At JA New York there is a great event called The Big Pitch where designers present their collections to a panel of retailers and editors. The feedback they receive is so valuable. One of the designers who participated was Loren Nicole. She pairs stunning gemstones with bright yellow gold, handcrafts her own chain, uses an ancient granulation technique and works with artisans to carve rock crystal for her designs. Basically, she and her jewelry is incredible.
It began just after completing college 4 years ago. I was an intern in New York and thought I would take some ancient metalsmithing classes on the days I was not working. This is not unusual for me; I am very curious about material culture. I’ve studied weaving, glass blowing, etc. I quickly found a passion for jewelry. My skill-set from conservation allowed me to excel at the bench and my expanse archaeological knowledge provided more inspiration than I am able to control at times. I began by giving my class projects out as gifts and soon after friends and friends of friends began asking me to create pieces of jewelry for them. As my skills developed and I began to receive more inquiries about bespoke orders, I realized I was losing my passion for archaeology, forcing me to decide between continuing on my current path towards a PhD or jumping in and creating something from my new found love for jewelry design. Approximately two years ago, I chose the latter, moved to Venice Beach and the idea for Loren Nicole came to fruition. We launched our first collection, Hellenes, this past May.
I often begin with what techniques I’d like to explore that day and go from there. Rarely is sketching involved. I always have an idea of what the final piece will look like, but don’t map it. If I am really unsure of how something is going to work, I will mess around in fine silver first to learn the steps. If it’s a stone heavy project, I will often lay the stones out in wax to visualize a general shape and what elements might compliment the arrangement, such as granulation or twisted wire.
I was previously an archaeologist, so I tend be interested in the process. Whenever I discover a technique or aesthetic that is of interest, I study it and try to translate it into gold, when possible. My inspiration is textural driven. For example, the chains we offer are woven in similar ways to various textile weaves. I tend to favor techniques and artifacts from ancient cultures and indigenous peoples. The reason is simple. The jewelry is entirely handmade; no elements are machined. Truthfully, I don’t need electricity to make the jewelry in our collection. A very specific example, is a project I am currently working on, inspired by woven bracelets made by the Dayak peoples of southern Borneo. What’s interesting about their “braid,” is that it is woven in continuous circles. I learned how to weave these plant fiber pieces while volunteering in Borneo for the Orangutan Foundation International. Aside from technical interest, the pieces are also very personal. I’m looking forward to completing this collection and being able to continue supporting this organization through the sales of these pieces.
Favorite Design: The rock crystal bangle. We spent a year sourcing rock crystal big enough and with the just the right characteristics to cut the bangles. Add 22k yellow gold granulation and it really doesn’t get more classic than that. They also feel incredibly different from any other piece of jewelry; the stone makes the bracelets cold and create this high pitch bell sound when they tap against each other as you move your wrist.
Personal collection: I love this gold H.Stern band ring I purchased on my first trip to Peru. They have a special Peruvian collection only available there. The ring has a simple hammered texture surface with two bands of a carved Chimu wave motif found on the walls at Chan Chan. I also love a bangle I found in Mykonos. There was a tiny jewelry store in the smallest of alleyways selling panama hats and high karat gold jewelry. I discovered this gold bracelet that had been made by the shop owner’s grandfather over 40 years ago! It has a flexible round band with chased ram head finals. The craftsmanship is enviable.
Daily jewels: You’ll usually find me wearing no jewelry! If anything I’ll be wearing a small pair of mismatched earrings made form diamonds and Paraiba tourmalines. The stones were the first gift from my boyfriend. Turns out he was listening when I told him my favorite stone and managed to figure out how to spell it!
Favorite artists and designers: I love Agnes Martin and Christopher Marley. In terms of jewelry designers I admire, the list continually grows, but some of the highlights are; Hilat, Marco Bicego, Gurhan, H Stern and Temple St Claire.
Other than jewelry: I live in Venice, so anything outdoors! Every morning without fail, my boyfriend, myself and our little beagle, Milo, walk to the local coffee shop, followed by a morning swim, which is always a refreshing way to wake up and get your day going. We also enjoy walking on the beach path (lots of people watching if you haven’t visited Venice Beach) and going to the farmers’ market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Currently listening to: The Mowglis! So happy.
My favorites from Loren's collection are below, but check out her site to see more!