An Editor Jets to Nantucket

To say the first week of August is busy on the otherwise halcyon island of Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod, is an understatement.

Private jets are parked in formation on the airfield. Day-trippers off the ferry roam around the harbor, into shops and restaurants. The annual antiques and design show and the Nantucket Garden Club's annual house and garden tour take place in the same week.

Summer House

On a postcard-perfect day earlier this month, we jetted off via Cape Air to Nantucket, which gave us a magnificent aerial view of the island and enough time to schedule a full day of visiting the antique show, walking Main Street to see magnificent homes and gardens, sightseeing, stopping into three jewelry boutiques, and finishing up with a cocktail at the Summer House piano bar in Sconset overlooking the beach.

For the past 36 years, the Antiques Council (an organization dedicated to ensuring the quality of antiques and historical works of art, which is also an arm of the Nantucket Historical Association) has staged an extensive and noteworthy world-class Antiques & Design Show in the peak of the summer season. This year's show celebrated the synergy of incorporating antiques into design with a designer panel comprised of some bold-faced names in the design world, including Susan Zises Green, Jamie Drake, Alessandra Branca and Brian J. McCarthy, who discussed today's design and antiques trends. Thirty-nine exhibitors from as far away as Los Angeles, Chicago and Berkshire, England, shared their best furniture, objets d'art, jewelry, tableware, porcelain, paintings, etchings and folk art, even sterling-silver monogrammed napkin rings. Here's a shortlist of top picks from the show.

DAWN HILL ANTIQUES. courtesy of Nantucket HIstorical Association.

For Nantucket history buffs, Connecticut River Books had a fine collection of charming cartouches of island history, including a colorful and delightful map of Nantucket dating from 1926. J. Austin Estate Jewelers (not to be confused with Jane Austen, the author) from Amherst, MA, had some striking gold bracelets crafted by the Riker Brothers. Based in Newark, NJ, Riker was one of our country's pioneering jewelers as far back as 1850. In fact, Newark became the jewelry manufacturing capital of America, with Riker Brothers being an integral part of our early jewelry production. Sallea Antiques from New Canaan, CT, had an intriguing English walnut workbox, dating from 1870, with surprise: a Spanish courtship scene under the lid. Dawn Hill Antiques from New Preston, CT, featured 18th- and 19th-century Swedish antiques like Rococo and Gustavian period furniture and clocks with original painted surfaces in mostly whitewash. Collectors of historic American wicker furniture were able to admire and purchase from a vast selection at James Butterworth and Michael Donovan's Antique American Wicker.

Heading back to Nantucket's town center on the bus—one of the most efficient ways to get around for $2 a ride—it was time to investigate three of island's most prominent jewelers and their precious treasures.

susan lister locke

Susan Lister Locke
, a Nantucket resident, has been one of the island's most sought-after jewelers and metal smiths for her unique designs in 18K gold and her use of the "lost wax process" in which carving and sculpting reveal the image on gold. Her inspiration comes from many different elements she sees every day, such as a pendant shaped like Nantucket Island and set with pavé diamonds.

reubin simantov

Reubin Simantov
, at 9A South Beach Street, picks up and moves to Nantucket from Greenwich every summer. He really knows how to coax the most out of a precious gemstone. His take on statement rings is to mount a stunning ruby or aquamarine into an elaborate gold setting that is decorated with, for example, engraved leaves. A pair of earrings is actually a pair of octopi. Another notable creation included a gold leaf necklace with green translucent enamel.

Seaman Schepps on Main Street was the go-to jeweler for Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, the Duchess of Windsor, and members of the DuPont, Mellon and Rockefeller families, and continues to be referred to as "America’s Court Jeweler." An immigrant’s son who grew up in the tenements of New York’s Lower East Side, Seaman Schepps rose to prominence in the 1930s with jewelry designs that challenged the status quo and defined a new style for the American woman. With his chunky brooches, “barbaric” bracelets and “bubble” earrings, Schepps pioneered a unique style of jewelry whose sense of splendor offered a new perspective to the world of fine jewelry.

nantucket garden club. courtesy of Nantucket HIstorical Association.

The next stop was the Nantucket Garden Club’s annual house and garden tour up and down Main Street. Visiting all eight museum-quality homes and gardens was like stepping back to see how the whaling industry's wealthiest families used to live. Many of the homes on the tour were built in the mid-1800's, but a few were built in the late 1790's and are owned by the Nantucket Historical Association, which maintains the residences and opens them up for tours in season.

As the day drew to a close, we made sure there was enough time to get to Sconset on the other side of the island in order to stroll down a few lanes lined with historically preserved fishing cottages now used as summer bungalows and cottages, before catching the sunset and enjoying a cocktail at the bar at the picturesque Summer House. Sconset, the town, features hobbit-like cottages with small windows and doors, grey shingle facades, rooftop trellises, all closely spaced together but separated by well-organized front yards and white picket fences. Hydrangeas and roses bursting with blooms made this a magical conclusion to a day on the island.