June 08 2011
When Fiona Druckenmiller worked in investment management on Wall Street, she started collecting estate jewellery; she continued for 20 years, adding furniture, objets d’art and Asian sculpture into the mix, before opening her own boutique gallery, FD, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, late last year. Her aim, she says, was to move away from the formality and predictability of Madison Avenue shopping. She saw a growing appetite for “bold and beautiful designs that cannot be replicated”, and set out to nurture a cultivated, discerning taste for vintage, and modern, luxury; for one-of-a-kind jewels, first-edition books, sculpture, art-deco furniture, watches and Birkin bags.
There is a strong curatorial element to the boutique, with a quirky mix that sets vintage in a new context: part gallery space, part salon, moving into the realm of installation art – the windows, designed by artist Morne Ferreira, are changed every three weeks. With husband Stanley, Druckenmiller is one of the biggest philanthropists in the US, and at FD she wants to offer good value and realistic prices.
So far, FD has attracted a core clientele of high-flyers, including Nancy Shevell, who bought Paul McCartney’s Christmas gift here (a 1960s glass vase), and Lise Evans, whose husband heads up Goldman Sachs Asia. Many customers are drawn in by the rare, museum-quality signed jewels, from the 1920s to the 1980s, by Druckenmiller’s favourite creators: Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Lacloche, Verdura, the Americans Paul Flato, Raymond Yard and David Webb, as well as names such as Belperron, Boivin and Claude Lalanne. Visit and you might spot a Cartier Mystery clock ($272,188), a Van Cleef & Arpels Zip necklace ($205,000) or a rose-gold Aldo Cipullo nail-head bangle ($9,255). Details of intriguing provenances, such as a Van Cleef ruby ring once owned by Madame Claude Arpels ($620,588), or bracelets given as diplomatic gifts by an Ethiopian president ($52,260 for set), are shown in electronic dossiers, viewed on iPads and a giant monitor.
There are earlier 19th-century treasures too, and a selection of jewels by contemporary artists such as Michelle Ong, James de Givenchy and the brilliant but reclusive Daniel Brush. Indeed, Druckenmiller’s doll-like appearance belies a formidable determination, which surely helped her secure exclusive modern jewels by Hemmerle of Munich and Mumbai’s Viren Bhagat.
At the back, the gallery and its modern showcases give way to a cosy library-cum-drawing-room, with fireplace, armchairs and an espresso bar. Druckenmiller wants clients to take their time, and she caters to men too with vintage watches, cuff links, or even “a Scotch and a cigar”.