To me, Brooklyn-based Catbird has always been the jewelry brand (and store) that has paved the way for “everyday jewelry” — the kind of dainty, wispy, and delicate stackables that you never have to take off. After 14 years of occupying a tiny 200 square foot storefront on Bedford Avenue (a street which New Yorkers know is synonymous with Williamsburg), Catbird recently moved into a larger, more light-filled space on North 7th Street. The expansive new storefront — which the team affectionately calls the “Catbird Emporium” — is “a place to give our visitors space to style their rings and other jewels at our try-on counter, discover small home and beauty treasures on our shelves, and get Zapped! with a signature Forever Bracelet,” Catbird founded Rony Vardi told Refinery29. In addition to carrying shiny pretty things from independent jewelry designers Vardi loves — Digby & Iona, Wwake, Erica Weiner, Jennie Kwon, and Tilda Biehn, to name a few — the founder offers an in-house collection of rings, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and earrings made from solid gold, recycled diamonds, and precious stones “that are easy to wear and leave on,” whether you’re headed to your local gym or to a destination wedding. (Catbird’s Wedding Annex, a second location dedicated solely to Catbird’s collections of wedding and engagement rings, will soon move to the airy second floor of the North 7th location.)
I had to pay a visit to the new space, touch everything, and get “zapped” — the brand’s unique bracelet-welding activation that’s only offered in-store at the brand’s Soho, Williamsburg and Rockefeller Center pop-up.
Shop all Catbird rings
The first thing to shout out is the always-welcoming vibe of Catbird. Yes, I absolutely acknowledge that it’s a destination for relatively pricey items, but the shopping experience is super casual and non-pretentious. Fine jewelry can and should be for everyone, no matter your budget, and there are options at every price point whether it’s under $50, under $200, or over $5,000. The try-on counter is there for customers to play around and get stack-happy with jewelry in a non-intimidating setting. The passionate staffers were so helpful in assisting with sizing and styling for how my body wears jewelry — for instance, they were mindful of picking out only the rings that would fit my tiny baby fingers. (Though if you’re buying rings online, you can also order this nifty ring sizer.)
The way I love to style and wear Catbird pieces is to take the minimalism to the maximum — for instance, I can start with one thin hammered ring but easily pile on more if I’m feeling especially golden that day; small gold hoops are the go-to standard for me but I’ll slip on other danglers and studs in the second and third holes if I wanna amp up the sparkle factor. Catbird has its various opal, sparkler, and chain collections, which make it easy to mix and match for a cohesive — but sometimes beautifully chaotic — jewelry look.
Before Catbird, I had mostly thought of fine jewelry as something you primarily reserve for special occasions — partly because a lot of the fancy stuff I was encountering in my early 20s was too bold and costume-y for daily styling. Elsewhere, larger fashion retailers were (and are still) churning out cheap, short-lived pieces that tarnish or chip quickly. For many people, Catbird pioneered a more-affordable type of fine jewelry that, while precious, feels accessible. “It’s always nice to get credit for something that you feel like you really worked hard for, but the truth is, this is just how I wear jewelry,” says Vardi. “I’m a really unfussy person, but I still want to put on something beautiful — but I would rather have a small 14-karat gold ring rather than a bigger plated ring.”
Catbird opened its first brick-and-mortar location in 2004, paving the way for the current onslaught of digitally-native, direct-to-consumer brands that tout tenets of transparency and sustainability. Everything in Catbird’s in-house collection is handmade at the brand’s Brooklyn Navy Yard studio. There are no limited drops, no urgency to buy hastily, and there are no sales (except for Cyber Monday and a birthday discount) because everything has already been priced based on what will sustain the business. “We’ve always, since the beginning, worked with ethically sourced materials which automatically limits what you can do,” Vardi mentioned of the brand’s tight edit. “Nothing ever gets marked down which is part of our strategy. It’s also an environmental thing where we’re not just sitting on stock.” (Catbird also donates one percent of sales — before proceeds or profits — to “nonprofits that align with our beliefs,” Vardi added. The brand reached one million dollars of giving last year.)
All to say: If you’ve got an eye on a piece, you can always wait to treat yourself at a later date knowing that it’ll still be available when you’re ready. Plus, the slow-paced jewelry cycle of Catbird gives customers time to organically grow and curate their own jewelry stacks, which eventually become uniquely aesthetic to the wearer’s personality. “You only have 10 fingers so it’s fun to start collecting rings with milestones, which is something I love, love, love that people do all the time,” said Vardi. “People walk in and are like, ‘I just got a promotion’ or ‘I’m having a really bad day’ and they can walk out with something special. [Buying jewelry doesn’t have to be] big romantic gestures; it can be a little thing that people do for themselves.”
Shop all Catbird earrings
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy or click on something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?