At RTJ we cast real women for our photoshoots. We love to learn about their lives and want to share their stories with you.
Erica Behrens, 58, is Director for the US and Canada of Franz Mayer of Munich, a firm that fabricates high-end glass and mosaic public art projects around the world. She has worked directly with contemporary artists for many years through galleries, museums and municipalities and lives in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York.
How do you feel when wearing a beautiful piece of jewelry?
Well, jewelry is a pretty important part of my life–how I accessorize, how I present myself, and I’ve been wearing a lot of interesting pieces from designers for many decades. I feel that jewelry, whether it’s an incredible cuff, an amazing pair of earrings, or a fabulous ring or pendant can really pull an outfit together and make a statement, especially for me because I work in the arts. It's a creative opportunity to enhance the way I present myself and my aesthetic.
I do a lot of speaking about art projects, and they are very high-end. I have to look presentable and interesting and cultured and artistic, so if I can’t invest in all of the fabulous designer outfits I’d like to wear, I dress high/low and mix a few excellent unique pieces in my wardrobe. Jewelry is a key component in how I pull it together. So, if I invest in and have jewelry that I love and have been wearing for decades, people identify me with that; people know me because of the interesting jewelry I wear. It makes me feel confident and strong.
Can jewelry change your mood?
Oh, yeah, I think that when you're having a bad day, you can pull your hair back, put on some lipstick and some fabulous jewelry and you’re out the door, it can boost your confidence and makes you feel far more positive about your day and yourself, and your ability to take everything on. I think it does, for sure.
Do you like to get jewelry as a gift? Or do you prefer to choose your own pieces?
Well, that’s an interesting and tricky question because my entire life I have received jewelry as gifts, but I definitely curate the gifts that I have received. It’s very clear the kind of jewelry I like. If I point out jewelry or a designer, people often say and even my children say, “oh that looks like Erica.”
As a young girl I was enamored with ancient Byzantine jewelry, Roman jewelry, and Etruscan jewelry. I loved viewing the cases in museums wherever I traveled. I adored it, I would wonder about the ancient women and how they put their costumes together, whether they were aristocrats or who they were in society. I found the jewelry fascinating and beautiful, intoxicating. I grew up in Mexico City, and my mother wore very beautiful and interesting jewelry, and we were surrounded by incredible Mexican silver, and I think that influenced my interest as well.
When shopping for jewelry, what do you look for? What speaks to you?
I have different categories of jewelry. One the one hand, I have very timeless small jewelry with a semi-precious stone, or diamonds layered with something delicate that I can even wear while working out in a T-shirt.
And then I have more artistic jewelry that’s bigger–statement pieces that I will wear with a black suit. I wear a lot of cuffs and a lot of big earrings, pieces that really pull my outfits together and stand out in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise. It always works well–a big brass or sterling silver cuff or a big ring.
When you’re buying jewelry as a gift for someone else, what do you consider about the recipient when choosing the right piece?
I buy a lot of jewelry for my closest friends, and they love the jewelry I buy for them because they've admired the jewelry on me, and it tends to come from the same designer, something that might be a statement piece for their outfits. Something super interesting, and then I think they identify that gift with their connection to me. For example, I recently received a photograph from one of my friends who lives overseas, and she's wearing a black outfit for New Year’s Eve; a huge beaded cuff and also earrings that I gave her, and it was so lovely to see her wearing this jewelry that I had given her over the years.
What's in your jewelry box?
I have too many jewelry boxes and bags and bins. I have the beautiful pendant [Collaborations Collection] that Ronnie made with her mother Dalia, who I’ve known for years. I’ve been wearing that a lot and getting compliments. It’s one of Ronnie's custom pieces that she collaborated on with her mom. I wanted that piece because her sister is one of my best friends and I’ve known her mother and the family for 26 years, so it was very important for me to have the pendant in my collection.
I was just in Mexico and I have a lot of beaded, interesting Huichol Indian cuffs that are very geometric. I have another necklace from Ronnie, one of her little tourmalines [Unearthed Treasures Collection] that I love that her sister gave me. I have all kinds of things.
Do you have any cherished family heirloom pieces?
I had one that was stolen unfortunately, that was my great-great grandmother’s; an emerald cut emerald that was on my great-great grandfather’s lapel stick pin when they met on a steamship. He then had it made into an engagement ring for her, and she’s wearing it in a portrait that we have. It was very special, but it was stolen.
I think the most important things that I cherish are pieces from Mexico that are well-known Mexican-style decorative designs made from silver with lots of semi-precious stones. I have some of those from my mom that I love. They’re very cool, and in style again.
Do you collect anything (art, pottery, etc?)
I collect contemporary art, mostly from artists that I have worked with or that I have helped to put together small collections for clients. I also have art from Mexican artists from my parents’ collection.
Where do you get inspiration? Do you have a creative process? Tell us about it.
I’m a big cook, and I am very into my cooking and my creative interests in the kitchen. Everyone that knows me knows that put a lot of love and creativity into my cooking, and also in my jewelry and the way I dress.
I cook all the time, and I love entertaining friends and family and my partner. I think my approach to life is to make things beautiful and special and memorable. It doesn’t have to be expensive or high-end but you can make things beautiful by pouring creativity and elegance and unique touches into everything you surround yourself with. Whether it’s food, your jewelry, your scent, your outfit or the way you hang your art.
I love reading about cooking–food memoirs and chef memoirs. I’m inspired by putting together meals from beginning to end for people to enjoy. I love the idea of ingredient-driven, seasonal cooking. Whether it’s Mediterranean, or Mexican fusion, it could be a whole combination of sensory pleasures and fun things.
Do you feel more at home in nature, or an urban setting?
What’s your favorite RTJ piece?
That’s hard. I love the piece that I have [Collaborations Collection] because as I said, it combines Ronnie's work and her beautiful vision for her line, but also pulls in her mother’s work. It's really brilliant, very unusual and touching because I know the family and I know how strong the family is. So that was very surprising to me and very beautiful. I love the little ring her sister wears, the star ring with the little semi-precious stone. [Unearthed Treasures Collection]. I like so many of Ronnie's pieces.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I am interested in expanding my business in the arts and am getting excited about that, depending on what’s happening in the world. I have a lot going on with my personal life in terms of my newly blended family, that’s a big thing for me too.