Mariquita Masterson is well known to Houstonians as the designer namesake of the jewelry store/workshop nestled in the boutique shopping center at the foot of River Oaks Boulevard. The Mexico City native, who moved to Houston in 1957, says that she was first inspired to make her bold trademark jewelry while working with a glassblower designing a table setting for the MFAH’s 1982 gala. The slabs of deeply colored crystal, ready to go into the furnace, caught her eye, and an idea was born.

Photo by Libbie Masterson

In the years since, she has eschewed precious stones and continued to work in glass that is hand-blown, poured or hand-cut, which she sets in sterling silver or vermeil. She often recycles common glass – Tanqueray gin bottles are a favorite – as well as buys new glass rods for melting. Have a Champagne bottle from a wedding or significant birthday? Masterson can make it into keepsake earrings, necklace or studs-and-links set.

 

Although Masterson has been making her chunky and richly colored pieces since 1983, her big national moment came during the televised 2019 State of the Union speech. It was there that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seated directly behind the president, was spotted wearing Masterson’s double-strand blue agate bead necklace with a red crystal centerpiece. It was a gift from Pelosi’s daughter, who knew her mother would be wearing a white suit for the occasion.

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We recently caught up with Masterson, who graciously answered a few nosy questions.

Who has been your design inspiration?

Tony Duquette and René Lalique

What do you collect?

Grandchildren!

Favorite recent gift?

Guava jam made by a friend

Do you have any pets?

No, just grand-dogs

“Every day I read …

The Daily Stoic.”

What is your favorite personal item?

A dressed flea on a pistachio shell

What is your biggest extravagance?

Music

Other than your own home, what is your favorite Houston structure?

Rienzi

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that most people don’t know.

I played the clarinet in the American High School band in Mexico.

Favorite food and drink pairing?

A paloma and lechon [roasted baby pig]

What is the biggest mistake people make in caring for their jewelry?

Not wiping with a soft cloth after wearing

If you were not a jewelry designer, what would you be?

A chef

What new or long-delayed projects are you undertaking during the COVID-19 shutdown?

House projects

Your friends are coming to Houston and have never been before. What must they do while they’re in town? (Let’s assume that the COVID crisis is over.)

Attend a performance at the Moores Opera House at the University of Houston

Hear and learn more about Mariquita Masterson’s work in this interview made for Houston Public Media.