ASBURY PARK - For Newark native Michael Green, owner of The Jeweler of Asbury in Asbury Park, art has always been one of the best and most significant parts of his existence — and even saved his life early on.
“The arts gave me the sunlight that allowed me to survive the darkness,” said Asbury Park resident Green, 73, of how he endured a difficult childhood with an abusive stepfather.
Green relished the instruction of art teacher Jean Tso and went on to attend Newark Arts High School, the oldest public high school in America specializing in the visual and performing arts, where he especially enjoyed classes in painting, sculpture and ceramics.
Familiar with the Shore area thanks to numerous summertime visits to Bradley Beach as a child, Green graduated from Monmouth College (now Monmouth University) with a degree in sociology and eventually took a job helping to break up gang fights as part of New York City’s Emergency Gang Task Force in the early 1970s.
“I loved helping inner city kids get out of gangs and learn to read and I organized trips for them to art museums to help them appreciate the beauty of art,” he recalled.
Among other jobs in the art realm, “I had a leather shop in Long Branch in the late 1960s and started buying scrap metal at 30% to 40% below market price and incorporating it into jewelry designs under the business name Silver Drop,” Green said.
With race riots making life uncertain for Shore-area businesses by the early 1970s, Green moved to New York City and worked for department store Gimbels as a fashion buyer; he later worked representing many of New York City’s top-tier fashion designers.
Influenced by famed Italian jewelry designer Elsa Peretti, maker of signature teardrop and heart designs for Tiffany & Co., “I started creating things myself,” Green said. “I found great contractors to help me, including Peruvian jewelers the Medina brothers, and learned how to make fine jewelry.”
Launching Michael Green Designs in 1980, “I brought in gold from Italy because chains were popular and also began designing a lot of diamond jewelry,” said Green of his business, which grew to employ nearly two dozen associates in a shop on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.
“I sold millions of dollars of jewelry a year to Neiman Marcus, Jordan Marsh and other renowned department and jewelry stores in New York City and Philadelphia, hung out with the Rolling Stones and the Who, and went to all of the hot spots, including the Mudd Club, Xenon, and The Ritz in New York City and the Rainbow Bar & Grill in L.A.,” he said of his memorable days in the 1970s-1980s arts, music, and club scene. “I was in the middle of everything.”
Form follows function
Eleven years ago, after decades in the business, Green moved to Asbury Park, a city which had long captured his heart.
“I continued selling all over the country and commuting to New York City, but as business began suffering in 2020 due to COVID, I decided to reopen in Asbury Park, a community I live in and love,” Green said.
He launched The Jeweler of Asbury in a 400-square-foot space on Bangs Avenue (above French restaurant Pascal & Sabine) in December 2020, investing $30,000 in renovations that included new floors, specialty paint and moldings, and display cases to ensure that his space reflected his unique personality and approach to art and design.
Some 10 months later, form continues to follow function for the veteran designer, whose signature pieces include his Honeycomb ring collection and range of wedding bands and engagement rings that are exceptionally sparkly thanks to the unique way Green positions diamonds within prongs and seemingly sits large stones in the air, enabling visibility to the entire stone.
“Our ‘WEW’-style eternity band is among the lowest-sitting rings above the finger in the world,” Green noted of his range of wedding bands and engagement rings for men and women that start at $1,000. “We also offer beautiful stud earrings, pearl jewelry, a line of braided silver and leather bracelets for $150, and estate and older pieces of mine that you can’t get anywhere else — all the way up to a $30,000 necklace of sapphires and diamonds,” he said.
Green also sells a popular line of Phillip Gavriel jewelry, repairs Rolex, Cartier and other high-end watches, and works with clients to design custom pieces.
Creating his designs through a separate Manhattan-based manufacturing operation in conjunction with business partner Paul Weisbroat, a Gemological Institute of America and American Gem Society-certified gemologist and assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, “I help bring a client’s vision to reality based on my extensive knowledge of the jewelry industry and decades of experience in buying stones and designing pieces,” Green said.
Unlike some other designers who cut corners or use a variety of tricks to hide a stone’s flaws and save money, “we don’t just bury stones in metal, but rather take pride in sourcing the highest-quality stones for the most affordable prices, showing their beauty to the fullest extent, and making people happy,” said Green, who works with and appreciates every kind of stone but has an affinity for fancy sapphires.
Gifts from the earth
Among industry trends, Green said that what’s old is new. “What was ‘in’ 40 years ago is coming back — including simple bracelets with just a few diamonds, classic pearl earrings and necklaces, and rondelles, or circular spacers placed between stones in pearl and other types of necklaces,” he said.
As for challenges, “we’re in a great location, but it’s been tricky to get outside of these walls,” Green said of the difficulties of promoting his new business, especially during the pandemic.
“We’re doing a lot of advertising on social media, but some people don’t know we’re here or aren’t as familiar with me because I’ve been behind the scenes of many other jewelry outlets; others only know me through the music scene in town. But when they find out who we are, they come here!” he said. “I love showing customers a variety of different pieces and educating them on the beauty of jewelry.”
Assisted by an office manager and a marketing specialist, “we’re open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, during the afternoons on Saturdays and Sundays, and by appointment,” said Green, who looks forward to building his business and hopes to someday help establish a new fine arts high school in his beloved Asbury Park community.
“Art is the center of my soul and the way I express myself and I love designing jewelry because all of the lines and colors have such meaning,” Green said. “I feel so lucky to have been given this special skill.”
Perhaps Green’s favorite part of his job, however, is that jewelry brings people such happiness. “Nothing in the world is more treasured,” he said of the magnificent stones and metals he gets to surround himself with. “They’re truly gifts from the earth.”