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How the Fire and Brilliance of Diamonds Inspire Gillian Conroy's Designs

Sohyun Ahn

Photo credits

Interview for Real is a Diamond By Tanya Dukes

Gillian Conroy’s résumé includes stints as a product designer and Paris Vogue fashion editor, but it’s jewelry design that won her over for good. Her eponymous jewelry collection—crafted entirely in her New York City studio—is a favorite choice for couples craving a chance to personalize their engagement and wedding rings. She is more than happy to oblige.

The first step in creating a ring comes down to the choice of diamond. “Once that decision is made everything else falls into place,” says Conroy. To help clients make a choice she explores the many ways to incorporate diamonds into a ring’s design. The options are unlimited and adaptable to any style or budget. “We can make a beautiful cluster ring with a grouping of small diamonds or focus on a whopping, beautiful three-carat stone.”

And Conroy knows that the allure of diamonds can’t be expressed with dry facts and figures. It’s getting an up-close view of the stones she calls “sparkling fragments from the earth” that reveals their magic. That’s why she shows lots of options to couples searching for their special diamond. Often, they’ll fall in love with one at first sight.

Diamonds in all their variety excite Conroy and she believes they’re a logical choice for couples in a matrimonial mood. “They have a fire and brilliance that catches light in a way colored stones don’t,” she explains. Their durability is a big plus, too. “Diamonds are strong enough to be worn every day and so timeless that you’ll never tire of them.”

Though she’s made thousands of wedding and engagement rings in her career, she remains inspired by the diversity of diamonds. Her designs feature white diamonds but also natural color diamonds; yellow, gray and pink are a part of her palette. So are stones in nontraditional shapes. Fancy shape diamonds, including pears, ovals, cushions and marquises, are favorites of Conroy’s. Couples looking for unconventional wedding jewelry are following her lead. “People have become more open to wearing unusual settings and mismatched stones,” she says. “I love to make custom designs when someone wants a one-of-a-kind ring.”

Above all, the most important quality in a Gillian Conroy ring is the commitment it represents. “There’s a lot of emotion attached to diamonds,” she says. “My clients want a ring with a special stone that feels rare and one-of-a kind to symbolize the love of their partner.”




2 carat oval white diamond set east-west in classic 4 prong platinum ring

Cafe Society, The Jewelry Blockbuster Movie Summer 2016

gillian conroy

"Café Society," Woody Allen's latest comedy, is set in 1930s Los Angeles and stars Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively, who plays a Manhattan socialite. The actors are absolutely dripping in diamond jewelry created by Chanel, and the pieces most effectively highlight the glamour that saturated Hollywood's silver screen era.

The film's costume designer, Suzy Benzinger, worked closely with Chanel to select the jewelry. Benzinger immersed herself in the famous French fashion house's archives to create the cast's elegant clothes. All of the eveningwear was constructed in shades of ivory, one of Coco Chanel's signature colors. The jewels shown in the film were composed mainly of diamonds and pearls, which is era-appropriate. Despite the fact that the fine jewelry was made today, it meshes harmoniously with the film's Art Deco style and scenery.



Céline - my jewelry crush

gillian conroy

Phoebe Philo has an refreshingly simple, no-frills approach to jewelry design but the effect is always stylish and discerning.

Frida Kahlo's signature jewelry style

gillian conroy

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was known for her self-portraits.  Born in 1907, dead by 47, Kahlo achieved celebrity that would eventually make her the unintentional grandmother of the selfie, her indelible image recognizable everywhere.  Her self-portraits unsparingly depict her physical disabilities and make frank allusion to a tumultuous emotional life.
Entertainers such as Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, and designers including Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy and Jean Paul Gaultier have all drawn inspiration from Kahlo's signature style — traditional, Mexican Tehuana dresses and hairstyles, and her personal jewelry of elaborate, dangling or drop earrings and rough-hewn, handmade stone necklaces. Kahlo's jewelry style remains startling and captivating to this day.

