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Penny’s From Heaven

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Meant to be worn every day, Penny Preville’s jewelry is timeless

march07-11.jpgOpulent, detailed, gorgeous and thoughtful. Those are only a handful of words that can justifiably describe renowned jewelry designer Penny Preville’s exquisite pieces. Her beautiful creations—meant to be worn every day of a woman’s life, from black-tie events to soccer games—are coveted by those who appreciate a little luxury in their lives.

Preville will be in town on Saturday, March 24, to launch her fabulous new spring collection at a trunk show at Aucoin Hart Jewelers, the exclusive retailer of Penny Preville jewelry in the New Orleans area. Customers old and new will be stunned by the bedazzling array of hoops, loops, rings and other bling that Preville promises to bring with her, adding yet another dimension of sparkle to the city of New Orleans.

Penny, you haven’t been to New Orleans since your last trunk show in 2005. You must be looking forward to your upcoming trip!

Oh, absolutely! We’re having a kick-off cocktail party on Friday evening, March 23, and the trunk show will be on Saturday at Aucoin Hart, and that Sunday I’m going to help the people from Aucoin Hart build a house in the Musicians’ Village for Habitat for Humanity. I am so excited about participating in that! I just thought it would be a great opportunity for me to help out, and it’s important to give back to the community. Tommy Aucoin Jr. has really gotten involved with this project, and I know the people at Aucoin Hart are excited and committed to building the house. We’ll be continuing to raise money as well for this project down the line.

Your jewelry has been at Aucoin Hart for a few years now and it sells very well there.

And the Aucoins are the sweetest people in the whole world! Everyone there is so nice and warm; they are such gentlemen. And, of course, the women there are fantastic, too. Aucoin Hart is one of my favorite stores to visit; the people are just pleasant, genuine and normal! (Laughs) And yes, our business is really building there, so that’s exciting for us. There are a lot of “Penny” customers that have collected my jewelry who do repeat business.

What kinds of jewelry will you be showcasing this month at Aucoin Hart?

I’m bringing my entire collection; I’ve made new pieces for the spring. There will be a lot of cuffs in all different sizes: big, wide ones along with thinner ones; and stacking the thinner ones is cool. A big trend right now is to wear multiple chains; layering is popular. And hoops are hot. Earrings run the gamut— anything pretty works; long and dangly is big. I do color, and I use 18-karat green gold, which has a bit of green in it—it’s more of a softer, richer, ancient color. Rose-gold jewelry is new for me, and I did a whole collection of fleur-de-lis pieces for New Orleans which I’m really excited about.

I understand that you are a big fan of New Orleans!

I love the people in New Orleans. They’re so friendly and fun-loving and the culture is so rich, and I love the food and the energy. One morning we went to Café Du Monde for beignets and it was great. Everywhere I’ve eaten in New Orleans has been an experience. I went to Magazine Street and ended up buying a beautiful piece of furniture for my house, too.

Your jewelry pieces are so pretty and they’re feminine; they’ve got an antique quality about them, but they’re also fresh and modern as well.

Thank you! That’s how I feel about my jewelry. I’m inspired by different historical periods; I love doing research and viewing architecture, books and fabrics. I like to do pieces inspired by antique jewelry that come out in a different way. I think how I’d want to wear it so that it’s fresher, feminine and romantic. And when someone puts it on, it enhances their inner beauty; it shows their individualism and a different side of them. I love when someone comes in and they say, “No, no, I don’t wear earrings like that,” and I have them try it on—they look in the mirror and go, “Wow!” It really gives them a whole different look that they fall in love with.

You design jewelry to be worn every day instead of having it only for special occasions. So instead of it just sitting in a box, it gets worn and enjoyed.

I feel that’s the reason we’ve been so successful with the company. We have found our niche, which is jewelry that people can wear every day. The jewelry is meant to be worn all the time, whether to a blacktie affair or otherwise. The same necklace can be worn with jeans and a pretty camisole top. I started doing lifestyle jewelry in the ’80s because as I grew older, I did everything with my two boys, like going to basketball and soccer games, so I designed jewelry that I needed for my own lifestyle. I keep evolving, and I’m always creating different pieces.

