Monica Rich Kosann
Unmasked half-mask rose-gold ring, $995
Chevron black ceramic locket, $5,350
Limited-edition turquoise locket bracelet in 18K yellow gold, $27,500
"Soar" black ceramic bird charm necklace, $850
One-of-a-kind starfish sea charm, $36,500
"Intuition" octopus charm necklace, $7,565
Monica Rich Kosann‘s first foray into jewelry design began about 12 years ago, when she collected old cigarette cases and powder compacts and restored them to hold photos. As a seasoned photographer, she particularly loved lockets — leading her to wonder why most people no longer wore them.
Kosann’s celebrated fine jewelry collections now include 18K and sterling silver lockets, elegant charm bracelets, and Poesy rings — inscribed pieces inspired by those worn in the 15th century as symbols of a couple’s love.
During a recent personal appearance at Neiman Marcus Fort Worth to celebrate her new shop-in-shop (located on the first floor in the precious jewels salon), we spoke with Kosann about her pieces, her photography, and how her two daughters Laura and Danielle play a part in her creative process.
Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
Travel is a big one for me. I take inspiration from cultures and I love to vintage shop — that’s how I started. My planet collection came from Greek mythology; my sea collection came from going to Hearst Castle; I had to have an elephant charm when I came back from Thailand… things like that. They enrich and inspire me, and, as a designer, you need that because you can get bogged down quickly.
I also get inspiration from my daughters. I think that’s why our brand sells equally to 25- to 35-year-olds as it does 45-year-olds.
How does your photography experience influence your jewelry?
People say, “You’re a photographer. What’s that got to do with jewelry?” Everything. I started photography more than 25 years ago, and it’s about documenting lives. I photograph a lot of celebrities, but it’s nothing you would see in People magazine; it’s about their lives privately. I don’t tell my clients to sit and pose. I follow them around during their day and try to get the nuances and the soul of the family.
My photography reveals a person’s story, and my jewelry is the same thing. It’s another way a woman can tell her story. In the way I design, every piece has something to say about a woman’s life. I’m wearing a fish, for instance, which means perseverance. A locket is probably the most personal and sexy piece of jewelry a woman can own because it’s your secret. It’s another way to tell your story, [like] my photography.
The lockets seem to be your thing.
I’m the queen of lockets — I need a tiara. I feel like I’ve debunked the notion that a locket has to be for your grandma. My girls wear lockets; my younger daughter has her dog on one side and the Eiffel Tower on the other side.
Lockets are like secret message boxes, and the way I’ve designed them is to appeal to all ages. We do a lot of mother-daughter things, and I have a lot of clients who have nine and ten lockets, because it’s a piece of jewelry that holds something near and dear, and it’s very bespoke.
Where do you like to source materials?
We only do 18K gold — rose gold, yellow gold, and white gold, and sterling silver. Most of the gold I make in New York City on 47th Street, and the sterling silver we make in Thailand, where they’re incredibly talented and quality oriented. Usually, I’ll be inspired by something, then go to a stone show looking for more specific things.
We’re very devoted to our suppliers. One showed me beautiful boulder opals that looked like the ocean. So, I created a collection of sea animals wrapped around them. He also had these crazy fire and crystal opals. I went to the planetarium in New York, sat with 200 little kids, and watched the gasses, the fire and light, and the stars shooting across. That was the inspiration for the other opals because all I saw were diamonds. I went rushing to my diamond guy, asking what can we do.
It sounds like nature and travel tend to bounce off each other when it comes to your designs.
The Poesy ring collection comes from the 1400s. [Back then], you’d go antiquing and find poesy rings that were exchanged by the maidens and the knights. My daughters are always wearing rings on necklaces, like their brother’s or father’s or boyfriend’s, and I love that it’s such a cool look. Each ring in the collection has a different quote inside. You can also put it on a chain — I prefer the black steel.
You spent time studying in Austria and Paris. Where are your favorite places to travel?
I still think it’s Paris. I do love going to Thailand but there’s something about Paris. I lived there for about nine months. There’s so much in the culture, the food, art everywhere you go … it’s not just going to a museum, it’s in every street and on every door. The fashion, and the people — there are so many layers that it never grows old for me.
What’s next for you?
I always have a project. We opened up a storefront in New York and are opening one in L.A. in October. I just launched the Unmasked collection, a ring collection full of little masks. I love masks because, like a locket, they’re about revealing yourself and telling your story.
One of my philosophies when I’m making something is thinking whether I can give it to my daughter one day.