It’s no doubt that Austin, Texas is full of incredible small business, boutiques, and design studios. When it’s time to freshen our style, or our outlook, we turn to local Austin friends and collaborators for their expert perspective. In this blog series, along with our own inspiration for refreshed jewels, we highlight two longtime friends and Austin-based business-owners: Elizabeth Cates, of Sparrow Interiors and Gifts, and Kristen Ernst, of Grove Hill ATX Boutique. In this feature, Robin shares her jewelry insight that draws from her expertise as a 20+ year Austinite and fine jeweler.
What are your accreditations, certifications, and the background experience that feeds into your expertise?
ROBIN: I kicked off my lifelong educational journey with an undergrad from The University of Texas at Austin with a double major in business and sociology. People’s behavior and their relationships within the societies they occupy has always fascinated me. My jewelry-related certifications include an in-residence certification from Gemological Institute of America (GIA), including continued education with GIA and Van Cleef and Arpels — I sought the best of the best for my jewelry education, as I do now with my jewelry. Additionally, I’m certified with the International Society of Appraisers and have a certificate from Sotheby’s for The History of Jewelry.
What’s the history of why and how you got started in Austin?
ROBIN: It’s a love story, really. When I first started my business in 1999 as RSK Appraisers, I set up shop in Houston and, by design, ended up doing business all over the state — and beyond. I married my husband Trey in 2002, moved to Austin with him, and brought the business to Austin.
Where did your journey with jewelry begin?
ROBIN: I’ve always been fascinated with the reasons people collect things — since the beginning of time, people have been adorning themselves with precious materials. Historically, jewelry has been used as an emblem of social status, or a representation of who they are socially and culturally. My History of Jewelry certification with Sotheby's reinforced my desire to learn more about why people want to collect jewelry and pass it down. As far as the boutique goes, the collections grew organically out of my desire to fill the breadth of my clients’ needs.
What types of clients do you typically aim to serve?
ROBIN: Ultimately, my clients want a personal experience and a unique selection. I want them to learn a little fact about their jewelry, one they wouldn’t have known otherwise — or, a way to wear their jewelry in a new and unique way. When clients, old and new, come into my store, they usually end up with something completely different than what they had expected. Shopping here is very rarely a premeditated experience. You interact with the jewelry and more often than not, it chooses you, not the other way around.
How does Robin Hancock Fine Jewelry uniquely serve Austinites? Or, in other words, what can they find at your shop and with your service that they can’t find elsewhere in Austin?
ROBIN: The experience you have in this store is unlike any other in that it is personal, unique, and elegant, but not stuffy or so wild in design that it’s unwearable. The selection is unrivaled: we carry true-to-period pieces in perfect condition, as well as modern jewelers who represent current trends — but whose designs withstand time and generations. You can’t find these pieces anywhere else — not in town, and in many cases, not in the rest of the country. For example, a piece that delights me at this moment is this early-victorian lemon-colored chrysoprase. It's soft but meaningful, and the craftsmanship is exquisite, it’s very true to period and I’ve never seen one like it.
We’d like to learn your perspective on what makes Austin unique in terms of fashion and style:
How would you describe Austin’s style as compared to other major cities like New York City or Los Angeles? How is Austin’s style different from Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio? What elements are unique to the Austin vibe?
Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the US right now, gaining about 34,000 new residents annually (The most significant metro area net contributors to Austin growth are Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and New York.)
ROBIN: Every person in Austin has their own unique style. Austinites are more laid back in that they aren’t involved in many extravagant jewelry-wearing events, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to get dressed up; it is just the availability of how, and where, you’re able to wear your jewels. If you love it, you’ll wear it, and it doesn’t matter where you’re going. People from Austin wear their jewelry because it makes them feel good, and not to impress anyone else. People in Austin live their lives in a way that feels authentic to themselves, and don’t have to flaunt it for everyone to see.
Austinities aren’t scared of color in their jewels — I think we like that bright pop — it’s all that sunshine we get here. In terms of design, my clients gravitate towards interesting necklaces, wearable rings (but not necessarily conservative rings), and everyday earrings (earrings that can translate from day to night with lots of versatility and wearability) — these are staples in the jewelry box of the Austin woman.
Think about the quintessential Austin woman. If someone who just moved here were to come to you and say, “I want my jewelry to reflect my personal style, but also capture the unique style of Austin.” What would you recommend? What pieces are signature staples in the jewelry box of the Austin woman?
ROBIN: I’d recommend layering a set of necklaces and chains, mixing living artists with antiques – it’s very “Austin” to mix the old with the new, without making it look forced. Austin style is effortless. I’d also say a pair of versatile everyday earrings — some that aren’t like your neighbors, with a unique twist on something classic. Austin is laid back, so you want jewelry you can wear, but that also showcases your personality.
What new fashions, styles, people, or ideas (or anything else!) are you hoping increased growth brings to Austin? (or what changes have you already seen?) What do you hope remains the same?
ROBIN: Newcomers should trust their local retailers to find amazing pieces — you don’t have to go to another major metropolitan city to find the best of the best — Austin is the best of the best.
Get to know our unique neighborhoods and Old Austin standards. Become engrained with Austin's unique shopping experiences — they are longtime standards for a reason! The vibe of some of the older neighborhoods haven’t changed — especially some of the neighborhoods that are susceptible to growth. Rollingwood and Westlake are good examples of that. Loving and supporting your neighbors is foundational in our city, and I’d encourage anyone coming here for the first time to understand how important our small communities are to us, and to embrace that mindset.
People here are very transient. Everyone is so unique from the old to the young – it’s so broad in the types of people you get here – but everyone gets along and accepts each other. Most people who walk through the door are interesting and intelligent people – and I am confident that will remain the same as the city grows.
Thinking about the spring and summer months, specifically, what trends are you most excited for this season?
ROBIN: People will wear pieces they can travel with in the summer. They’ll have a few things they can wear down to Mexico or their summer homes on vacation and still feel put together (and safely take with them). For traveling abroad, they’ll choose pieces like a wide yellow gold band instead of a fancy diamond ring. Maybe some unique little Victorian earrings, understated hoop earrings with diamonds to wear at the pool, and a couple of lowkey bangle bracelets, plus a new chain necklace with a pop of color.
When it comes to where and how to shop boutiques and jewelry in Austin, our boutique has been a longtime staple. Browse our lookbook collections online and schedule a consultation, or stop by our artfully curated Austin boutique at 3663 Bee Cave Road #4H, West Lake Hills, Texas 78746. Stay tuned for a conversation with Kristen Ernst of Grove Hill ATX, and read our interview with Elizabeth Cates, to learn how you can refresh your home and wardrobe this season!