Fred Leighton: The Emperor's Button

From the story by Greg Kwait, the essence of the concept of the historical New York brand. Fred Leighton: transforming jewels from past ages into unique items of our time


  • Yellow gold, turquoise and garnet pendant earrings, circa 1960s.

    Yellow gold, turquoise and garnet pendant earrings, circa 1960s.

«Fred Leighton as we know it today began in the 1970s. Murray Mondschein, our founder, took over a Greenwich Village clothing shop called Fred Leighton, after its original owner. He began selling Mexican wedding dresses, hand-crafted accessories and ethnic jewelry. Clients began to bring him antique jewelry to sell, and he added that to his collection, creating an eclectic mix that people found hard to resist. The jewelry became wildly successful for Mondschein, and became his main focus as the business grew. The first jewelry sold by Fred Leighton was Mexican and Native American silver jewelry. Eventually he began to sell Victorian-era jewelry and then pieces that spanned the eras from Art Deco to Georgian and beyond. There are so many extraordinary pieces that have passed through the doors of Fred Leighton. A particularly extraordinary piece we have on offer right now is a ring that was once a button on the coat of Emperor Ferdinand Maximilian. Dating to 1760, it is part of a collection of 75 buttons and was later converted to a ring and sold through Hammer Galleries in 1943. The center stone is a 4.3 carat rose cut diamond, surrounded by 12 beautiful smaller rose cuts. This is a once-in-a-lifetime jewel. When Kwiat acquired Fred Leighton in 2009, one of the ideas we had for the brand was to expand our offering of contemporary jewelry. Today we are proud to present Signed Fred Leighton, a collection of jewels that draw inspiration from the past. Vintage elements are reimagined into new silhouettes and each piece is limited edition or one-of-a-kind. Whether it is an engagement ring or a specially crafted suite of diamond jewelry, we often create one-of-a-kind jewels and commissions. When this happens, our designers and craftspeople work closely with our clients to realize their vision. When they get excited about a new piece to add to their collection, this is what Fred Leighton is all about. We take jewels that were fashionable in their day and make them fashionable now, mixing eras and styles to create something that is completely unique.»

  • Signed Fred Leighton rose cut diamond, modern girandole pendant earrings

    Signed Fred Leighton rose cut diamond, modern girandole pendant earrings

  • Antique old mine diamond and blue enamel navette ring, circa 1860

    Antique old mine diamond and blue enamel navette ring, circa 1860

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