Tucked into an unassuming shopping center in Austin is a treasure trove of rare, antique jewelry. Rhianna and Cyrus Shennum, who run Bell & Bird, realize that Austin isn't the first place that comes to mind if you're looking for the kind of ultra-special 18th- and 19th-century jewelry they deal in. "A shop like ours definitely seems unlikely in Austin, Texas," says Rhianna, "but we make it work, and it's a great place to live."
The couple met in Austin when Rhianna was working at the city's best fashion boutique, By George, and Cyrus was shopping for shoes. Rhianna had a few pieces of antique jewelry that needed to be repaired, and a friend at the shop got Cyrus's business card for her. "I waited six months before I called," she recalls. "I'm so glad I didn't lose that card!" Since then, they've established themselves on the global antique jewelry scene, and showed at the esteemed Lapada fair in London this summer.
Their store, which has dark walls and floors (all the better to let the jewelry shine), is a hub for experts and enthusiasts alike. "We have clients who will stay for hours talking about piece after piece. By the end of the visit, jewelry covers every surface," she says. "We tend to open up the bar on those occasions!"
And what exactly can you expect to find there? On a recent visit: a Georgian era ring with a miniature carved ivory ship under a crystal dome, and an 18th-century necklace made of lace-like woven Silesian iron. It's astonishing that some of their pieces are available for purchase, and not on display in a museum. However, visiting Bell & Bird is infinitely more fun than seeing jewelry in a museum because, if you ask nicely, they'll let you try a few things on.
Here, Cyrus shows us his favorite pieces currently in the store, and discusses what makes them so special: