When I entered FD Gallery, I was convinced I was walking into a bakery – drawn in by the delectable trays of pastries and beguiling tarts in the window. Only after I saw a dazzling array of gold and jewels did I realize that this was, in fact, an estate jewelry gallery. The painted cakes in the window were a display for the necklaces and brooches carefully exhibited around them. “We all have an affinity for sweetness,” Thomas Tolan, the gentleman who greeted me, laughed when I told him my mistake. He explained that the displays, which change every six to nine weeks, are meant to be fantastical: “We feature a lot of animal motifs and pieces of whimsy that transcend fine art.”
Thomas went on to tell me that FD are the initials of the gallery’s founder, Fiona Drukenmiller, a woman who had a successful career on Wall Street, but who left finance to raise her three daughters. When her youngest went off to school, Fiona decided to return to work. Recognizing that her passion and knowledge lay in estate jewelry – as she had amassed her own personal collection of jewelry over the years – she set out on a new career path.
Thomas said that FD has a much understated business model, and that having a side street location allows for the anonymity of their clients. The gallery does very little advertising and relies on word of mouth. Perhaps because of this, FD provides excellent customer service. The staff essentially work as a concierge, welcoming people and tracking any items that are of interest to them. The pieces are all curated by time period and material. Although the jewelry was magnificent, and several pieces had interesting histories, I was particularly fascinated by a ruby Buddha that Thomas said dates back to fifteenth century China.
It was evident that Thomas was passionate about his position at FD. This is definitely a “gallery as opposed to a jewelry store,” however, each item is meant to be used and appreciated. As he put it, “A piece of art like this should be worn and enjoyed. It would be sad to see it locked away in a safe.” He went on to say that he often gets attached to something, and then feels a special bond with the person who ends up purchasing it.
In addition to the Cartier and sparkling Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry in the front of the boutique, there are rare books and other vintage items in the back, along with an espresso bar laden with treats. I was getting ready to step back outside when Thomas, full of smiles, confirmed my suspicions, saying “It really is fantastic to work here. Fiona is a remarkable woman.” And it was only a few days later while riding the subway that I looked up and spotted an advertisement for the upcoming AIDS Walk. Along with the corporate sponsors listed, there was one solitary individual donor: Fiona Drukenmiller. I was so pleased, not only to recognize her name, but to see that she is truly a philanthropic, altruistic, whimsical woman.