“You have to be a priest, a therapist and a jeweler, and half the time your jeweler knows more about you than your shrink,” says Pat Saling, who has been selling her own designs and estate jewelry from her New York salon for five years. Not a newcomer to the jewelry world, she worked with Fred Leighton for 20 years. When you visit, Saling offers a seat across from her at a large desk, and she brings out tray after tray of jewelry. Whether Burmese ruby and diamond earrings that once belonged to Barbara Hutton, 40-carat Golconda diamond earrings, or perhaps an intricately carved onyx and diamond pendant on a platinum and diamond chain, Saling’s one-of-a-kind pieces delight her clients.
Saling often acquires a piece from a private owner and brings it directly to a customer in the name of privacy and exclusivity and she understands the allure of pieces that haven’t been ogled by the general public. “I’ve sold jewelry that has never seen the light of day,” she says, and when the jewelry is an 80-carat blue sapphire necklace that belonged to a Spanish queen, or a diamond necklace from 19th-century Russia, it’s clear why all the cloak-and-dagger is desirable. For Saling, giving a client her undivided attention at home is part of the highly personal aspect of selling such high-end pieces.
If you’re going above and beyond for a client, you can expect a few unusual encounters. Once, at a New York hotel, Saling found herself at the door of Eastern royalty for an appointment. “Someone opened the door, and as I went in I realized everyone was walking around on their knees. It turned out that was the custom in the culture; no one could be taller than the queen.”
But Saling also stresses the pleasure of working so closely with the wealthy clients. “Jewelry is so personal, and you become part of the family,” she says. “I’ve been to weddings in the Middle East where the client invited me as a guest, and there are 500 women there who want to buy jewelry from me.” Even with such a demand, there are some pieces she can’t seem to part with. One of these is the early-19th-century Mazarin ruby necklace, named for a 17th-century French cardinal, which she purchased from a European women who bought it from Harry Winston himself. Saling considers the pieces a great prize, and still has it tucked away.
-Lilah Schechner, W.