe to purloin "new" styles. "I always look for items that are unique, collectible, and have interesting details. Every piece I sell has to be something I would also want for myself." The collectors then ship the styles overseas for Zhang to inspect. "If I feel excited or an emotional connection to a piece, I know my clients and followers will too!" This is true: during the pandemic, as many as 10 vintage pieces would sell through the brand's well-followed Instagram per week, often going so quickly that they never even made it to Zhang's e-store.
Zhang's rare collection is filled with pieces plucked from deep in the archives, including Victorian-era turquoise snake rings, '70s diamond-crusted, chain-link bracelets, and opalescent navettes from 1880. And, when it comes to styling these storied pieces, Zhang's IG provides the ultimate inspiration. "Clients [have loved seeing Instagram] videos in different lighting, styled different ways, and with little extra facts about what makes each piece so special," says Zhang. "As many people have lost or are separated from their loved ones, they can purchase a piece that is symbolic to them and know that because it is an antique fine jewelry item they will wear it for a lifetime."
To shop the forever pieces, continue ahead — and be sure to read up on the biggest jewelry trends this summer to pick up something that is both timely and timeless.
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