Best jewelry stores in San Francisco
This is fine jewelry as an art form. The legendary Italian jewelry house is patronized by local grande dames like Dede Wilsey and Denise Hale—following the lead of past icons like Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor. The palatial, 13,000-square-foot Union Square boutique is more akin to a museum than a shop, showcasing dazzling colored gemstones, turquoise collars and snaking gold chains behind framed panes of glass. Fittingly, the de Young Museum presented a Bulgari retrospective of 145 eye-popping historic pieces in 2013, some of which were on loan from San Francisco collectors.
The baubles at this Temescal Alley store are artfully arrayed among cacti, ceramics, sharks’ teeth and cattle skulls. (Esqueleto is Spanish for “skeleton,” after all.) Though the space is loosely inspired by the Southwest, the accessories within are thoroughly modern, whether a barbed oxidized silver pendant or Jessica Niello’s oversize ceramic necklaces strung on leather. You’ll find a mix of dainty and bold styles here, from Satomi Kawakita’s miniature yellow gold studs and slender engagement bands to owner Lauren Wolf’s eye-catching claw rings showcasing sapphire, ruby and agate.
Leah Bershad travels around the world to fill her trove of antique and vintage jewelry. Those seeking accent pieces can peruse glittering cocktail rings and cameo necklaces from the Victorian and Edwardian periods, while eclectic vintage hunters sort through the stash of offbeat charms, chunky skull rings and turquoise. Contemporary collections can also be found in the mix, like those of Kate Jones’s Ursa Major label and Polly Wales.
Not everyone subscribes to the “bigger is better” mindset. Azil offers a welcome antidote to chunky costume jewelry, stocking beautiful, understated pieces in sterling silver and 14-, 18- and 24-karat gold. The shelves are lined with simple, special pieces fit for everyday wear, including tiny stud earrings, minimalist hoops, monogram charms and wrapping mixed-metal bracelets.
The motto at this boutique is “real objects made by real people,” and the treasures therein have a handmade, one-of-a-kind feel. The interior is parts urban and rustic, with exposed brick and fencepost-wood panels. The jewelry assortment includes unisex pendants, stackable cuffs and studs ideal for multiple piercings. Owner Kate Ellen, a metalsmith herself, has earned a following for her black diamond engagement rings. Her baubles accompany those of more than 20 other designers from the Bay Area and beyond, including Sarah Swell, Colette Ishiyama, Claire Sommers Buck and Christy Natsumi.
Denise Kohne’s Russian Hill vintage shop is an homage to throwback glamour. The selection includes costume and fine jewelry spanning the 1880s to 1980s, all neatly arranged in tall built-in glass cabinets that line the perimeter of the store. (Shoppers are free to try on the pieces placed on a center table.) Depending on Kohne’s latest estate sale scores, that might mean Art Deco pendants dotted with gems, serpentine gold bangles, 1920s crystal brooches or gala-ready chandelier earrings.
Though this Castro shop has a tiny footprint—its owners, Alexi Angelides and Marie McCarthey, nicknamed it “The Littlest”—it packs a stunning array of 30 designers into 250 square feet. Cuffs, necklaces and rings by culty New York labels like Elizabeth Street Jewelry, Scosha and Claire Kinder are mixed in with local brands like Adeline and Young in the Mountains on the open wood shelves. Angelides and McCarthey create their own line of unorthodox gold and silver rings from a studio two blocks away, a popular choice among those seeking alternative wedding rings. The offerings here inevitably pack a bit of an edge: McCarthey also owns Rose Gold’s, a tattoo and body-piercing parlor in the Haight.
Though Manika relocated from Maiden Lane to a tourist-laden stretch of Market Street in 2013, the boutique maintains its commitment to independent artisans. Owner Peter Walsh has cultivated an international coterie of designers, including Nina Basharova, Toby Pomeroy and Ehud Barlev, alongside locals like Sarah Graham and Rebecca Overmann. You’ll find party-ready cocktail rings sparkling with tourmaline and diamonds, ebony bangles and minimalist gold pendants, all draped across organic wooden blocks in cases.
Though jewelry designer Marisa Haskell is known for her boho brass, turquoise and leather jewelry, the effect is more San Francisco cool than Santa Fe kitsch. Necklaces are strung in rows along the shop’s wooden walls, all out in the open for touching and trying on. The long leather and brass pendant necklaces are perennial favorites, as are pile-’em-on brass cuffs. Linger near the counter to watch Haskell at work, deftly stringing beads and hammering metal.
Run by Jenny Chung—also the owner of Hayes Valley boutique Acrimony—this intimate, 200-square-foot shop sells trendsetting jewelry from around a dozen designers, many hailing from Los Angeles and New York. Rose gold, pave and sterling silver designs by Anna Sheffield, Bliss Lau and Gabriela Artigas glint from the boutique’s terrariums and glass globes, and Chung encourages customers to throw open the cases and try pieces on. The rings are standouts (check out Chung’s own stacked engagement ring, a custom stunner by Bliss Lau), as are the interchangeable earrings that complement multiple piercings, like Maria Black's Reverse Wings.