A brush with something sparkly at age six convinced Austrian-born Elena Kriegner of Elena Kriegner Inc. to move to New York City and become a jewelry designer.
Jewelry designer Elena Kriegner
Headquarters: New York City
Year firm launched: 2006
Signature Style: “Dual purpose, interchangeable—ring-pendant or earring-pendant combinations—designs with clear lines, a contemporary look, and/or some moving parts, such as stones in a cage or rotating on an axis.”
Training, education, and design process: “I have been designing jewelry for 28 years. I grew up in a very rural area in Austria, in a village with 10 houses. When I was little, I saw sparkly jewelry —some gold-plated plastic children’s jewelry—somewhere and thought, If I wanted jewelry I needed to learn how to make it myself. So I made the decision to become a jewelry maker when I was 6 years old; nobody in my family was in the jewelry business. At age 10, I started selling my creations to my classmates and I participated at street markets when I was 13. All the money I made I invested right back into my small business.
I spent four years in a special school—Fachhochschule fuer Guertler Gold und Silberschmiede in Steyr, Austria—where I was trained as a bench jeweler. Then I spent two more years in design school (Meisterklasse fuer gestaltendes Metallhandwerk in Graz, Austria) to get my degree as a Master Jeweler.
I had started to develop my very specific style and I wanted to create my own designs and not work for somebody else, so I opened my own business in Austria and worked for private clients for 14 years, developing mostly one-of-a-kind pieces.
Then in 2007, after sailing across the Atlantic on a 32-feet catamaran, and spending five years living on board—in Panama during the winter and in New York City during the summer—I decided to stay in the City.
In my business today, I make the first piece myself. I am not very good with drawing. Mostly I design a piece of jewelry in my head, then sit down at my bench and make it.
If I can’t find findings and components I like that are ready made, I will make my own. I cast pieces if I need more than one.”
Materials of choice: “All of my jewelry is made in the U.S.A. [of imported materials] in sterling silver, 18k gold, and platinum, and in colored gemstones, because life is more beautiful in colors.”
Jewelry trade show exhibits: JCK Las Vegas
Accounts: “I have eight domestic accounts, including the Aaron Faber Gallery and Massimo Bizzocchi, both in New York City, and one international account—Becker Minty in Potts Point, Australia.”
Awards: “I received the 1996 National Award of Jewelry, Austria, the 2008 Jewelry In the Net Design Competition, and recognition in the Tanzanite Jewelry Under $10,000 category of the 2013 JCK Jewelers’ Choice Awards.”
Starting suggested retail prices: “$200 in silver, $1,000 in 18k gold, and $4,000 in platinum.”
Retailer Buy-in: “They have to be willing to get a small assortment—$3,000—to show the versatility of the jewelry. They have to have trained staff to be able to explain the jewelry.”