India Lawrence and Kayten Schmidt are sourcing – and selling – unexpected jewellery from the past half century: from brutalist constructions to sculptural postmodern gems
Who is it? Sculptor India Lawrence and artist-photographer Kayten Schmidt, founders of LA-based vintage jewellery shop Lawrence & Schmidt, met in 2014 at a karaoke joint. The duo immediately bonded over their love of jewellery – both had been collectors of one-of-a-kind pieces prior to meeting – and spent the next year, in true millennial fashion, sharing personal references, concepts, and new pieces online.
It wasn’t until 2016 that they consciously decided to start a joint collection, and spent over two years quietly building their offering together before digitally launching Lawrence & Schmidt in late 2019. “We ruminated on it for a while; we played around with ideas and took our time building the collection,” explains Schmidt. Lawrence and Schmidt select each piece based on what they call a “shared gut instinct”, making each Lawrence & Schmidt selection together in order to combine their complementary sensibilities. “We definitely found a magic together. Collecting together became this fun exploration of pushing each others’ individual tastes to somewhere we couldn’t go on our own,” Lawrence says.
The pair are inspired primarily by mid-century artist-jewellers like sculptor Claude Lalanne – known for her surrealist adornments – and New York studio jewellery designer Art Smith. Of the latter, Lawrence says, “he made work in the 1950s in the Lower East Side. His aesthetic and his spirit meant a lot to one-of-a-kind jewellery. He was a special designer.” With such elevated references, the duo’s jewellery selection process is meticulous: “We look at each piece as a sculpture. What does the entire piece look like as an object? We always look at the back of the piece first; it has to be beautifully made on all sides, at all connections.”
Why do I want it? Each Lawrence & Schmidt piece is truly unique and one-of-a-kind. Most jewellery within the collection, from a calla lily-shaped choker to a gorgeous brutalist mesh ring or solid koa-wood bracelet, is unsigned and unlabelled, created by an unknown artist. “We’re not necessarily drawn to jewellery by a famous jeweller or artist. We highlight beautifully handmade, imperfect things that aren’t status symbols. We’re drawn to pieces that are not precious in terms of material; we’re not interested in diamonds or gemstones or 14-carat gold,” says Lawrence. This ethos is embodied in one of the duo’s all-time favourite jewellery pieces: “We have a favourite necklace that Kayten owns. It’s a river pebble wrapped in wire. It’s the simplest thing: just silver and the pebble. There’s nothing valuable about it other than it is perfectly made,” Lawrence continues.
In their own words, the pair created Lawrence & Schmidt with “the desire to adorn the adventurous and the sensitive”. Each piece carries its own character or emotionality, from bold to sensual and beyond, and is meant to be worn as a personal talisman. “Wearing jewellery is a form of deep personal expression without rules – fun and wild. And when you take away the precious materials and you’re left with raw or unusual materials, forms, and iconography, the jewellery can tell a deeply personal narrative, a secret, or a desire,” Lawrence says.
As for the label’s eclectic, brutalist-leaning aesthetic, Schmidt adds, “it’s very easy right now to source minimalist silver jewellery whether it’s vintage or contemporary. And we love those pieces but we wanted to go a little deeper, bolder, more rebellious.” Collection stand-out pieces such as unlabelled silver alloy mesh rings (“delicate and wild”), snake belts, and original Gucci timepieces from the 1970s embody the duo’s eclectic and lush vision.
Where can I find it? The Lawrence & Schmidt collection is available via the label’s online store. The collection is updated quarterly to anticipate the upcoming season.