by Jesma Reynolds
photograph by Juli Leonard
Tucked among the antique stores in Raleigh’s Five Points, Brian and Lily Booth’s custom jewelry store offers their own designs, like the rings pictured here, as well as heirloom jewelry restoration and estate finds.
The shop itself is a portal into another universe: old world tools and vintage jeweler’s benches keep company with high-tech equipment and a video screen to let clients see, in extreme magnification, the intricate details of a setting or gem. Big band music wafts from a laptop.
A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, Brian grew up in Raleigh with a father who designs custom houses. He felt comfortable in the creative world, and at boarding school, an influential art teacher recognized his abilities. “I spent almost every weekend at her house, which was filled with Henry Moore prints and Toulouse-Lautrec originals,” he says. “She encouraged me to think about art school as an option.”
After school came a job with a national jewelry maker that took him to San Francisco, where he met Lily, a Revere Academy graduate. She was working for a jewelry toolmaker one floor above his office.
A move back to Brian’s hometown has proved inspiring. “This place feels like the new American frontier for creative types,” he says.
Married since 2008, the couple shares a love for estate jewelry. Brian approaches an old piece forensically, trying to understand “what happens to the materials over time.” Lily says she’s inspired by ethnic pieces and unusual designs, and specializes in pavé, a technique where stones are set so close together that no metal is visible. She tends to imagine prototypes while Brian serves as “lead production specialist.” They employ both Western and Eastern techniques they’ve learned from mentors, adding an individual stamp.
Younger Raleigh clients “tend to be more traditional,” Brian Booth says, though he and Lily try to nudge them to consider adding details that can make for a timeless and distinct heirloom. Their emphasis on longevity and design details brings life to what would otherwise be what Brian calls “a fixture that holds a stone.”
Shown here are three examples of work they have done for Raleigh clients – two engagement rings and one redesign – displayed on their beloved graver tools. “Lily and I are both tool junkies,” Brian says.