There are no words for the incredible work of Maggi Simpkins. Or perhaps, it’s that there are too many words. Simpkins’ custom creations are glorious, illustrative, jovial, individual, dreamy. Many infuse color in ways uncommon to wedding rings, taking on new shapes and elements that you simply won’t find from traditional outlets.
Hand-making each piece in Los Angeles, the designer incorporates not only clients’ visual requests, but also inspiration one can absorb only from hearing their stories. That means spending time getting to know and learning from their customers, resulting in jewelry that feels intimately personal, beyond scene stealing, and worthy of the family heirloom.
Below, Simpkins talks with JCK about how COVID-19 has changed business, working with customers to build the rings of their dreams during the pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter movement—plus how you can get involved.
How has the pandemic impacted your business? What sort of changes have you had to make to adapt?
It has been interesting—the only time my business felt truly impacted was for the month or two that the buildings downtown were forced to close. This meant my casting house was closed, and my jeweler and diamond setter were locked out of their offices. I was still able to keep busy sourcing stones, sketching designs, and having renderings made but was aware that everything else was at a standstill until their doors opened back up.
Is there any aspect of these changes that you actually prefer or appreciate, and do you think the pandemic will have a permanent influence on how we conduct business?
I personally have always loved working from home. I opened up a small office in downtown Los Angeles about a year and a half ago to have space to meet with clients locally. But truth be told, these days with technology I end up working remotely with most of my clients—even when they are local. As much as I love sitting with clients face-to-face, working remotely is oftentimes much more convenient for me, and for my clients too. And I do find that I can connect with people just as easy over FaceTime or a phone call.
Are you finding that people are more or less likely to shop for engagement rings?
I have had so many people contacting me looking to get an engagement ring, I really feel like engagements are through the roof! I am really inspired by all of the people choosing love at this time instead of fear.
What are the biggest engagement ring trends, or most common custom requests, that you’ve notified as of late?
Definitely a lot of nesting/stacking/headdress style (is what I like to call them) bands. Essentially fun and playful wedding bands that you can use to dress up the engagement ring have been very popular. Also, oval and pear-shape center stones are a constant.
Your engagement rings are so special. You can really tell how much consideration and care is put into them for your clients. Do you have any favorite styles—or a favorite specific ring—you’ve worked on?
They are all so different and unique, I fall in love with them all for different reasons. I really love when a client wants to have a little fun and isn’t afraid to take risks or try something new. I love when I have the opportunity to create something that I’ve never made before.
In June, you raised over $76,000 for Black Lives Matter by raffling off one of your creations [above]. How do we as an industry keep the momentum going?
Thank you. I don’t know that there is a simple or easy answer to this question. I think the biggest thing would be to continue to keep having the hard conversations and to continue education and raising awareness and not to simply have this moment be a trend. There is still so much misinformation about this movement being spread, it can be exhausting to witness. But as an industry if we could make it a standard practice to have a piece, or a collection, where a dedicated a percentage of proceeds were going to a cause or organization, I think that would be a big first step. Even something as simple as an annual (or quarterly) auction or raffle, something that clients could look forward to, I believe, would be a really powerful start.
What are the most impactful ways jewelers or retailers can also get involved in contributing money, time, and efforts to BLM and other worthy organizations?
I think this looks different for everyone, and I think it starts with a little research to find a place where you feel is a good fit. I think starting with something locally in your own community and cultivating that relationship can be really impactful. And if it’s local, maybe you will actually be able to see the direct impact that you are making.
What do you hope to accomplish with the remainder of 2020?
I hope to continue to spread as much love as I can through the pieces I make and the people that wear them. And to continue to dive deeper and figure out all of the ways I can use my gifts to be of service to others.
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