In recent years, the surge of independent designers has seen an all-time high. From hand knit scarves to commissioned furniture, artisans who know their craft and can identify with a client’s need for something unique continue to pave the way for the latest and greatest must-haves. Jewelry designer JJ Singh is no different. Drawing inspiration from ancient civilizations, Singh’s pieces are at the top of our lists this holiday season.
PD: How did you begin designing jewelry?
JS:After graduating from high school, I asked my parents for metalsmithing lessons. Relieved I wasn’t asking for a car, they called our local goldsmith and made arrangements. He graciously obliged and those lessons turned into an apprenticeship where I learned the fundamentals of working with precious metals. Manipulating metal into beautiful objects is an endless journey and there is always something new to learn.
PD:What materials do you typically work with?
JS: Fine silver (.99), sterling silver (.95), 24k gold plating, and semi-precious stones.
PD: Are some materials more complex to create pieces with?
JS: Every material has its own set of challenges. The key is to exploit the materials strength and minimize it’s weakness when planning a design.
PD: What inspires you on a regular basis?
JS: I’d say it’s a combination of texture, (whether it be in fabric, intricate wood carvings, architecture, etc.) and my admiration of Byzantine forms and historical religious iconography.
PD: Does travel play a role in your creations?
JS: Absolutely! My husband is from India, so when we travel there my senses feast on the intricate craftsmanship you see everywhere. Many of the pieces in my collection are based on wood block carvings that were once used to emboss patterns onto silk saris.
PD: The concept of the Mini Jewel Bar is yours (and a brilliant one); how did you come up with this?
JS: I get a lot of requests to design customized pieces of jewelry for clientsto give as gifts. The process is exciting but can be costly and time consuming. I wanted to offer a way that anyone could customize a necklace in a meaningful way. Providing a pre-selected range of choices, ensures that no matter what combination you choose, it is guaranteed to turn out beautifully. The name came from my love of mixology. Not being one to turn down a good cocktail, it seemed perfectly logical to fill martini glasses with charms and stones…thus the Mini Jewel Bar was born. Since its inception, the idea has expanded and now we have the Bangle Bar and Charm Bar as well.
PD: What are trends we can expect to see in the coming spring season as far as jewelry?
JS: The Spring runways were showing a lot of asymmetrical necklines, so I think we will continue to see long necklaces that layer over the clothes and a strong emphasis on earrings. Cuffs and bangles continue to be strong either as one large statement piece, or many smaller pieces layered.
PD: What is one piece every woman should have? How could I possibly pick just one?
JS: Every woman should have a monogrammed piece whether [it’s] a medallion necklace or a signet ring.
In addition, I would suggest something to hold charms. Our take is a variation on the charm bracelet and a throwback to the ‘80’s…. a charm holder necklace. It is sophisticated and elegant and personal at the same time. These are not only adornments but sentimental amulets that carry a personal symbolism. They are timeless and can be passed on when the time comes.
PD: A lot of women claim that topping off a look with jewelry makes them feel more polished. What’s your take on this?
JS: I think wearing jewelry is like wearing high heels. In the same way a pair of stilettos makes you stand a little straighter; wearing jewelry makes us more aware of our bodies. For example, when you are wearing long earrings, you feel them brush your neck when you turn your head. It’s a little reminder to slow down and take that turn gracefully.
PD: You work primarily with sapphires, any reason why? JS: Sapphires are strong, beautiful, and come in almost every color! A lot of people don’t realize that some of the most lovely celadon, lavender, yellow, and orange colors can be found in sapphires.
PD: The process of creating handmade jewelry is a painstaking one. What makes it easier at the end of the day? JS: The truth is, I don’t find it painstaking at all. Each piece is a combination of balancing the technical challenges with the desired aesthetic of the piece. Working in the studio is my meditation. It takes me to a place where I lose track of time and feel a deep sense of satisfaction. When I’m away from the studio I have symptoms of withdrawal. It is my passion.
PD: What is your favorite ‘80s movie? JS: Fast Times at Ridgemont High – still funny after all these years.
PD: Any holiday plans in particular?
JS: Our family tradition is to visit the Big Apple for three days and return home on Christmas Eve. After the holidays, I’m taking a big fat break in January.