NEW YORK — The Plaza Hotel is giving new meaning to the term “chandelier” earrings, the kind of hanging bauble Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick favored in the 1960s. However, the iconic Manhattan hotel’s earrings, currently on sale in its boutique, are quite demure: a single crystal dropping down from beautifully wrought metal with an 18 karat gold finish. The earrings, along with a full line of jewelry in the hotel’s new Legacy Collection, are created from the crystal chandeliers that once hung throughout the property.
Since the Plaza’s top-to-bottom renovations were completed in 2008, the chandeliers have sat in storage. Management wondered what to do with something too historic and beautiful to trash, but of no practical use for lighting the hotel anymore.
“We had some chandeliers hanging in the boutique and sold a couple of them,” says Kristin Franzese, the Plaza’s executive vice president of retail. “Then, I don’t know if it was an aha moment, but I was looking at the individual crystals in the chandeliers and thinking, these are just beautiful. They are already so multifaceted, they’re like a semiprecious stone. They even have holes drilled in them. I thought, ‘These would be really pretty on a bracelet or a necklace.’ ”
The Plaza’s boutique already included jewelry by Morra Design, which is made by Manhattan-based artisan jewelry maker and metalsmith Heather Morra. Franzese put two and two together, and contacted Morra to see what she thought. “I wondered, is this crazy? But Heather loved the idea,” Franzese says.
“I thought it was an amazing idea. Right away I agreed and said something like, ‘Then people can own a piece of the Plaza!’,” says Morra. “We laughed about it. But people who were engaged there, or had coming out parties and other celebrations like to have a keepsake. The Plaza is such a part of New Yorkers’ lives. There’s an emotional attachment to this place and people have an emotional attachment to jewelry as keepsakes.”
Morra was careful handling the crystals, which vary in age but are mostly mid-20th century: “Some were a little tricky. I got a shard in my finger from one of them. But, overall, they are in surprisingly good condition.”
More surprising perhaps, the Legacy Collection, which went on sale in February, won’t break the bank: Pieces range from $150 to $500. “We wanted items that are aspirational but attainable,” says Franzese. “We wanted people to be able to walk away with a piece of the hotel’s history.”
So far, Morra has used six of the two-dozen or so chandeliers and is already at work designing more pieces. In the fall, The Bridal Collection will debut and will include headbands and hair combs.
It’s not the first time the Plaza has been creative with old bits and bobs. Room plates and doorknobs have been sold. Franzese says other items such as menus, invitations, and letters from guests have been archived.
It’s not only the Central Park grand dame whose wares have been repurposed either: The Plaza’s sister hotel, Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza, had silverware turned into bracelets and rings and sold in the hotel’s gift shop. The gift shop also has handbags made from newspapers recycled from the hotel’s guest rooms.
This fits a general trend in thrift and cherishing things that once might have been thrown out in favor of the new. It has a lot to do with appreciation for craftsmanship and making something to last. “Heather’s design is simple and really pretty; everything is done by hand,” says Franzese.
Franzese and Morra said they can’t help but wonder what stories those chandeliers could tell. “Everyone from the Beatles to Marilyn Monroe has glided beneath these chandeliers at various times, some of which hung in the Grand Ballroom,” Morra said.
Franzese adds, “Wouldn’t we love to know what they’d say?”