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jill heller

A Jewelry Collection So Good Rihanna Keeps Borrowing It

We still haven’t recovered from our afternoon with Jill Heller.

By: Leah Faye Cooper
Styling: Daniella Deutsch, Monique Kamargo
Photography: Alec Kugler

Among those who walk into a jewelry store—be it a flagship luxury boutique or a lesser-known indie shop—and find themselves underwhelmed by the offerings is a growing list of clients nixing the traditional retail experience for something far more gratifying: an appointment with the NYC-based stylist and designer Jill Heller. The former Esquire editor and longtime jewelry collector specializes in vintage pieces from prominent, long-established brands, as well as designs plucked from world travels and her own collection of classic-meets-contemporary jewels.

“I covered watches and jewelry at Esquire, then started making jewelry for friends after I had my daughter,” Heller tells us when we visit her Upper East Side home. “Making jewelry turned into collecting for myself, and collecting turned into buying, then selling or loaning.” Fifteen years later, Heller’s number is the one dialed when Nicki Minaj needs a vintage chain-link bracelet or Rihanna wants to party-hop in diamond cuffs.

As we pored over Heller’s bijou, we discovered much more than enamel inlays and 18k gold. Most of the pieces have a story behind them, and some are incredibly valuable despite not having a designer name.

Click through for more on Heller’s career, sense of style, and insane jewelry collection.

“My parents loved to travel. Taking [my siblings and I] with them was something we were really lucky to experience. Traveling as a little girl to Morocco, Nepal, Africa, and India, I was always aware of jewelry around me. I love big, bold silver pieces. I have a huge collection of them.”

“The first one I bought was one of these bracelets in a Moroccan souk when I was 10 years old.”

“I bought [this necklace] in Morocco many years later. I think it’s 200 years old. It just spoke to me, so I had to have it.”

“Vintage Bulgari is a passion of mine because, again, I love big and bold. I like to wear one major piece of jewelry and nothing else.”

“Over the past 10 years I’ve been loving old David Webb and Cartier. The ’40s is an era that I definitely look to collect, and ’70s, too.”

“Some of my pieces have no signature and aren’t by a specific designer, but I find them when I’m traveling and think they have a great look. I found this necklace in Paris from a dealer. It’s a great chain that I love, with a huge aquamarine stone.”

“Over the last year Rihanna has become a huge fan. She wore some pieces to last year’s Met Gala after-party, and a pair of earrings at the Grammys. We also picked out some things for when she had a street named after her in Barbados a few months ago. That’s all been really exciting.”

“Instagram has given me a platform to post jewelry daily. It’s quick and relevant, and things sell almost immediately. Clients that follow me are looking at what I post every day, and if something works for them, they’ll say, ‘Send it to me in Michigan.’ And I’ll send it to Michigan. That’s how it works. It’s wild.”

“I’m very detail-oriented. I think I know what different people are looking for, and I’m good at knowing what to put on them based on who they are and what their style is. There’s a range of what I like, and every client is different, but it’s all in the realm of what I think is cool and chic.”

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