Diamond Ear Cuffs on the Red Carpet

gillian conroy

Clemence Poesy | Repossi
Bella Heathcoate | Messika
Kristen Stewart | Messika
Catriona Balfe | Repossi
Dakota Johnson | Ana Khouri
Jennifer Connolly | Jessica McCormack
Margot Robbie | Repossi
Scarlett Johansson | Piaget
Miley Cyrus | Ana Khouri
Lara Stone | Repossi
Sasha Pivovarova | Balenciaga
Kristen Stewart | Chanel
Rita Ora | Lorraine Schwartz
Emma Watson | Ana Khouri
Melanie Thierry | Repossi "Staple"
Ellie Bamber | Chanel

South Sea Pearls

gillian conroy

South Sea Pearls

South Sea cultured pearls are of exceptional quality with a whitish, almost silver color. 

Much larger than the average pearl, these possess a unique smoothness and roundness. They are the rarest, most extraordinary pearls used in jewelry today.  Baroque South Sea pearls are slightly less round and symmetrical.  They too are truly one-of-a-kind pearls.

South Sea pearls come from the white-lipped variety of the pinctada maxima oyster. This oyster is much larger than the oysters that produce Akoya and Freshwater pearls, so the pearl that it produces is much larger as well. Because of the rarity and sensitivity of this type of oyster, cultivation of these pearls is much more difficult, making them more expensive.

Museum discovers hidden jewelry

gillian conroy

Staff at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum found a gold ring and a necklace with a gold chain wrapped in canvas and hidden in an enamel mug with a double bottom, jewels that went undiscovered for more than 70 years.

The Collections of the Memorial contain items taken by the Germans from Auschwitz-Birkenau deportees; it houses more than 12,000 pieces of enamel kitchenware alone.  

“The hiding of valuable items - repeatedly mentioned in the accounts of survivors, and which was the reason for ripping and careful search of clothes and suitcases in the warehouse for looted items proves, on the one hand, the awareness of the victims as to the robbery nature of the deportation, but on the other hand it shows that the Jewish families constantly had a ray of hope that these items will be required for their existence,” said museum director Piotr M.A. Cywiński.

Tests conducted indicate the ring and necklace contain gold from jewelry produced in Poland between 1921 and 1931. The items will be kept in the Collections of the Museum in a manner that will illustrate the way they were hidden by their owners.


[photo credit:]

The history of dress clips

gillian conroy

Dress clips are a type of pin that first gained prominence in the 1920s and were worn in pairs, often opposite one another on the neckline or straps of a dress.

The style, however, fell out of favor in the 1950s when classic brooches regained popularity, and it never really recovered.

Dress clips first began to appear post-World War I. Fashion in both clothing and jewelry changed as the world worked to recover from the “Great War” and time marched on into the 1920s, a famous decade for style.


During this time, fashion began to dictate some of the jewelry trends. The tight, corseted dresses of the Edwardian period came into a much more free-form, flowing, adventurous, romantic style including the famous flapper dresses of the era. 

This new style of dress called for more ornamentation, and dress clips evolved as a reaction to that and were worn not only on dresses but also on furs and accessories, like handbags. The dress clip quickly establishes itself as a must-have item in fashion.

In the beginning, dress clips were always in pairs, worn separated from each other on the strap or neckline of a dress, and almost always symmetrical.

However, they also could be worn together. Pairs of dress clips often had a back that secured the two halves together so they became one piece, like a more classic-style brooch.

The dress clips are two pieces that can be worn together or separate, whereas a brooch is typically a single element. The Art Deco period is also the first time dress clips appeared, while one could go as far back as the Ancient Egyptians and find brooches.  

In the 1930s and ‘40s, the style of dress clips evolved alongside other jewelry.


The bright-white platinum and diamond aesthetic of the early Art Deco era expanded to incorporate yellow gold and colored gemstones and asymmetry became more of an acceptable idea.

During the Great Depression and the World War II, people went to the movies to escape and were inspired by the captivating and dazzling style of Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, who were featured on screen and in photographs wearing dress clips.

In the 1950s, the fashion for dress clips started to decline as the brooch took over.

While today's casual dress sense doesn’t lend itself to the traditional manner of wearing dress clips, there are different ways of appropriating them. Some women wear a single clip to dress up a pair of black pants or blouse while others tuck them into up dos to add glamour to their hair.