Your pieces are seen on the red carpet all the time. And you get a lot of editorial in magazines such as In Style.

I’ve been very fortunate. I get lots editorial and the magazines use my jewelry often on celebrities, on covers or in their stories. Different celebrities have borrowed pieces for events, too. I’ve gone to the Golden Globes and the Oscars, and I’ve met many famous people who’ve worn my jewelry. Sandra Bullock has some of my rings; Oprah has a necklace of mine; I’ve made cuff links for Jamie Foxx. And Eva Longoria has been seen at basketball games wearing my hoops.

That must make you feel great.

I love seeing women wearing my jewelry! It just still excites me so much! I never lose that feeling. I love women having fun with my jewelry and expressing themselves.

I used to love to dig in my mother’s and both of my grandmother’s jewelry boxes—in fact I still do! Is that something you did as well?

My grandmother had a beautiful jewelry box encrusted with jewels, like a treasure chest. My grandfather bought her beautiful, fine pieces of jewelry, and I was totally fascinated by them. And when I was young, I just totally started making jewelry out of anything I could find. As I got older, I started working with metals and stones and it just progressed.

Women in your family were inspirational to you in your career.

My grandmother was an amazing artist; she painted Limoges china in the 1920s and her pieces are very art nouveau, floral and just incredible. And my mother was an art connoisseur who collected art, and she was a sculptor, painter and an interior designer. So I grew up with all that surrounding me. My mom also had a little antique shop close to the house, so after school I would go there and I loved looking at all the antiques. She always had lots of fabrics around, and I loved all those textures and patterns. And my other grandmother had a beautiful jewelry collection.

My mother was a strong influence on me; my parents got divorced when I was 10 years old. My mom had to work. She went back to school to become an interior designer, and she opened her own shop; she did all of this on her own. I was so proud of her. And that really helped me in doing what I’m doing today; it gave me a path to follow and it inspired me. It was hard because she was a single mother raising two girls. She was a great role model.

Later you sold jewelry to Henri Bendel, and you are in top stores everywhere today.

Yes, I did and on that same day I also sold to Bloomingdale’s. That was in the late ’70s when I first got started. But here’s a really cute story … Before I did that I was with my husband who was probably my boyfriend at the time, and we were in Fire Island in New York, where there are no cars—you have to take a boat over there. So when you want groceries, you have to take a little red wagon with you. I had made some jewelry and most of them were turquoise, coral and sterling silver pieces. My husband, who is really good at display now, made a little display in the wagon and I went into town with my best friend and we each had Irish setters so we just sat in the middle of town with the wagon and the two dogs and I sold about $175 worth of jewelry that day, and that was my first real experience of actually selling something. Then I started seriously making jewelry and that was when I showed my collection to Henri Bendel.

Your company is a real family business.

Yes, my husband, Jay Siskin, runs the production side and runs the business. My son Skyler is the director of advertising, and my youngest son, Derek, just came to work for us this week, which is exciting. I love having my family work with me!

Does your husband ever try to buy you jewelry as a gift?

No! (Laughs) Because when I want something, I just design it for myself. I love clothes, shoes and bags and things for my house, but no, he can’t get me jewelry. If I want something, I just design it and I feel that’s the only way that I’ll get it!

Glancing at your gorgeous Web site, it’s obvious that you love to work with diamonds.

Yes, the pieces have lots of diamonds in them. Lots of times I try to take a concept of something that is $50,000 or $100,000 and pare it down to something you could wear every day, something that might retail for $5,000 instead of something that would be kept in a vault.

So you must believe that diamonds are indeed a girl’s best friend …

I totally think diamonds are a girl’s best friend! I think everybody glitters and shines in diamonds. I love stones and pearls and everything, but I think diamonds are what every woman really wants.