The Family Jewels

Liz Giardina, vice president of design at Derek Lam 10 Crosby, walks us through the origins of her jewelry, and it's a trip around the world.

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Liz Giardina at the Derek Lam 10 Crosby studio in New York.
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When it comes to meaningful family heirlooms, Liz Giardina seems to be a tad more well endowed than the rest of us. "I come from a major jewelry family. We're all about giving our mothers jewelry so that one day it gets passed back down to us," she says, smiling. As the vice president of design at Derek Lam 10 Crosby, Giardina has a natural eye for putting pieces together and has mastered the art of stacking, even if said stacks slightly hinder her work. "I have to remove all my bracelets when I draw so I can put my hand flat on the table," she says, twirling the bangles around her wrist. "One of the first things that Derek Lam said to me when I started working here was, 'Have you noticed there's always a pile of jewelry on your desk?'" She laughs. We sat down with Giardina in the stylish environs of the Derek Lam 10 Crosby studio in New York City, and she took us through the same pile of jewelry that, in a lot of ways, represents her family tree.

Giardina's glittering collection of bracelets and rings.
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"The really big 24-karat gold bracelet on my left hand was in my husband's family for three generations," Giardina starts out. "It's always given to the bride on her wedding day by the mother-in-law, so my mother-in-law gave it to me this past July when I got married. You're not supposed to take it off, so I wear it almost every day," she explains. "My husband remembers having imprints of it on his body as a kid."

"One of the first things that Derek Lam said to me when I started working here was, 'Have you noticed there's always a pile of jewelry on your desk?'"

"That's a perk," Giardina adds, "about getting married—the jewelry. One of these rings was my husband's grandfather's pinky ring. Before we got married, when my husband wouldn't move in with me, I went over to his place and told him, 'I'm taking everything nice out of your apartment,' and this was one of the things I took." (A technique we'll be taking note of.) She touches another ring, "This one my dad gave to my mother when they started dating at 18. It has my mother's initials on it."

A lesson in layering.
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However, not all rings are worn on her fingers: she points to a necklace with tiny circles hanging from the chain. "These are all the Sicilian baby rings from my grandfather's family. They gave each baby a ring, and there are five kids in the family, so they're all right here," she explains.

"A lot of people get tattoos to symbolize what they believe in or to symbolize what's important to them, but I like wearing all of these pieces because they remind me of my family."

"I inherited the gold coin around my neck from my grandmother on my mother's side when she passed away. And this," she says, untangling the mass of sparkling chains and pulling one out, "is the Zoroastrian symbol, the oldest monotheistic religion, which is Persian. And next to it is the Virgin Mary. My husband's grandmother is Persian and lived in Spain and wore a necklace with every major religion's symbols." But not everything she wears is so, so precious; the thick gold chain around her neck is from a Derek Lam handbag that broke.

When your jewelry is this good, wearing color is optional.

"A lot of people get tattoos to symbolize what they believe in or to symbolize what's important to them, but I like wearing all of these pieces because they remind me of my family," Giardinasays. "It reminds me of the lineage of my family, and these people who are really important to me. My mother, my grandmother, my grandfather, my husband's family—it feels good to wear things that they owned. It's like people watching over you." And with that, we make a mental note to start paying more attention at family reunions.

Stacks on stacks on stacks.
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