#realrealexperts: Meet Our Gemologist with a Background in Archaeology

Words by Jody Hume | 12.2.17
If you shop The RealReal obsessively you’ve seen the vast array of covetable luxury pieces on the site. What you don’t always see are the people behind the scenes. Specifically, the people whose job it is to ensure that all of those amazing pieces are 100% authentic. But we have over 40 people on the team who do just that, from luxury brand experts and horologists to gemologists and art curators. With our #RealRealExperts series, we’re introducing them to you.
Anna Rasche’s path to becoming a gemologist was a unique one that took her from archeaological digs to the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the jeweler’s bench, and eventually here to The RealReal. It only seemed fitting to learn more about her intriguing background as we followed her through a place like the Brooklyn Museum and Botanical Gardens. Read on to learn her favorite jewelry designers, the most impressive pieces she’s come across in her work and more.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am one of the Pricing & Authenticity Managers for the Fine Jewelry & Watch department here at The RealReal. I evaluate consigned pieces to determine the authenticity of material and maker, and work with a talented team of gemologists, horologists and industry experts to keep our pricing on point.
What is your background in fine jewelry?
My entry into the world was through fabrication — I took courses at the SMFA in Boston and rented a little bench space in the studio of a master jeweler to learn from him. Working with gemstones in this capacity sparked my interest in gemology, so I took a job as a diamond grader at the Gemological Institute of America, earning my Graduate Gemology degree while there. Afterwards I joined a lovely estate jewelry firm that specialized in antique pieces and designed custom engagement rings. I also spent time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art doing research for the American Wing’s jewelry collection. Currently I’m enrolled in the Cooper Hewitt’s History of Design MA program (focusing on jewelry history, of course!).

How did you become interested in fine jewelry?
At Boston University my major was archaeology, and while fieldwork is great fun, it is also a lot of digging large holes and then lifting rocks out of them. Luckily, while on this path I was introduced to the wonderful world of ancient Hellenistic and Etruscan goldwork and became totally smitten. The craftspeople of these cultures were able to produce jewels with such amazing technical proficiency and worthwhile design that they remain impressive and relevant over 1,000 years later. These are the pieces that inspired me to focus my efforts and energies on working with gems and jewelry.

What is a typical day at The RealReal like for you?
Oh goodness, there are hardly typical days because I never know what fabulous thing will come across my desk. Always there will be research on designers, hallmarks and collection histories as well as gemological work in the microscope and assay of precious metals. Lately I’ve been able to spend a lot of time working with clients directly at our new brick-and-mortar in SoHo which is really nice.

Who are some of your favorite jewelry designers?
If you’ll indulge me in a bit of time travel, I’d have to say all-time favorites would be Cartier c. 1920 and also the house of Castellani, which produced incredible archaeological revival pieces during the Victorian era. Two current designers I really love are Temple St. Clair (her moonstone pieces are magical), and Alex Sepkus, whose jewels are all hand-finished with very unique and intricate patterns and textures.

What are the most standout pieces you’ve come across at The RealReal?
Oooh this is a tough question; we see lots of wonderful pieces. Currently on the site we have this showstopper platinum and diamond collar that features a stunning carved emerald pendant. I’m also enamored with these vintage pavé Van Cleef & Arpels diamond hoops. The design is minimal, but the impeccable craftsmanship and sense of proportion create a look that is quite bold and elegant. We also recently sold a Tiffany & Co. ring set with one of the most beautiful alexandrites I’ve ever worked with. It was such a lively stone — the color-change phenomenon was textbook!
Do you have any prized pieces in your personal collection?
The first piece of antique jewelry I bought myself was a little gold band with three old-mine cut diamonds. It was made in England in the 1890s and I almost never take it off. It probably has ghosts, but I think they are friendly.
Do you have any tips for people who are starting to build their fine jewelry collection? Or for those who are already collectors?
Research, research, research. Read books and fashion magazines, visit museums, galleries and auctions, talk to designers and makers at craft shows and open studios, or even just go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole about gemstones, eras or designers that pique your interest. Try on and handle as much as possible. The world of jewelry is big and wide and ancient, and the broader your exposure the more you’ll be able to develop your own unique point of view.

What are you doing when you’re not at work?
New York City is the BEST place to find things to do when you are not at work. I attend a lot of talks and events related to my field, of course, but also very much enjoy just picking a neighborhood and walking around to admire the architecture, parks and *ahem* pubs.  My biggest not-at-work endeavor is running an event series that brings history, art and social studies lectures to different venues around Brooklyn. My friend and I started doing this about six years ago, twenty people showed up to hear us talk about the Holy Crusades at a bar in Williamsburg and we have been going strong ever since. We’re currently putting together our 2018 lineup; our next event will be an “Art History Happy Hour” at the Brooklyn Museum towards the end of January.
Inspired by the history of fine jewelry? Add a special piece to your own collection with our edit, fully authenticated by experts like Anna.

Photos by Aimee Brodeur

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