Through the decades, the Jay Strongwater brand has evolved from its roots in arts and crafts inspired necklaces to a full-blown luxury lifestyle, jewelry and home goods collection. Founder and designer Jay Strongwater has always had close ties to his family—his first piece was created for his mother. Here, he shares the familial heirloom that means the most to him: a painting commissioned by his grandmother.
Tell us how you came to own this precious object.
This charming painting my grandmother, Annabelle had commissioned showing scenes from her life. Divided into nine sections, it depicts vignettes of Annabelle, her husband Jules, their children Penny, my mother, and her brother Peter. Everything from Jules and Annabelle waving as they leave their apartment on Riverside Drive in New York City, my mother in her prom dress, Annabelle and Jules vacationing in Mexico, the family reading the Sunday paper in bed together, Annabelle shopping for antiques. Growing up I never knew this painting existed. Unfortunately my mother and her mother did not always have a close relationship. It was not until my mother passed away that I found it tucked away in the attic.
How do you live with your heirloom?
Today I see it everyday as it hangs in our bedroom. I always think that it was such a charming way to capture moments in a family’s life. In a way, the idea of someone painting these miniature portraits and scenes seems very intimate and special.
Who in your life has most influenced your personal style and taste?
My mother! Penny was an over the top exuberant personality who was very stylish and loved designer fashions. As a young boy, watching her wear Sonia Rykiel and Saint Laurent mesmerized me. My first jewelry designs were always created knowing how well they would look when she wore them. She was my best ambassador!
Fill in the blank: Whenever I look at [blank], I can't help but smile.
Old photographs of family and friends. I get somewhat nostalgic, looking back and remembering that captured moment in time.
What's the best part of your day?
Designing the type of decorative pieces I create for the home can be a long process, sometimes taking up to year in development, with many steps along the way. But when it all comes together, and the shape, color and stoning look beautiful, there is no better feeling.
What was the most memorable gift you've ever given or received?
The gift my parents gave me of encouraging and nurturing my artistic endeavors all my life. First as a little boy, by taking me to art classes or art camps in the summer. Later on when I wanted to start a jewelry business they were there to help me realize my dreams.
What was your last purchase that you believe will mean something to you 10 years from now?
I have three wonderful nieces, and when each one graduated from college, I have given them a Cartier Tank watch. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for them and remembering back to their joy of receiving that gift.