Art/Design, Creatives, Fashion, Features

Vintage Gold Rush: Crystal Stratford on why intention is key

Reliquary Gold, LLC is about the art first.

words by: Matt Peng
Nov 10, 2022

When you do enough interviews with people, you understand cadence and a commanding presence when you hear it. As Crystal Stratford hopped on the call with me for this piece, even her soft-spoken voice couldn’t hide the fact that this girl knows her stuff. There was an instant connection and feeling of intention in the way she spoke and carried herself. I’d learn through the call that she loves to educate and is fond of knowledge, but honestly, I could already hear and see it just from the first few words.

 

Crystal is the owner of Reliquary Gold, LLC, which she’s been running for about 3 years now. It started off as a small Instagram brand, which then trickled into a website, and eventually a showroom that now exists in Chinatown. The funny part is Crystal didn’t choose vintage gold as a career, the career chose her. Below she tells us the story of how everything came to be, learning to take ownership over money, moving with intention and why vintage gold isn’t the same as vintage apparel.

 

Photo via Sasha Zoobrilin/@zoobrilin

 

Can I put gold into Jell-O?

The spark that leads people down a career path varies from person to person. For Crystal, she had already been collecting vintage gold for herself, so there wasn’t a “spark” to turn it into a business per se. With a background in art direction, the business kind of created itself through very organic means and from what she learned about money through her personal experiences.

 

“Something you need to know about me is that I grew up super poor, like trailer park status. I realize now that your relationship with money kind of changes the way that you interact with the rest of the world. You interact with what you think you deserve. For me, I’m a vintage gold dealer and I never in a million years would’ve thought, when I was younger, that this could be something that would even be attainable,” she starts off.

 

“In 2018 or 2019, I bought myself a jewelry piece from this store in Portland called oKo. It was something that I could buy for myself and something I felt good about. I could buy designer clothes or whatever but gold, I knew in a pinch, I could just pawn it off. At that point, the price of gold was rising too. So that’s how I ended up justifying that purchase and feeling really good about it,” she continues.

 

“It wasn’t until 2020 (my background is in advertising and I’m an art director) that I got laid off from my brand director role. That’s when I found wholesale with low markups. I felt like I was going through this period of uncertainty and gold was something I could feel good about. I could use this space as an experimental space for my art director role,” she says as she talks about the beginnings of the brand.

 

“The brand itself started out super experimental and from an art direction space where gold is the only material that’s durable for generations — it doesn’t tarnish. So I asked myself, ‘Can we put gold in Jell-O? Can we put gold in water?’ Like how can I show people that gold is going to last them a lifetime in a fun experimental way with my friends. That’s how it turned into what it is now. It was never intentional, it was never chosen by me.”

 

“For me, mental health and your daily health, your overall well-being, really comes from the space of routine and a space of if you do X, Y, Z, then you’ll get A, B, C. It’s about being connected with who you are as a person and it being a healthy attachment — making yourself a home so that you can always come back to yourself, regardless of how your scheduled switches up.”

 

A juggling act

For Crystal, her background as an art director plays a vital role to her brand and also to how she juggles being a business owner. We asked her how she manages all her multi-faceted talents.

 

“For the longest time, it was all one and the same. It was all of me. It felt really holistic. As the brand has grown, I’ve definitely become at times out of my depth in regards to how much needs to be done. I wish I could spend all day coming up with weird ways to put gold in Jell-O but as we grow, with the showroom, it fundamentally changes the way I navigate my time. There is no good way to do both and it’s getting to the point where I need to hire help. Because right now the income is very much determined by the amount of labor I put in. So honestly, TBD.”

 

When everything feels like a part of your being, that’s how you know you’re doing it for all the right reasons.

 

Advice for young people

For those that are reaching for the stars and trying to entrepreneurs, Crystal has some words of advice on the topic.

 

“People need to follow their intuition. I’m also not pushing the agenda of an entrepreneur. I don’t think anyone should go into it thinking they’re an entrepreneur. I would never even call myself an entrepreneur. I’m an artist, first and foremost and forever. I would tell anyone, of any age, of any demographic, that if you want to do it, if it makes you feel better, stick to your intuition and follow what you think is best.”

 

She elaborates, “If you start to go down different pathways because you think you’ll make some more sales or whatever, that fundamentally is not good for your soul or the world. The world doesn’t really need that. Really live with yourself and get to know what you have to offer. It should be an intersection of what you know, what you’re good at, and something you can make money off, but also something that the world needs — what people need and how it can help other people make their day a little better.”

 

To sum it all up, “Stay as close to yourself as you possibly can. It’s all about letting opportunity find you and being a vessel for that. It’s all about intention.”

 

Photo via Charlie Szur/@caffeine_cowboy

 

“Your relationship with money kind of changes the way that you interact with the rest of the world. You interact with what you think you deserve.”

