Nora Kogan is the owner and designer of St. Kilda, a Brooklyn, N.Y., design firm launched in 2004. Kogan offers two different lines—St. Kilda and Nora Kogan—with silver, brass, and 14k gold styles in the former, and one-of-a-kinds in 18k gold in the latter (launched just a month ago).
Jewelry designer Nora Kogan of St. Kilda
Editor’s Note: Nora Kogan’s work is in the spotlight this week because of her whimsical motifs (spades, matchsticks, swallows) and vintage-inspired pieces—like her new Anastasia line, inspired by Fabergé styling. She also features a wide range of materials and prices (from silver and brass to 18k gold, starting at $100 retail), and has been spotlighted in publications including Elle, W, Paper, The New York Times, and more, since her launch. St. Kilda’s Park Slope, Brooklyn, outpost was also featured as a “Store We Adore” in JCK‘s September 2011 issue.
JCK: Describe your signature style.
Nora Kogan: My style is whimsical and romantic with a touch of surrealism. Snakes and romantic themes like the word Love are recurring motifs. The snake lends itself so easily to jewelry with its sinuous curves and I love it as the potent symbol of eternity, wealth, and possibly as something menacing.
JCK: How did you get into jewelry design?
NK: My mother was an avid collector of jewelry. In addition to buying antique pieces, she also often had custom pieces made for us both; every occasion was celebrated with a gift on jewelry. I was as passionate about it as she was from an early age, and would give her my ideas regarding design. But I never considered designing a career choice—and neither did my parents—so I didn’t get into it seriously until I was 30, after spending many years abroad. I went back to school in Melbourne and got a degree as a goldsmithing.
JCK: Explain your design process.
NK: I sketch all my designs first and I give them to my jewelers, but they work under my supervision when making the models.
JCK: Do you make all your own findings and components, such as chain and clasps?
NK: For St. Kilda, I don’t make my own findings anymore. We used to make all our own S hooks but then I realized it’s not worth it; People had trouble opening them and short of making a video showing people how to use them…
What I learned is for me to become the kind of jeweler I want to be would take a lifetime. And there are so many talented people in New York City who specialize in one thing—artisans who just set stones or who just engrave. I use people who have 20-plus years of experience. That’s how long it takes to be a master. I’m never going to be the best setter in the world. And I’m not going to try, because I’m working with someone who is.
JCK: Is your jewelry cast or fabricated?
NK: St. Kilda jewelry is cast. A lot of the pieces for Nora Kogan are hand-fabricated.
JCK: Where is the jewelry made?
NK: All of my jewelry is made in New York City.
JCK: How many accounts do you have?
NK: We have about six accounts in the U.S., but are looking to open up more. I used to only wholesale, and sold to more than 100 boutiques worldwide. Since I opened up my own store in 2009, I stopped, but am looking to start again now that the store is settled and in a good place.
JCK: What shows do you exhibit in?
NK: My first trade show will be in January 2012 at ENK Accessorie Circuit.
JCK: What metals and stones do you work in?
NK: For my St. Kilda line, I use silver, brass, and 14k gold. For my Nora Kogan pieces, I use 18k gold. I primarily work with diamonds and tourmalines; tourmalines come in a variety of colors and so many of them are one of a kind, and I am mesmerized by their colors. Diamonds…I can’t get enough of them—rose cuts, mine cuts, brilliant cuts—I love them all.
JCK: What is your starting retail price for each metal you work in?
NK: $190 in brass, $100 in silver, $300 in 14k gold, and $500 in 18k gold.
JCK: Tell us something few people know about you.
NK: I collect designer shoes and I display them in my studio. I can’t wear most of them because they hurt my feet, but I like to look at them all day!