In a world full of overdesigned jewels, finding a piece that strikes the perfect balance between statement and understated elegance can seem like a lost cause. Luckily, there exists designers like Kate Jones. Drawing on a wealth of knowledge and experiences that most could only dream of, Kate creates the beautiful heirloom-worthy pieces that her brand Ursa Major has become known for. Her most recent architectural Collection No. 3 has really captured our attention with necklaces, earrings, bangles, and rings that promise to stand the test of time and outlast even the most popular of trends. Here, the master jeweler answers our questions.
Image via Backyard Bill.
When did your interest in creating jewelry begin?
The truth of the matter is, probably at about age 10. I spent a lot of time playing around with polymer clay (like Fimo and Sculpey) making my own beads. I was obsessed with the technique of “caning” or millefiori, and then I started making these funky animal brooches from it, Keith Haring-esque shaped fishes and dogs . My mom wore one into a store, and that was it, my first order. So I think I’ve had a business number since the age of 12.
Did you study jewelry design or are you self-taught?
A little of both. My first metalsmithing class was at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, in Deer Isle, Maine, through a high school program they did in the state. Then I went onto study at Rhode Island School of Design, but I only did the first year of jewelry and metalsmithing before switching to textiles. It’s ironic, Lauren Manoogian and Caitlin Mociun were also classmates in textiles, and we all do jewelry now. I gained a tremendous technical foundation from RISD but learned a hell of a lot from just practical application and on-the-job experience, every summer I would return home to Maine and work in a small store called, A Silver Lining, doing repairs and custom work. That’s when I learned just how much of the craft is about tools and tricks, which is to say a lot. A whole lot.
Where do you find inspiration?
Oh boy, in everything. But if I had to name the top hits I’d say art and architecture, and in the pursuit of making old new again.
Do you like to wear your own pieces?
Of course! But when people ask me if I’m wearing any of my jewelry, I get bashful after about the third piece or so. I actually have to be a bit careful not to wear much of the jewelry I own but didn’t create because invariably people always pick that out first and excitedly say, “Did you make that?!”
What is your favorite part about being a jewelry designer?
The detail, the problem solving, and the opportunity to create a piece that might be handed down 100 years from now.
Describe your typical studio uniform.
Jeans and an old oversized Smith and Hawken denim shirt.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Living on our sailboat, Ursa Major, we spent a lot of time hanging out in Antigua, and there was a spot called Shirley Heights. It was an old fort high up overlooking English and Falmouth Harbors, and every Sunday night was Jump Up, otherwise known as the classic Caribbean party: steel drums, reggae, BBQ, and rum punch. I was 8 and dancing my ass off with the locals, BBQ sauce smeared across my face.
What are you most looking forward to in the new year?
Expanding the brand, new projects, and travel. I’m creating a line of hardware, collaborating on a bag, and foraying into the world of objects. I can’t wait.
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