How to Build Your Jewelry Collection with Ali Galgano of Serpentine Jewels - Greenwich Moms

As moms, when it comes to building our jewelry collections, many of us are at an inflection point in our lives. While we may have a filled jewelry box, most often those pieces are gifts from college graduations, passed down from relatives, or purchased by unknowing (yet well meaning!) husbands. A well-rounded collection that reflects who you are today is much easier to come by if you have an expert on speed dial, and that’s what we have with Ali Galgano, local mom, skilled gemologist, and founder of Serpentine Jewels.

We sat down with Ali to do a deep dive on everything from upgrading engagement rings, to picking out a push present, to gently guiding your spouse with jewelry purchasing. Read on for her brilliant advice.

Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to start a jewelry company?

I founded Serpentine Jewels after many years in the diamond business. I found the process of buying fine jewelry to be outdated and uninspired—two things jewelry should never be! I was fascinated by the idea of combining my deep knowledge of the diamond market, elevated design perspective and passion for client collaboration to create a fresh fine jewelry experience. My access to premier quality and value diamonds, along with my design sensibility has made me a trusted jeweler worldwide. Clients old and new entrust me with the responsibility of building their collections—not only for themselves, but also for the next generation. Our townhouse right in downtown Greenwich (in addition to our atelier in New York City), allows me to meet with every client personally. I couldn’t be prouder of the relationships I’ve cultivated with my clients-turned-friends.

What are the key pieces someone needs to build a jewelry collection? Are there any ultimate “must-haves?”

Whether you’re new to the world of fine jewelry or a seasoned collector, there are definitely “building blocks” to the ideal jewelry box. As a baseline, I believe that one should have a variety of styles that range from everyday sparkle to special events. I like to break these into the obvious four categories: earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings.

Earrings

The first thing that people notice when they look at your face, earrings are a great investment. I always suggest starting with a pair of solitaire studs that can be dressed up or down. At Serpentine, we are known for our Transformer™ jewelry, and love adding ear jackets to a pair of studs for added impact. For those who already own diamond studs, we suggest a pair of mid-range drops or a statement set like our front-to-back earrings. Universally flattering, this signature Serpentine style upgrades your daily look while holding its own after dark for evening events.  

 

Necklaces

A classic solitaire pendant necklace is the perfect place to start because the shape/setting options are endless and can be layered with so many different pieces. We always keep our single stone and diamonds by the yard styles stocked at our Greenwich townhouse because they are a foolproof gift and can easily be layered with what you already have. For something fancier that can transition to evening, we love a Serpentine tennis necklace in any size or shape. For a modern take on a relatively ubiquitous design, I love peppering in a few colored gemstones around the clasp to personalize.

Bracelets

A tennis bracelet and a gold bangle are the ultimate staples, and I love helping clients put their own spin on these eternal designs by playing with proportions, shapes, settings and of course, colored diamonds and gemstones. The best part about tennis bracelets and structured bangles is that they can be easily stacked and layered with a watch and other bracelets as your collection grows.

 

Rings

Rings are my favorite way to mark life’s special moments and I like to think of them as stackable symbols of our best memories. I’ve helped many Serpentine clients create bespoke pieces for engagements, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and beyond. I recommend starting with an eternity band as your building block and growing your collection from there with statement or cocktail rings for special occasions. 

In short, jewelry does not need to be acquired all at once—in fact, it’s better to really think about your forever collection before actually purchasing anything. Our signature Serpentine Jewelry Box Checklist is the perfect primer for those looking to “check all the boxes.”

 

Is it okay to buy yourself jewelry?

Of course! It’s 2023, not 1950. I love helping women take control of their jewelry collections—after all, you’re the one wearing it! That being said, how you go about acquiring that jewelry for yourself can vary. Some clients come in for an appointment and buy exactly what they want, while others keep a wishlist on file and tell their husbands where to find me. 

What do you tell people who don’t like their engagement ring anymore? Asking for my fellow 2013 halo ring friends!

This is an extremely common question. You’re not the person you were in 2013 and that’s ok! You’ve grown up, gotten to know yourself—perhaps you’ve achieved other milestones, too—like buying a house or having children. There’s no reason your engagement ring can’t “grow up” too. There are many ways to go about this, but I’d suggest one of the following:

1- Reset your stone. This is a wonderful option for someone who is sentimentally attached to her original diamond but not its setting. We can work together on a setting that better reflects you today, keeping your original diamond. Another popular option is adding side stones for a three-stone ring that will stand the test of time. In either of these scenarios, I recommend keeping the original setting and replacing the center stone with a less expensive gemstone for a secondary cocktail ring that can be worn on occasion or passed down to future generations.

2- If you’re ready for a bigger or different stone, I suggest “upgrading” your original stone. What was the right size (or shape) at age 25 might now seem underwhelming 10-25 years later. Do some browsing to determine your desired style and narrow down your budget. I always suggest scheduling an appointment with me and involving your husband. Even if he doesn’t know it yet, he’ll be flattered to be part of the process. By the time we’re done, he’ll think the whole thing was his idea!

3- If you love your current ring but want a more impactful look, you’re the perfect candidate for a ring jacket. Customization and Transformer™ pieces are our specialty and one of the things that sets Serpentine apart from other jewelers. Ring jackets are completely bespoke and crafted to fit perfectly over your existing ring, taking your look from day to night.

Speaking of heirloom pieces, do you work with old jewelry to create new designs?

Jewelry should spark joy! If you’ve inherited a piece that has special meaning but isn’t aligned with your aesthetic, we can reset the stones into a modern design that reflects who you are today. Our bespoke process is a collaboration that results in a beautiful piece of jewelry that speaks to you. Start by putting your less-loved pieces aside in a separate box (or better yet, a safe) to visually wrap your head around what you have to work with, while ensuring the collection you wear regularly is visually clutter-free. When you’re ready, schedule an appointment with me to get started.

Are “push presents” out?

While the term itself is a bit passé, the idea is eternal. Bringing a child into the world is an act of hard work and love, and that should be celebrated. My favorite way to mark this special occasion is with a piece of jewelry that incorporates a birthstone. Many of my clients opt for an eternity band to add to their existing ring stack. To make it even more special, we can engrave the inside of the ring with a meaningful date or initials. 

What if you only have a few fine jewelry pieces? How can you build a collection without breaking the bank? 

This may sound counter-intuitive coming from someone in the business, but I cannot stress this enough: do not try to build your collection all at once! Now is the time to start thinking about your forever pieces even though the buying may take some time. The best part about working with me is that I’m here for the long haul and can help you grow your collection over the years.

What if your husband doesn’t “get it?” 

The good news is, even if your husband may not “get it,” my team and I certainly do. We are constantly updating your file to include what you have already and what’s next on your jewelry wish list. We also make note of any important dates, milestones and life events so that hints can be dropped to loved ones and significant others at the appropriate time via email (with your permission, of course).

What’s the deal with lab-grown diamonds?

While lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical makeup as natural diamonds, they are man-made in a lab, and for this reason, do not hold their value. I advise my clients to choose natural diamonds for their character, value and timeless qualities. All natural stones are completely unique, never to be recreated again—just like those who wear them.

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