by Sarah Rossbach

The Secret of 70th Street 

A golden lotus gracefully opens its ethereal petals, revealing diamonds dancing delicately on its pistils and stamens. It is an alchemist’s dream. No clunky piece of jewelry, this luminescent brooch blossoms with timeless design, creativity, and craftsmanship. So often we go treasure hunting in New York, yet so rarely do we unearth a real treasure. In this case the map couldn’t be marked more clearly. Forego 47th Street. Skip breakfast at Tiffany’s. Wander up Madison Ave. past Chopard and Chanel, and turn east on East 70th Street. Proceed to a cluster of brownstones close to Lexington Avenue. There, tucked behind a gentle garden sits a boite of a jewelry store called Mish New York. For years, my Upper East Side girlfriends have talked in hushed, reverent tones about Mish. They swoon over Mish’s chalcedony and diamond earrings, sigh at the sight of the topaz, gold and diamond pagoda pin and quietly covet the gold Chinese charm bracelet. This eponymous boutique also houses a select array of stunning jewel-encrusted rings, bracelets, necklaces and cufflinks created by Mish Tworkowski, a boyish, friendly former senior VP of Jewelry at Sotheby’s. A New Jersey native, Mish graduated from Rutgers with a double degree in Art History and Business Administration—both of which, no doubt, contributed to his accomplishments as a taste-making jewelry designer and successful entrepreneur. Along with the discerning artistic eye and business acumen, Mish’s interest in jewelry design, its process and art, grew out of an early exposure to all aspects of jewelry making. “A family friend owned a jewelry studio and factory where I would hang out watching the craftsmen at work—creating molds, casting, soldering and polishing silver and gold, and setting stones. It was a fun and amazing place.” Mish explains. “So through osmosis and access to the workshop at a young age, I got to the point where I could make drawings and then think about how to convert a drawing into a piece of jewelry through, say, the ‘lost-wax’ process.” After college came a 15-year stint at Sotheby’s, which included overseeing the estate sales of Diana Vreeland and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Soon Mish started creating his own line of jewelry. His early business “began organically, as many of my clients at Sotheby’s became friends and were interested in my designs.” He began selling his jewelry on the side with his Sotheby’s boss’s blessings. A self-described “happy workaholic,” Mish threw himself into his dream of opening a shop in 2001. His apprenticeship at Sotheby’s gave Mish some definite thoughts on the subjects of taste and style. To him, they are closely linked. “If you define tasteful and stylish, tasteful could be negative, implying that someone is boring, maybe too solemn or safe in her dress,” he says. “Tasteful and good taste are different. Good taste is always appropriate. Good taste is finely edited, never anything superfluous. Stylish, or having style, is someone who is willing to take a little risk. The little surprise that it gives is always wonderful. It might make you smile. It might make you think, ‘Wow, that person is creative and original.’ When someone is stylish, it is under the veil of appropriateness, there is a tastefulness, but with flair.” Nature is Mish’s primary muse. While at Wakaya, a client’s resort in Fiji, Mish was so blown away by the vibrant colors of sea life that—despite being a self-professed “waterphobic”— donned scuba gear and ventured out to the coral reef. “The colors were awe-inspiring,” Mish recalls. “Huge cobalt-blue starfish, yellow, pink, purple and salmon coral, fish of all colors. I went there to relax, but from the moment I stepped on the island, I was designing jewelry non-stop.” Mish has a devoted following of chic New Yorkers. His wide smile and signature bowties reveal a man confident in his own style, who effortlessly puts people at ease. I recently walked into the cheery shop to find a film crew interviewing Mish for a BIG birthday montage for a regular customer. I heard Mish thank her, teasing that without her enthusiastic patronage, he would “never have been able to buy Karl Lagerfeld’s Paris apartment!” When a museum curator friend heard I was researching this story, she emailed me pictures of her Mish treasures— the “go-to” orbiting pearl earrings, the aquamarine necklace, the Henderson brooch Mish designed for her, which she described as a “stunner on a navy suit jacket…the subtlety of colors shows the eye of the artist.” Even online at 72 dpi, she looked great. “What I love about this jewelry,” she wrote, “is his masterly way of mixing colors, keeping it all fresh and not serious-looking (even if the prices are serious). It’s easy to wear.” Mish enjoys collaborating with his customers and being inspired by their lives and interests. His playful wit emerged when designing cuff links and tuxedo studs for a client’s husband’s 50th birthday. The husband collected cars and especially loved his Aston-Martin. Mish made studs, using photos the wife took, that were replicas of the wheels (replete with gemstone hubcaps). He backed the cuff links with miniature gold versions of Aston-Martin tire treads. “What is special about coming to someone like me is that I’m not wholesaling, but dealing one-on-one with the client with a defined style,” Mish explains. “Many jewelers have globalized, so that you can buy their jewelry in any city or country and so can your friends. If you want to buy my designs or find something unique that none of your friends have, you have to come to my store.” In a world where so much is mass-produced, impersonal and brazenly marketed, it is rare to come across a business that thrives on artistry, workmanship and word of mouth. We sometimes forget that, in matters of the heart, a gulf still separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. Mish is a reminder of just how wide that gulf can be. EDGE

All photos courtesy of Mish New York; special thanks to Michael Oldford