Handling Hearts: The Jeweler’s View
Updated: May 29, 2020
Love can be a delicate thing. That’s why when Kim Jones creates jewelry with romantic intentions, she handles the client with the same delicacy she applies to her precious metals and jewels.
“It can get dodgy,” the artist says. “When couples are looking it’s often the man who will say, ‘That’s a pretty necklace, do you want to try it on?’ He puts her on the spot. I can tell by her body language she doesn’t really like the piece, but she doesn’t want to insult me. I want to say, ‘it’s cool, just tell him you don’t like it.’” But she doesn’t. That place where love meets art can be formidable.
On other occasions, it’s the eye of the woman that’s caught by something in Kim’s showcase. “She’s showing him something and he either keeps on walking or he’s standing there with his arms crossed. I can tell he’s never gonna buy it for her,” says Jones. “There could be a lot of reasons for that—or he just really super doesn’t get it,” she laughs. Still, she keeps a cool distance. She’s not one to wield a 2×4.
Often, though, after a couple has walked out the door, he’ll come back and collect a business card, which, aside from the possibility of making a sale, provides some personal relief.
One evening, though, she was tending her store and a couple who was looking for rings came in. For one reason or another Kim explained to them that before the De Beers company popularized diamonds in the 1940’s, most rings were simple circles, meant to depict eternity. The couple moseyed off, presumably to quietly enjoy the rest of their evening. “But later the guy came back and bought a simple silver band, then proposed right there, that night, on the waterfront.” They came back together to tell her. “They were just incredibly cute!”
Handling couples who are searching through her limited production designs may require a light touch, but couples who are commissioning pieces for a special occasion, like Valentine’s Day for instance, sometimes need a heavier hand.
“It’s a beautiful thing to watch a couple discuss the design,” says Jones. “I sit them down and try to get out of them what they want to see on their hands for the rest of their lives. Some men think they want a chunky ring, but I find out they work on cars a lot or do other things with their hands and that design might not work with their lifestyle.” After she talks with them about certain symbolisms and materials, she offers three drawings and from there, gets to work fabricating the actual metals. “The design process is very personal,” she says.
But when a customer is working alone on a commission for his or her life partner, Kim sometimes very subtly intervenes.
“I had one client working with me on a piece for his wife. I’d worked with them before, so I knew her and I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to love it,” Jones recalls. “But I didn’t want to second-guess what he was trying to do. So, I crafted the piece in a way that it was easy to change later. I wasn’t surprised when it came right back to me.”
Kim’s own romantic notions include nostalgia for Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State who famously wore brooches. In the ‘90’s more women wore suits, so brooches were popular. “I still wear them,” Jones admits, “A brooch can really pop a boring sweater.”
Her other romance involves nature, which inspires her designs. And there’s the one with her husband, Pete, of course. She designed their wedding bands. But mostly, she works solo in her studio, with occasional assistance from another love, Moses the dog.
Kim learned to make jewelry at the School for American Craft, which is part of the Rochester Institute of Technology. It was there she learned she had a knack for tapping tough metals into exquisite keepsakes. But the yin and yang of managing the tender hearts and hands who will model her work to the world, she had to figure out on her own.
Kim Jones is a member of the SoCo Arts Lab in Tracys Landing/Deale, Maryland.