Todd & Company owner Todd Johnson chats about his career as an antiques dealer and his forays into fine estate jewelry and jewelry design.
Story by Emily Chavous
Photography courtesy of Todd & Company
Todd Johnson has been traveling around the country to estate sales and antique shows in pursuit of beautiful, one-of-a-kind jewelry and heirloom objects for most of his adult life. Up until the pandemic hit, the Oregonian was living in San Diego, where he operated his namesake antiques and estate jewelry store, Todd & Company, for more than 30 years. But then, in 2020, the shows and sales that he so oft attended shut down, and the widespread moment of pause gave Johnson an opportunity to reevaluate where he wanted to be.
“I’ve always had a place out here [in the Coachella Valley] and enjoyed coming out on weekends from San Diego,” he shares. “San Diego is a bit like L.A. in some ways, with the traffic and things that you deal with on a daily basis, and it’s a lot more relaxed out here [in Palm Desert]; the people are really nice.”
So, Johnson made the decision to spend more time in the desert and focus his attention on opening a new Todd & Company storefront at The Gardens on El Paseo in Palm Desert. The store marked its grand opening in April 2021 after a full remodel of the space, though it launched about four months earlier as a pop-up, one door down from its current location. Johnson has maintained his presence in San Diego, primarily serving private clients, and has begun to travel again to source product from shows in destinations like Miami, New York City, and Baltimore
Johnson, who got his start as an antiques dealer, pursued his interest in jewelry design and diamonds at the Gemological Institute of America, where he received a graduate diamond degree. While he now predominantly sells fine jewelry at the El Paseo store, including a modern line that he designed personally, Johnson also stocks other interesting valuables — from ballpoint pens to vintage coins — and works one-on-one with clients to assist in the acquirement of everything from jewelry to museum-quality artworks and antiques.
We caught up with Johnson to hear more about Todd & Company and his lifelong passion for storied objects.
What draws you to the world of antiques?
It’s always appealed to me how things were made, the way they’re put together. You can look at an antique piece of furniture and, if you know what you’re looking for, really appreciate the way it was handmade. Most things that are manufactured today are machine-made.
What led you from antiques into fine jewelry?
I’m not a big jewelry wearer myself, but I’ve always been fascinated with it. There’s a lot to learn, and that’s what’s fascinating when you’re dealing in antique jewelry in particular. It’s got so many facets to it, and you’re always learning something new. Thirty years later, you still see something that you haven’t seen before. The same [principles of appraisal] apply to jewelry as with furniture and decorative arts: You can [learn to notice] certain things about the jewelry that will tell you the age and the period and style that it’s from.
You designed a collection of rings about four years ago. Tell us about that.
I wanted to design a line that was for everyone. It’s called H&H Collection, which stands for “his and hers,” “his and his,” and “hers and hers.’ They’re bands that partners can wear, kind of like puzzle rings that fit together. The whole idea was the connection between people. I also designed a line that is a mixed metal, over 18 karats, that is silver, gold, and copper. It has a wood-grain effect to it that guys really like — [a style that is also found in] the ancient Japanese art of making swords. I customize the design and have it made by a jeweler that manufactures for me; they’re all handmade.
How do you describe the Todd & Company aesthetic?
We deal in an eclectic mix of estate jewelry. What’s fun about estate jewelry is a lot of things are really unique, and you can find things that you typically wouldn’t in a regular new-jewelry store. With my own pieces, I have a certain style that I like myself, which is a mix of modern and a bold look. And then with the store, over the years, I’ve seen what people like and what they’re attracted to. I try to carry a mix of everything, from diamonds to opals.
Is there much of a difference in the styles that our local market is attracted to, compared to your clients in San Diego or other areas?[Preference] varies from person to person, from a very dainty and subdued look to big and bold. Big and bold is pretty popular out here — the same as in Los Angeles.
As you celebrate your first-year anniversary in the El Paseo space this month, what are you most proud of?
We’ve got a good staff on board, very friendly and down to earth. I think it’s a real comfortable place for people to come and shop and check things out.