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Ann Arbor’s Thistle & Bess launches line of fine jewelry

Vintage inspired pieces with an updated look and personal story

The mano figa is the first piece in the Thistle & Bess fine jewelry line. It is only available at through Thistle & Bess.
The mano figa is the first piece in the Thistle & Bess fine jewelry line. It is only available at through Thistle & Bess. (Thistle & Bess)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Before Thistle & Bess was a shop in downtown Ann Arbor, it was an online vintage jewelry retailer.

Owner Diana Marsh started selling antique jewelry through Etsy after receiving some pieces as a gift from her great aunt, Margaret.

As Thistle & Bess became a brick-and-mortar store in 2015, Marsh branched out into selling fine jewelry, fashion accessories, barware, home accessories and a myriad of other things.

Now, she’s returning to Thistle & Bess’ jewelry roots by launching her own fine jewelry line with a collection of pieces she hopes turn into heirlooms for their wearers.

The collection’s first piece, which is available at the brick-and-mortar and online store, is a mano figa necklace. The good luck charm is based on one of Marsh’s favorite charm, given to her by her great aunt, but it’s been modernized to keep with the times.

“It’s all fine jewelry, so we want them to be pieces that can be heirlooms that you can put on and wear forever. And that you can pass on to your great niece, like my Aunt Margaret passed down to me,” Marsh said wearing her own mano figa while standing behind Thistle & Bess’ fine jewelry counter.

The new jewelry line is an homage to where Thistle & Bess began, but its also a way for Thistle & Bess customers to invest in pieces. Marsh said the collection is made out of solid 24 karat gold and that, while the jewelry is an investment, pieces are meant to last.

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The opal earrings are inspired by Victorian earrings received by Thistle & Bess owner Diana Marsh. (Thistle & Bess)

Pieces are inspired by vintage or antique jewelry that Marsh has had or sold over the years. The next piece to be released will be Victorian-inspired earrings based on a pair Marsh was given by her mother. The original earrings has turquoise stones but Marsh used opals.

“So the goal was to take pieces that we really love and kind of change them and modernize them a little bit. Then recreate them.”

Marsh said that the collection will start with limited pieces but as it grows things will be added or modified.

She started working with a New York-based jeweler in January before the COVID-19 pandemic started. Unfortunately, all of the pieces were locked in the jeweler’s New York office for a few months, which held up the launch.

Nevertheless, Marsh said she plans to release new pieces on a rolling basis.

“We’re putting a lot of thought into these pieces. We want them to have meaning, and we want them to be special, so a lot of them have a story or a good luck charm, or a personal story of mine that go behind them, " said Marsh.

The pieces are meant to be worn and enjoyed, instead of hidden away in a jewelry box for special occasions.

Although Thistle & Bess has been weathering the pandemic with its loyal customers, Marsh added that the jewelry line is also a way to make sure that the store continues should something happen to the brick-and-mortar. She has absolutely no plans to close but its an unnerving time to own a small business.

The jewelry line is a nod to where Thistle & Bess started but Marsh also intends for it to be part of her store’s future.

Thistle & Bess is open from noon to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays.

Learn more at Thistle & Bess through thistleandbess.com

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.