Beverly R Blog

Period and Antique Collections Chicago
Beverley and Stephen Forward bring a special touch to their period and antique collections at their Beverley R boutique. 

“Antique jewelry has a soul,” says Beverley Forward, explaining the passion for antique and period jewelry that she shares with Stephen Forward, her British-born husband and business partner in Beverley R Ltd., their boutique located on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. From London to Chicago, the Forwards have turned their refined collective eye to the selection of unique jewelry that spans the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras, Art Deco and the 1940s and 1950s.

Guided by the belief that “jewelry is something you fall in love with,” Beverley believes jewelry should bring a smile to a woman’s face. It has been a lifelong obsession for Beverley who turned her “enchantment” with the clothes and jewelry in the old movies that she watched as a child into a 30-year career in the U.S. and England. While Stephen admits to always having an interest in jewelry, he owned a transportation company in London when they met. However, after their marriage, he gradually became more involved in Beverley’s jewelry endeavors. After receiving certification from Gem-A, the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, he sold his company and joined Beverley at Graves Antique Market, located near London’s exclusive Bond Street, selling jewelry first to the trade and then expanding to consumer retail. After several years, Beverley, a Chicago native, decided it was time to move home to be closer to her family.

Mini works of art

“What we love most about the pieces we carry is that most of them are one of a kind,” Beverley notes. Their deep appreciation for period jewelry stems from the fact that all the work is all done by hand — especially pieces from the Georgian period.  “Look at the craftsmanship and detailing, even on the back,” Stephan marvels.  “We look at quality before anything else,” explains Beverley, noting they will reject pieces not worked on by fine jewelers.  “When you buy from us, it is not just a piece of jewelry but a mini work of art,” says Stephen describing the hand-selected pieces.  In choosing the jewelry, the couple meshes their complementary skills. “Beverley focuses on style, design, period and setting, while I look more at the gemstones,” explains Stephen.

Period versus pre-owned

“A signature on a piece does not necessarily denote quality,” Beverly explains. She is also emphatic about drawing a distinction between “estate” and antique jewelry. “Estate is something that is pre-owned. It could have been made a week ago.  In Europe, antiques have to be at least 100 years old,” she explains. “Antique jewelry also the test of time — and makes a good investment as well,” Stephen asserts.

The store’s location on East Walton Street, close to the Drake Hotel, complete with antique moldings dating from the late 19th century makes it a destination spot for visitors from neighboring states as well as foreign tourists.  Some customers know exactly what they want. “However, it is often a case of educating people,” says Stephen who enjoys the opportunity to show their love and respect for the jewelry.  “Being a small jewelry boutique is a wonderful thing. We can take the time with customers. Even if we do not know the provenance of the specific piece, we can explain its historical context.”

The New Collector

Beverley and Stephen have seen a shift in customer attitudes toward period pieces. The recession made customers more selective, but more importantly their rationale for buying has changed, which has had a greater impact on the pieces they select for the boutique. Instead of buying for a collection to be kept under glass, women want pieces that can go from day to night.  “They want to dress up and dress down, “ says Stephen, pointing out that versatility is a key selling point. He illustrates with a diamond and sapphire bangle that unscrews to be worn as a ring as well. “Our designs are timeless,” says Beverly. “They are endlessly wearable and blend so well with modern tastes,” she continues, pointing to the pair of gold earrings that she is wearing that were salvaged in 1995 from the General Abbatucci, shipwrecked in 1869.

Their greatest challenge is replenishing pieces that meet their criteria for quality of design and gemstones.  “It is harder than selling,” says Beverly because “when we sell it, we cannot get it again.” They often buy pieces through collections, since even auction houses now offer fewer pieces than previously.

While the Forwards are collectors themselves, Stephen admits, “With some pieces you are just the caretaker. You’ve had the pleasure of finding them and taking care of them. But there is also the pleasure of giving them to someone who appreciates them as well,” he concludes.