 

Relationship with money

On the topic of oneself, we switched over to the topic of wellness, self-care and mental health. Crystal made it abundantly clear that what she does might not be applicable to everybody else and the state they’re in that day. So the following advice might not be applicable to you.

 

“I think that your relationship with money is going to change your relationship with pretty much everything. So something that I practice, and something that gold has helped me practice, is everything in abundance. I tell myself that everything good is coming to me and that money will always come to you, you just have to put yourself in the right space and right opportunities to be available for it to come to you. Kind of like when one door closes, another one opens. Always remind yourself that things will work out, regardless of what that looks like. It might not look like what you think it will, but at the end of the day, when you’re 60 years old and looking back on it, you’ll say ‘Oh yea, that worked out.’ Because if it didn’t work out the way you thought it would, it just pivots your brain.”

 

Once again, she stresses the importance of understanding yourself and your intention.

 

“For me, mental health and your daily health, your overall well-being, really comes from the space of routine and a space of if you do X, Y, Z, then you’ll get A, B, C. It’s about being connected with who you are as a person and it being a healthy attachment — making yourself a home so that you can always come back to yourself, regardless of how your scheduled switches up.”

 

It’s also a topic that Crystal often brings up with her clients and it’s an educational process.

 

“When we started, it was a lot of education. It was a lot of education for first-time gold buyers because it was a lot of self-worth talk. A lot of people just felt genuinely undeserving to own something like a $300 necklace. It’s about changing the way they look at self-care and the way they look at money. It’s becomes a big change in the way that they are interacting with what they feel they deserve in a materialistic way.”

 

“My business is about intrinsic value. People can make up a value for a vintage Metallica shirt and that’s perceived value, they can decide what they want to spend on it based on cut, where it came from, or just the demand. But gold, at the end of the day, it has intrinsic value of whatever it is per gram or pennyweight.”

 

If you want to know, you’ll ask

That last part brought us to an interesting pivot into education and how different consumers are these days. For Crystal, her business and personal belief is that educating the customer is very important. Learn why that may be the case for your brand, or maybe it isn’t.

 

“It [Education] depends on the consumer you’re talking to because some people just aren’t into that stuff. Some people are into what’s cool right now, and that’s OK, rock your world and do you. But my background is really dedicated to helping, and artistry, and being there for young people to make educated decisions. But people have to want that, they have to want to learn. It just depends on your strategy and brand.”

 

She uses silent luxury as an example.

 

“It’s like silent luxury. I think that the enthusiasts, people who really care and are really interested in the history, quality, and how it’s made, those people are looking to be educated. They can be rocking gold and not worried about other people giving them attention because they’re doing enough of that for themselves. It could be a $3,000 gold piece but people might just think it’s fake, and they’re ok with that. Then there’s other consumers who want to be a part of community. So know your market and know who your community is.”

 

“I would never even call myself an entrepreneur. I’m an artist, first and foremost and forever.”

 

So has the resell industry peaked?

To bring everything full circle, I asked Crystal for her thoughts on the resell industry, and how gold differs from something like vintage apparel. Peep the gems below.

 

“I don’t know if the industry has hit a peak yet. I think that right now, young people specifically, are moving towards a very weird, very cool demographic of style and dress. I don’t live in that as much personally because I’m a silent luxury type. I’ll wear a vintage cashmere Vince piece for like $50 but then I’ll have like a $2,000 bracelet on and everyone will think that it’s fake, but that’s my vibe and I’m cool with that. My point with that is I’m definitely seeing a shift in the way that people are shopping, even if it’s expensive.”

 

She continues, “The question is more for the retail side and at times I do feel like it’s oversaturated — everyone has a vintage store and everyone is also buying vintage — so that’s a different industry that I’m just watching because it doesn’t really effect my business.”

 

So what about the gold business?

 

“My business is about intrinsic value. People can make up a value for a vintage Metallica shirt and that’s perceived value, they can decide what they want to spend on it based on cut, where it came from, or just the demand. But gold, at the end of the day, it has intrinsic value of whatever it is per gram or pennyweight. It’s just a whole different sell and different buy. And it’s interesting to watch how my industry interacts with the clothing industry because sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.”

 

So has it hit its peak?

 

“Probably not. I don’t think so much a peak as more of a plateau maybe. I don’t think vintage clothing or gold would go down but I don’t think that they’re rising. I think people are shopping different.”

 

And on that note we ended by talking about how Crystal still loves focusing on the experimental and editorial part of her vintage gold brand.

 

Crystal recently launched her Fall/Winter 2022 collection, titled “INDULGE,” that you can view in-store and online at shopthereliquary.com. You can check out our other Vintage Gold Rush features as well for perspectives from vintage shop owners in the LES.

 

Reliquary Gold, LLC
75 E. Broadway #222
New York, NY 10002

 

Photos via Reliquary Gold, LLC