Simon Teakle began his career in the fine jewelry business working for major auction houses at age 25 in London. Recently, he’s changed direction by opening his own business in a coveted retail nook just off Greenwich Avenue. The charming shop, with its large-scale black-and-white photographs and salon-style seating, is an essential stop for holiday shopping, whether you’re looking to spend $250 or $250,000 (or much more).
“We wanted to create something, which was sort of discreet from the outside, but let you discover everything from the inside and I wanted something that had an informality to it but something that was rather lovely. …I think it’s nice to do something in a very calm environment. I like the idea of being there and being available but maybe not too available. That sense of discovery is really nice,” he says.
“I am incredibly low pressure with anything that I do … and maybe what I do is not for everybody. …But I want to have interesting things with a broad range that people can get excited about, and it might be an antique diamond pendant which is $650,000 or it might be a silver chain necklace, which is probably from 15, 20 years ago and is $400, so it’s a real broad range of things.”
The Brit boasts impressive international experience, a solid gemology education and longstanding client relationships from his time in the fine art auction world – first at Bonhams in London, then running an auction house in Nairobi, Kenya, and for the past 20 years working at Christie’s.
His passion, he says, has always come from curiosity, an appreciation for the history surrounding objects and, of course, the captivating dazzle of the biz.
“I liked the variety of it. I liked the melting pot of people,” he says.
“So you might be in an Orthodox Jew’s diamond cutting room on 47th Street in the morning and in a very grand apartment on Fifth Avenue in the afternoon. Or you might be dealing with somebody from Asia or the Middle East or from America. …And also, I like the variety of the objects you’re dealing with and I’m genuinely interested in them.”
Simon scours the world, traveling to places like Argentina, England, Paris and California to individual clients and auctions.
“I’ve always liked the jewelry business because … wherever you go, there’s always that possibility of doing some business. You never know. So if there’s a jewelry shop in Timbuktu, you’ll find my nose pressed against the glass,” he says with a laugh.
Simon Teakle offers both antique and contemporary pieces, although Simon does address the advent of synthetic stones by saying, “You have to keep up-to-date. …But I’m not likely to deal in (newer stones) and I hope that doesn’t sound snooty.”
Beyond striking design and sparkling spectacle, many pieces have stories that beguile clients, too.
He points to a funky silver agate ring by Sam Kramer.
“He was your original ’60s rock ’n’ roll guy. He lived in the Chelsea Hotel. He was friends with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. He was very much a sort of artisan and I think went broke a hundred times. He was as interested in motorcycles as he was in jewelry. This is somebody whose taste is a bit more urban, but it’s still got trendy style and this ring is $850.”
While the acquisitions side of the business is fun, the heart of it is “matching up the piece to the person, because everybody has their own personality. Some people may be quite demure … and then there are other people who are very extroverted and they love dressing up and they want to look glamorous and either one is great.”
The beautiful to bizarre objects he’s collected across the globe are also worth the trip to his shop, where vintage Louis Vuitton luggage is displayed near ’60s skull bookends found on Long Island.
“I like that quirkiness of it. Whether it’s a weather clock or an electric guitar or skull bookends, people are always looking for unusual gifts … and I am always looking. …The objects, so far, have proved to be very, very popular.”
He picks up a small, ornate gold rectangular object.
“This is an early 19th century snuff bottle in gold and amethyst and diamonds. In the early 19th century, you didn’t have Dove, so a lot of people stank. They didn’t have a shower twice a day. So this opens and there would have been a sponge that went in there, which would have been soaked in a perfume … and you would have opened it and smelled it (so you didn’t smell your friends). You know nowadays it’s a completely useless thing, but it’s just a lovely object.”
So is an electric guitar in the front corner of the shop.
“I saw it in New York. It was purely the aesthetic. It was the Lucite. These asymmetrical pickups. I just thought it was a really lovely looking object so I bought the guitar. I had the bronze stand made for it, which cost almost as much as the guitar and for a guy to have that in his office or study, I mean, if my wife gave that to me, I’d be absolutely thrilled.”
Perhaps that was a holiday gift hint for Simon’s wife, Juliet, who’s also from England. The two actually met in Nairobi and now live in Old Greenwich with their five children. She’s got an artistic eye, too, Simon says, and runs the Pavilion Tent Co., which specializes in decorative, handmade tents from Rajasthan. Some were featured in the film “Rachel Getting Married.”
“She was very involved in the decoration and design of this shop. This was very much a collaborative effort,” he says.
After falling in love with the retail space, he waited for Juliet’s input before signing the lease.
“And then it all started from there,” he says with a smile.
All merchandise available at Simon Teakle in Greenwich
Store Images by Paul Johnson
Jewelry Images by Tony Falcone
Visit Simon Teakle at 4 Grigg St., Greenwich or simonteakle.com, or call (203) 769-5888.