Ethnic Jewels

An appreciation of ethnic jewellery and adornment

Recently I learned that my favorite store in Greenwich Village has closed.  Along with the death of David Bowie, this was another cultural loss to mark the passing of my youth.  Back in the 1980s I sported spiked hair, purple lipstick and a pair of black shoes with silver skull buckles.  I always walked around with a cassette tape in my Walkman playing the Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees or the Ramones.  Mostly I hung out in Hoboken across the river, but I would come into the Village to attend a show at CBGBs or check out the latest street fashion on St. Marks Place.  At that time, C'est Magnifique was a MUST STOP anytime I was nearby.  C'est Magnifique had a neighborhood feel, but they also had celebrity clientele that included a number of well known rock musicians. 

C'est Magnifique was my FIRST exposure to ethnic jewelry.  It was a family owned business that had been in the neighborhood since 1959.  They sold an eclectic mix of new, old and vintage jewelry.  The ethnic pieces were often fabulous, over-the-top and mysterious to a 20-something year old that had never traveled abroad.  However, not everything was for sale, and many ethnic pieces were part of the Owner's personal collection.  The more bizarre the better.  Here is what the shop window looked like.

The shop also sold what I would classify as modern high-end biker's jewelry.  Somehow these new pieces did not seem out of place among the ethnic antiques.  Some of the new items seemed to reference the ethnic forms and I suspect that eventually they may gain recognition as some of our own American ethnic pieces.  Most of the biker jewelry was made by Alfred Albrizio III, nephew of the original Owner, "Funzy" Albrizio.  My favorite pieces were rings and pendants with glass medical prosthetic eyes set into silver bezels.  They were so bizarre, I HAD TO HAVE ONE!  Unfortunately for me, I never had very much money.  But after I graduated from university and got my first job in New York, I took my hard-earned salary over to C'est Magnifique and bought one of their creations.  I still have it.  Here it is....

C'est Magnifique became a victim of New York's continuing gentrification, and closed its doors in 2014.  It is a sad obit for an institution that had been part of the Greenwich Village "scene" for over 50 years.  I will always remember the shop fondly.

On a brighter note, apparently Alfred Albrizio III, like everyone else, has moved to the digital ether.  If you love the occasional piece of hand made biker jewelry, he offers a number of interesting pieces on his web site at the following address... http://sterlingassault.com

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Comment by Edith D on May 19, 2017 at 3:29
It was an amazing place....tiny and dark, but covered from floor to ceiling with jewelry from Africa, Asia and the Near East. There was a small workbench with a tiny desk lamp located behind a glass case lined with newer pieces.. I had not been to Greenwich Village for years, but learning that it is now gone made me wistful.
Comment by Cordelia Donohoe on May 18, 2017 at 21:55

Thanks for sharing Edith, I wish I could see more closely the shop contents. Cx

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