By Jennifer Leventhal • Melani Lust Photos
“My home is my sanctuary,” says ICD owner and Chappaqua Mom Varda Singer. Nestled in a tranquil, wooded neighborhood, Varda and Roy’s (husband Dr. Elliot Roy Singer is known as Roy) stylish, contemporary home is filled with the treasures collected from all over the world. “I love to travel and I love to be in our store, but when I come home and open the door, all the stresses of the outside world fade away, because I am surrounded by so many of my favorite things.”
Indeed, her collections are museum quality. Richly hued Roman glass, a magnificent iron Tree of Life sculpture from India, bronze sculptures from Vietnam, tribal art from Papua New Guinea, and ancient coins made of 22-karat gold and natural pearls. Scattered casually amid the beautiful bounty are small, signed photographs of her with several past presidents and dignitaries. They are not blown up and framed; they are just modestly part of Singer’s everyday surroundings.
ICD’s motto, “Timeless Elegance,” suits Varda Singer perfectly. She is both glamorous and down-to-earth. While she exudes a worldly confidence, she is also a warm and approachable mother and grandmother. And just as her Feng Shui designed home is a perfect backdrop for her art collections, her luxurious neutral dresses and suits are a fitting canvas for her own favorite pieces of jewelry. “I personally love the warmth of high karat gold jewelry, 18-karat and 22-karat gold, with special detailing and granulation,” Singer says, “I also love South Sea pearls. My favorite pieces are very organic and interesting, and those that tell a story.”
40 Years in Chappaqua
Singer and ICD have been part of the Chappaqua community for nearly 40 years. She was born in Israel, the daughter of a prominent diamond merchant. After serving in the Israeli army, she came to the United States to attend Columbia University, and then she began her career as a jeweler. In Chappaqua, she raised two children who attended Grafflin, Bell, and Horace Greeley High School. They are grown now, but live in Manhattan, so she is able to see them often and to spend time with her four beloved grandchildren, as well.
Now that Singer’s children are grown, she can say with confidence that, “A mom is a mom forever. Your children depend on you whether they’re three-years-old or 40-years-old. It’s great to now be able to communicate and consult with my children in more of a friendship role. For me, the feelings and experiences you gain from being a mother cannot compare or compete with any feelings or experiences in your other relationships.”
Earlier in her career, the balance of raising a family and running a successful business was a bit more challenging, and Singer suffered the same moments of guilt as most working mothers.
“There were some times when my children were younger that I was worried because I couldn’t be two places at one time. I think that all mothers struggle a bit with some guilt or questioning of this balance,” she says. “When my daughter was in college, I asked her if she ever felt I should have spent more time at home when she was growing up, and she replied, ‘No, mom, I felt that the quality of the time you spent with us was so wonderful, and you were a great role model to me as a working mother. I wouldn’t have wanted you to do it any other way.’ Now, she is a successful working mother, and I’m so proud to watch her balance it so well.”
Singer’s strong relationships with her extended family still create an important balance in her life as a business owner. “I carry these family values with me into the store,” she says, “which I hope creates an environment that is very warm and very welcoming.” Both clients and staff feel that sense of family.
When the February 3rd Metro North train accident took the lives of four members of the Chappaqua community, including ICD employee Ellen Brody, the outpouring of grief and love and support for the business was enormous. “Ellen was one of us, and she had a heart of gold,” says Virginia Shasha, ICD Director of Private Sales.
“We are absolutely heartbroken, but we are not only heartbroken because of Ellen. We grieve all of the losses that our community has suffered. We grieve for all of the victims and their families, and we grieve along with everyone else in Chappaqua.”
The people of Chappaqua mean a lot to ICD and to Singer. Her clients are her neighbors. “I’ve had the privilege of working with several generations of families,” she says. “Their values have stayed constant, but the trends in fine jewelry have changed a bit over the years. When we first opened, the jewelry was chunkier and heavier, but today it’s more streamlined and wearable with an active lifestyle. But it’s still always classic and meaningful.”
Singer enjoys getting to know the younger generation of Chappaqua Moms. “So many of the moms in town today are professional women–whether or not they are taking some time off to raise their children,” she says. “The women who shop in Chappaqua are very worldly, intelligent, and stylish. They are fun to be with and to create pieces for.”
Custom design is a big part of ICD’s business, and Singer herself designs more than half of those pieces. She travels the world to find the very best diamonds, gemstones and South Sea pearls. “We’re doing more and more redesigning of pieces clients already own. We work with them to recreate outdated or inherited heirlooms into fresh, new, wearable works of art.”
Over the years, Singer has shared with her clients her philosophy that there is so much more to a special piece of jewelry than just the intrinsic value of the gold or the gemstones. “People today are looking for more meaning in the jewelry they wear,” she says. “They want their jewelry to be timeless and beautiful, of course, but also to bring good luck, good memories, and good Karma.”
Amy Knox of Millwood recently had the opportunity to work with Singer on a meaningful piece of jewelry. “The necklace I made with Varda was something I dreamed about for many years. Her enthusiasm for the design and truly understanding what it meant to me is what made it so special. Making a custom piece requires many steps, and Varda did all of the legwork for me and kept it fun along the way. I agree with Varda that jewelry should have meaning, whether it’s to mark a milestone or elicit a great memory. Her passion for this makes me want to work with her again when I am lucky enough to buy or design something new.
A Very Special Client
While all of Singer’s clients are important to her, she has particularly enjoyed working with President Clinton on creating custom fine jewelry for his wife, Hillary. “A couple of years ago, President Clinton brought me a gorgeous Tanzanite that he had selected and purchased in Africa, and together we designed spectacular statement ring for his wife. Then last year, we worked together to create a special bracelet for her to commemorate their new granddaughter.”
Jennifer Leventhal is a former lifestyle and fine jewelry editor. Her current venture, with partner Rachel Rader, is By the Book Fundraising, a marketing and book production company that helps non-profit organizations create meaningful fundraising tools that tell stories that donors can actually hold in their hands.