NEW YORK – “I like my jewellery to have character,” says Claire Distenfeld, owner of the meticulously curated luxury boutique Fivestory in New York City. "When a woman gets dressed, she should always make sure that she has expressed herself in some way and that there’s a hint of wit in her look." Ahead of Sotheby's 22 September Important Jewels auction, we spoke with Distenfeld about styling vintage jewellery, the rising popularity of earrings and her favourite pieces from the upcoming sale.

PHOTO BY: BRIAN MARCUS.

Please describe your personal aesthetic in three words.
Balanced, refined and playful. 

What do you look for in the perfect piece of jewellery?
Something that speaks to the past, is extremely relevant, and that I'll want to wear forever. 

Are there any jewellery trends that you’ve noticed are becoming especially popular or in-demand these days?
The focus has shifted in the last few years from the neck to the ear. Multiple piercings used to be about rebellion, and now they're about expression, except not in a wacky or funny way – and I love that. It's elegant and tasteful.

Do you have any all-time favourite jewellery designers or pieces?
I love JAR, Belperron, Taffin, Hemmerle green tassel earrings, Elsa Peretti gold bone bracelets and vintage Bulgari Serpenti watches in coral or turquoise. 

How do you think jewellery should fit into or complement a look? Do you have any styling advice?
Jewellery should either be the focal point or it should blend into a dynamic outfit. It should never compete with the look. Personally, I love to match. If I'm wearing an all green ensemble I like to wear green jewellery. If I'm wearing khaki pants and a white button-down, I'll throw on some African beads. My style is very thematic, so it makes jewellery decisions very easy. 

Do you have a key to wearing vintage or estate pieces and making them feel modern?
It's all about the balance of the outfit as a whole, from your hair to your shoes. If you're wearing your grandmother's brooch with pearls, you'll probably not want to put that on a tweed suit with kitten heels. Maybe try it with something unexpected, like brightly coloured pants and a matching sweater or black jeans. 


Click below to see which pieces from Sotheby's Important Jewels auction caught Distenfeld's attention.