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McTeigue & McClelland

by Kathryn Boughton

When is less truly more? According to Tim McClelland, co-owner of McTeigue and McClellan in Great Barrington MA, it is when you own a piece of exquisite jewelry.

“Jewelry that is sub-par or average never becomes more valuable,” McClelland says. “There is so much mediocre jewelry out in world. Having only one or two beautiful pieces is better than having a whole volume of mediocre stuff.”

McClelland and his partner, Walter McTeigue, make it their business to provide clients with the sublime. “We always have new and interesting things here,” McClelland said of their business, located at 454 Main Street. “We tend not to be a super-flashy jeweler, but want something beautiful and lasting that will not go out of style. We try to make our pieces timeless.”

They also try to match the piece to the client, and that requires getting to know that person. “It’s one of the things I feel we’re great at, matching stones with clients,” he said. “We’re slow here. We become very well acquainted with some of them and can help them get just the stone and piece of jewelry they are looking for. Some people like classic jewelry and we can help them with that, but we can do something more avant-garde, too.”

“We have people from all over the world coming to us,” he continued. “If you are a connoisseur of jewelry, people look very carefully to see who has what. There are only a few really great people doing interesting things and we try to keep up with that.”

In 2011 McTeigue & McClelland made the decision to sell exclusively to their own clientele.

Walter McTeigue is a fourth-generation jeweler who started work in his father’s diamond and precious stone business at age twenty. He worked in New York's Diamond District for more than twenty years, specializing in diamonds and estate jewelry. McClelland grew up in family of artists and at an early age was struck by the versatility and permanence of metal as a vehicle for his ideas. After apprenticing under preeminent master jewelers and contemporary metalsmiths, he became a freelance designer and maker in New York City.

The two met in 1984 and were soon collaborating, McTeigue finding the stones and McClelland designing and making the jewelry. By 1996 they had moved to Great Barrington and in 1998 they formally established McTeigue & McClelland, a decision that cemented their creative partnership.

Today, a team of skilled artisans gives life to their creations, crafting each piece by hand. Everything is made in the Great Barrington workshop and only a limited number of pieces are produced each year. McTeigue & McClelland makes and sells complete, finished pieces and does not make mountings using client's gemstones.

The stones used in their creations are of the finest quality and it is their goal to obtain one hundred percent of their diamonds, gemstones and precious metals from sources both environmentally sustainable and fair to the people and communities involved. Currently all the gold and platinum they use is recovered from recycling old jewelry.

The gold goes through a process called “blooming,” that creates a rich color and exquisite luster. “Blooming is unique to us,” said McClelland. “It was used in Victorian jewelry and we feel it is very worthy of modern style. You can have a piece that is unique - that looks a like modern piece but that has all the advantages of history behind it.”

Blooming uses an ancient process that strips the alloys from the outer layer of the finished piece, leaving the rich color of pure gold - but with the strength of alloyed gold. Jewelers have been blooming gold since at least the 17th century but the process requires a great deal of expertise.

Diamonds and precious stones are used in their creations, often in unanticipated colors. “Colored diamonds became more sought after about twenty-five years ago,” said McClelland, “and little by little have become the premier type of diamond. A blue diamond just set a record lately at forty-eight million dollars. There are so few stones like that in the world. There are pinks and yellows and blues and some green - which is a very rare color.”

The rarest, however, are red diamonds and they are the most valuable. “All red diamonds are very small, around a carat or less. It can be millions of dollars for a tiny stone.”

He said that he and McTeigue do not sell giant colored diamonds. “We do have a nice collection of smaller ones. Walter’s family has been in the jewelry business for four generations. It is an exclusive world that knows who has what stones. Generally, those kind of stones are not advertised by the dealers that have them. They want to keep it quiet and find just the right person for them.”

Sapphire might be synonymous in the mind with blue, but McClelland says that here, too, colors vary. “Their colors can also be unusual and rare and often at a fraction of the price of a diamond. They can be expensive, incredibly beautiful and extremely hard - second only to a diamond.”

Sapphires are composed of the mineral corundum and come in a rainbow of colors - all considered sapphires. “But when corundum is undeniably red, it’s a ruby,” McClelland said. “When people see how beautiful sapphires are, it draws them in. I still think they are among the best value for a fine gem stone.

“We try to sell the best jewelry in world - not always the most expensive, but the best we can make,” he said. “And because jewelry is expensive we try to educate people.”