Kentshire – Exceptional, Wearable Jewels
t's not everyday you come across a multi-generational business who’s adapted to changing times as well as Kentshire, an antique jewellery firm based out of Manhattan’s most infamous addresses, Rockefeller Plaza and Bergdorf Goodman. With a third generation of owners at the helm, the team at Kentshire embraces their founding principles of quality, with each jewel carefully considered, and whispering, “wear me.”
While the current business may be focussed on jewellery, that wasn’t always the case. Benson Imberman, the grandfather of the current custodians Matthew and Carrie, started out as a silver merchant, sourcing fine Georgian and Victorian silverware for the well-to-do of 1940’s Manhattan. In 1960, the firm expanded into the Village’s antique district – sourcing antique home furnishings and curious objects. The business would relocate again within the Village in 1975, seven years after Benson’s son and son-in-law, Fred and Robert, joined the company. Kentshire would continue to grow into one of the most notable antique dealers in New York, and has worked privately with some of the world’s most renowned collectors and interior designers.
Pioneering Women in Jewellery
In 1985, Kentshire would add a jewellery gallery to the third floor of their downtown showroom after pioneering duo, Ellen and Marcie, the wives of Fred and Robert, began accompanying their husbands on buying trips. While Ellen (a teacher) and Marcie (an editor) had no prior experience working in the jewellery industry, they found themselves naturally drawn to the beautiful objects they discovered, and started bringing pieces back to sell to friends. Their word-of-mouth business and passion for jewellery eclipsed their prior careers, and they pursued their own destiny with a partnership at Kentshire. This partnership would blossom, and eventually expand into a satellite showroom at Bergdorf Goodman in 1988.
Marcie and Ellen, the founders of the Kentshire jewellery department.
It wasn’t just an entrepreneurial spirit Marcie and Ellen brought to the table when they joined Kentshire – it was also a unique and fresh perspective on what was a mostly male controlled industry. Matthew explained to me, “I grew up watching the business run by two women, as did my sister, and saw how their mindset differed to that of their male industry peers. When I started working with jewellery, I realized male-driven businesses tend to look at jewels from a very different entry point, usually heirlooms or large and important gemstones. What really made sense from Marcie and Ellen’s viewpoint was that each piece they bought was as exceptional as it was wearable.”
Kentshire’s Third Generation
After careers in contemporary art and fashion (respectively,) Matthew and Carrie decided to join the family business in 2004. At first, working in separate departments, Matthew in furniture and Carrie in jewellery, the pair would eventually collaborate more often and begin building their vision of what Kentshire is today. As Fred and Robert looked towards retirement, and began noticing a declining trend in the antique furniture industry, a decision was made to sell their 12th street headquarters, and transfer the furniture inventory to other collectors via a single-owner sale held with Sotheby’s in 2014.
Matthew and Carrie, the current custodians of Kentshire.
After nearly 40 years at the same location, the chapter of antique furniture in Kentshire’s history was coming to an end, but only for another to begin. “The jewellery department was actually growing,” Matthew explained, “it’s a segment which always had interest, is fashionable, and has fewer logistical challenges; so it just made sense to us as the next generation to pivot the business towards exclusively working in jewellery.” He continued, “Looking back, and at how the industries are today, I think we really made all the right decisions.”
Sourcing the Finest
Shortly after selling the previous Kentshire headquarters, Matthew and Carrie decided to open an office in Rockefeller Plaza to continue sourcing exceptional jewels for their discerning clients. Reflecting back on magnificent jewels which have passed through Kentshire’s doors, Matthew described to me one of his most memorable and enchanting pieces, “It was a large scale retro, amethyst and diamond bracelet, owned by Joan Crawford, and designed by the head of MGM studios, Gilbert Adrian. It had this wonderful inscription inside, ‘Dearest, the third step on our bridge you have built so well. I love you forever and a day, Philip. July 21, 1945.” He continued, “…the fact that it belonged to Joan Crawford is incredible, and when you think of Hollywood glamour at the time, It’s very hard to get better than her. The bracelet is also exceptional, and it’s even more special because it was a piece made specifically for her, not something selected out of a showcase. It’s all of these things put together that summarize a moment in time in jewellery which made it very exciting to have.”
The Kentshire Gallery
When you enter the Kentshire gallery on the seventh floor of Bergdorf Goodman the outside world melts away, and their world of jewellery becomes your oyster. Pieces from the most respected houses line their showcases, neatly organized alongside unsigned jewels of equal quality and beauty, each one begging to be tried on. Matthew told me, “We specialize in things which aren’t out there in great numbers, things that really speak to people. I believe what clients are looking for now is jewellery which carries a certain degree of sentimentality, that brings good karma as it goes on, or is up cycled.” He continued, “We cover so many eras, from the 17th century to even creeping into the 21st century if it really excites us, all starting at an approachable price point for what may even be considered a statement piece. Because of that, I think everyone can come in and discover something for themselves.”