Jane Winchester Paradis debuted her jewelry collection, Jane Winchester, in December 2017.
But the Philadelphia-based designer had already amassed an impressive CV that included stints at Calvin Klein cosmetics, Barneys New York, and Lilly Pulitzer—where she launched the brand’s accessories collection and eventually became fashion director and senior vice president of the brand.
Inspired in large part by the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, D.C., which left the designer feeling empowered and hopeful, Winchester created eight designs based on early-20th-century Gypsy coin jewelry (which she first learned about in an article about Antiques Roadshow).
(Gypsies of the time created jewelry from their money, and it was meant for more than adornment—it was a decorative method of transporting their wealth.)
The chic, oversize coin pendants, which come in 10k gold, 14k gold-plated, and sterling silver (prices from just under $300 to around $700), are meant to symbolize “positivity, strength, hope, and luck,” she says.
We asked the designer, who (fun fact!) is related to Oliver Winchester, founder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, to answer our 5 Questions.
What drew you to jewelry design initially?
Well, I have always been an “accessory person.” I started my first company at age 26-ish, designing handbags. And when I was a designer at Lilly Pulitzer, I pushed them into jewelry because I was obsessed, and I knew the Lilly customer would be, too.
Now I design jewelry because I love the idea of making someone feel special…. At age 45 I realized it was time for the next career adventure. Sure, I have always been in fashion (Calvin Klein Cosmetics, Barneys New York, Lilly Pulitzer), and I have had my own line, but my point of view is different now.
The impetus for the brand came from the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017, and that moment wasn’t about jewelry. It was about the idea of giving back by building a company and creating commerce, making product in the USA, having my daughters watch and help me do it.
What inspires you as a designer?
I love making people feel special, and giving that gift is 100 percent what makes me tick. Seeing someone connect on a design for themselves or be so proud to offer it as a gift—it makes me jump out of bed in the morning.
The emotion and love behind the piece is the connection. From a design perspective, I have always loved coin jewelry, and knew I wanted to design pieces with meaning that commemorated milestones in your life.
I ran across this article about Antiques Roadshow, and it took me down a rabbit hole researching Gypsy coin jewelry.
“Obsessed” doesn’t cover how much I adore the motifs and the symbolism. I have always been an artist, and the heart, horseshoes, butterflies, and other designs used in this traditional jewelry just fit with what I draw and the coins I’ve since created. I love the idea that coins have always been used to make jewelry and that we’re doing it in a new way to commemorate moments.
The eight designs we’ve started with have a word associated with them, and people are connecting immediately with the meaning. The piece comes with a card describing the word. Whether it be through social media or during a trunk show when we share the meaning, people first love reading and finding their favorite. And once they find it, their face lights up and they identify entirely.
There’s something about that word and the purpose and thoughts behind it that they want to share about themselves. They wear the pendant, and it becomes a conversation piece, and they connect with others because of it. It’s amazing.
Who is your core customer? What do you think she/he looks for in your collection?
Our core customer doesn’t have an age—she is just the kind of woman who loves jewelry and loves that it can be a piece that identifies who she is. She wears it her way. Jane Winchester encourages her to wear it with her other pieces, and it becomes a part of her overall style. I think she is looking for just that: a quality piece that can be worn her way. She doesn’t want to be dominated by brand.
And I think she’s looking for more from us! The core styles are being expanded, so the cast coins are becoming intaglios. They come in different sizes, and we have a variety of chains, so she can find the way she wants to wear it. It’s about her, not us.
What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve ever made—and why?
You know, each piece, and the word that goes along with it, I designed because of a milestone in my life, [which are also] universal moments for so many people.
Marriage, the birth of my kids, divorce, losing my father. There is a such an intimate relationship I have with those moments, and therefore the designs.
I miss my dad every day, but the Peace pendant (and the bird design I created for it), makes me feel like I have some of him with me. And the Free pendant—which I designed because of the freedom I found in divorce and the opportunity it gave me to find true love—I love it so much, I want to share it with everyone I know and tell them not to be afraid of freedom.
What jewelry designers do you admire—and why?
Making jewelry is so hard, it is truly a labor of love. Have you ever sawed a sheet of brass? Ugh! It stinks. I break a million blades. I have so much respect for the craftspeople in the jewelry industry. It is such an art and a science. I love those who design everything with their own hands—and then I also love those who team with artisans to create molds and cast pieces and finish them beautifully. I love the art of cutting stones and the art of plating. None of it is easy, and I have incredible respect for the craft.
Through social media you feel like you get to know some designers. A few that have created their own niche that inspires me: Temple St. Clair, Marla Aron, DRU. by Thea Miller. And I love the business Jennifer Fisher has built. Anyone who’s created something different, with a distinct point of view, anyone who’s building a business their way, I just love. And I’m rooting for every single one.
Bonus question: Favorite movie ever?
The Witches of Eastwick
Top: Forever JW Original Coin pendant, $278 (all photos courtesy of Jane Winchester)