Get to Know Jessica Kagan Cushman

Redding, Conn.–based jewelry designer Jessica Kagan Cushman of Jessica Kagan Cushman Studio crafts word-motif jewels that make buyers laugh.

Jewelry Designer Jessica Kagan Cushman

Jewelry designer Jessica Kagan Cushman

Company principal: Jessica Kagan Cushman

Headquarters: Redding, Conn.

Year firm launched: 2006

Signature style: I started out making scrimshaw pieces with fossilized woolly mammoth; it was a tradition used on sailing ships, but I put it in jewelry with sassy and fun phrases. Words are a major motif in my work—I use ones that are supposed to make people laugh and smile. I also use motifs like skulls and eyes, as well as oxidation; I love when the black wears off because it gives pieces a wonderful patina and tells an interesting story.

Training, education, and design process: I grew up in a design household—both of my parents were designers, so the design process came naturally to me. My dad is Vladimir Kagan, a mid-century modern furniture designer, and my mom is Erica Wilson, a needlework artist who had a TV show and a syndicated column. [The New York Times called Wilson “the Julia Child of needlework” upon her death in 2011.]

I had taken jewelry making in high school, but I couldn’t remember anything when I started. I started engraving pieces because I couldn’t do anything else! But I also felt that sassier women were underserved.

In college, I got an art history degree and then worked in consulting for 15 years. But even as a management consultant, I always had a beading project spread out on the kitchen table! I also had son who had fallen at age 21 and developed a traumatic brain injury, so I was home with him, taking care of him, and he helped me get the jewelry business started. After he died, I spent six months in bed! But eventually, I got up, decided I had to do something, and since he had helped me start the business, I would continue it.

Since then, I’ve taken classes at Jewelry Arts Institute in New York City and the Silvermine Guild in New Canaan, Conn., but I’m primarily self-taught. Now I sketch designs for others to make and make some pieces myself. Our components are a mix of bought and proprietary, and our jewelry is both cast and fabricated in the United States and in Jaipur, India.

Materials of choice: Pieces are made in 14k gold and sterling silver with diamonds, colored stones, and doublets. I love to add a touch of sparkle and color to my pieces, many of which are oxidized silver.

Jewelry trade show exhibits: I plan to exhibit at the ENK International Accessorie Circuit and possibly Couture in Las Vegas.

Accounts: I have six domestic accounts, including Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, and four international accounts, including Colette in Paris.

Starting retail price: In silver, my pieces start at $400 retail and in 14k gold, prices start at $1,200.

Retailer buy-in: Right now it’s $2,000.

Accolades: I was a finalist for the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award in 2012.

Oxidized silver cuff from Berlin Gothic collection by Jessica Kagan Cushman

Cuff in oxidized sterling from the Berlin Gothic collection, $450

Bangles in oxidized silver with 14k gold by Jessica Kagan Cushman 

Bangles in oxidized sterling silver, some with diamonds, $900–$1,500

Whatever cuff in oxidized silver with 14k gold by Jessica Kagan Cushman

Whatever cuff in silver with 14k gold and diamond accents, $2,200

Ring in oxidized silver with garnet and black diamonds by Jessica Kagan Cushman

Ring in in oxidized sterling silver and 14k gold from the Berlin Gothic collection with 26 ct. rhodolite garnet, 4.1 cts. t.w. black diamonds, and a mother-of-pearl doublet, $2,800

Earring by Jessica Kagan Cushman in oxidized silver with garnets and diamonds

Earrings in oxidized sterling silver and 14k gold from the Berlin Gothic collection with 28 cts. t.w. rhodolite garnet, 1.2 cts. t.w. single-cut diamonds, 0.8 ct. t.w. polki-style diamonds, and mother-of-pearl doublets, $4,500

Necklace in oxidized silver with 14k gold and garnet by Jessica Kagan Cushman

Necklace in in oxidized sterling silver and 14k gold from the Berlin Gothic collection with Mozambique garnet and diamonds, $4,900

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