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All Things Accessories with Jennifer Ward of Ward Vintage
Every piece has a story; be it jewelry or furniture, the items we surround ourselves with and bring into our lives hold inherent meaning. A gift from a loved one, a family heirloom, or something that sparked our fancy for one reason or another are all the physical symbols of a life well-lived.
For Jennifer Ward, what began as captivation very quickly blossomed into a thriving business. With a degree in Art History and a background of 10 years in publishing at Instyle and W Magazine, she is no stranger to recognizing quality. So one day, while perusing an antique shop in Princeton, New Jersey, a particular piece piqued Jennifer’s interest. The combination of her honed aesthetic eye and gut instinct told her there was something more for her than just appreciating an excellent find. Almost inevitably, in 2015, she officially set up Ward Vintage, a collection of highly curated vintage jewelry from brands including Chanel, Givenchy, and Lanvin, to name a few, and has even had her hand-selected pieces featured in Aerin Lauder boutiques.
With a shared emphasis on giving new life to luxury items, TLV was immediately inspired by Jennifer and recently caught up with the entrepreneur to learn more about her thoughts on sustainability, what inspires her, and of course, to do a bit of shopping!
Originally from Bedford, NY, Jennifer recalls a childhood filled with visiting antique shops and auctions houses with her parents, avid collectors themselves. She recognizes this early exposure is what equipped her for a future filled with her own sourcing, as she gleans her ceaselessly alluring inventory of vintage gems, stocking her jewelry boxes with piece after piece of irresistible temptations that spark that ‘child in a candy store’ feeling.
“The hunt was in my blood.”
After her first sale, Jennifer dove headfirst into research, educating herself on the intricacies of the worlds of vintage jewelry and entrepreneurship. Having relocated from New York City to suburban New Jersey with her husband to raise their two sons, Jennifer knew that she wanted something with flexible hours and encouraged her to lean into her professional and educational backgrounds, while still allowing her to prioritize her family.
She soon discovered that the best place to learn about vintage pieces was also the best place to source her products, and began getting directly involved in the action with local antique stores and flea markets. Never one to shy away from what it takes to do what she loves, Jennifer found herself up with the sun in order to get first pick of the bits and baubles up for grabs. And while the COVID-19 pandemic may have altered the way she had to vet her pieces for a temporary time, as the world opens up again, Jennifer is back to her old haunts and reconnecting with her long trusted suppliers in person.
“Consistency is key: anything you want to be good at, you have to do all of the time.”
Her passion and genuine warmth of personality inevitably led to creating tight-knit, lasting relationships with those dealers and vendors, effectively creating a credible community that she has graciously extended to others. These symbiotic liaisons have become her trusted network, whose reach now extends far beyond her local zip code in New Jersey; A place she truly loves to call home, in part due to its proximity to important resources and its often underestimated level of sophistication respecting both fashion and interiors.
This network provided a stable foundation on which Jennifer has built her business. With dreams to someday source in the markets of Paris and London, at the present, she remains fulfilled and inspired by her current bevy of fellow antique and vintage aesthetes. As she looks to expand business beyond her current offerings, Jennifer cites her dabbles in fine jewelry and small home accessories, or as she calls it “jewelry for the home” as the next big venture, and continues to let the sources serve as her preeminent muse.
A self described “Upper East Side hippie” Jennifer has developed her own signature style, allowing this globally chic lens to influence her selections; (She is a self admitted sucker for Etruscan pieces). While this combination of classic and bohemian does enchant the broader range of her patronage, she knows that diversity is essential as she appeals to a variety of tastes, dispositions, and budgets. Knowing generally what will translate well and when to take a risk has been both fun and challenging facets of the trade.
The delightful reception of her selections and seeing her clients fall in love with their new old treasures is the driving force that keeps Jennifer excited to do what she does. The reward is myriad, like the glimmering facets of a jewel, each angle refracting light off of the other; From finding the finest pieces, to aligning them with the perfect buyers, and ultimately seeing the chance at a second (or third, or fourth) life become fulfilled for these outstanding gems. The process itself extends far beyond superficiality, as with anything of quality, it stands for a greater purpose than sheer decoration; These material items connect us, and reveal glimpses into the stories of our lives. “Just be nice!” Jennifer offers, readily admitting that a majority of the success she feels is not counted in dollars and cents, but rather those people she can point to with whom she has worked so closely. The level of personal attention Jennifer brings to each client is part of the old school charm and commitment to service she gladly provides with each interaction.
Although she did not originally go into business with the intention of starting a sustainably conscious company, Jennifer has always been environmentally minded. This badge has become one of her proudest to bear – as it intertwines adorned fingers with the notion of giving these “works of art” another chance to bring people joy and continue the legacy of each venerable piece.
Quality is a language in which Jennifer is not only well versed, but fluent in. When determining the caliber of an item, she shares that a signature or the weight of a particular piece can serve as a beacon to it’s pedigree; And although Jennifer’s expert hands can suss out the inimitable pieces from the rest, she advises the novice buyer: “a good piece should feel like it’s going to last.” Most importantly, it has to be something that one can see themselves actually wearing. “You have to love it,” she says. She claims to have at times shocked her dealers with a pass on a purchase that would make certain mouths water, but knowing her market and what they will and will not wear is always a deciding factor.
Although she admittedly misses the environment of having a brick and mortar business, in the long run Jennifer recognizes the benefits of an exclusively online platform, and credits social media to a great extent on her enthusiastic reception into the vintage resale community. As technology advances and people become more accustomed to shopping online, Jennifer is glad to bring the pieces of the past into the 21st century’s virtual world. She has been able to build relationships that span the nation with both vendors and buyers alike. Since growing her now thriving business, Jennifer enthusiastically mentors others in their pursuit of reselling their own vintage finds, as well as collectors looking to grow their own inventory.
“Someone else’s success doesn’t take away from your own.”
Beyond it all lies the true meaning of vintage jewelry for Jennifer; Human connection. “Jewelry is happy!” She says. And for all of the multitude of challenges that Jennifer has faced as an entrepreneur, the rewards pay her back tenfold. Not only has Jennifer reaped the rewards sown by her own bejeweled hands, but she has been able to extend her success throughout her community; her rising tide raising fleets of ships.
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All images courtesy of Jennifer Ward
Written by: Samantha Curtis