Grace Wong loves how jewelry carries stories—of family, of who bought that ring for someone they love, of children growing up knowing a certain piece of jewelry that they, too, will wear someday.
Wong’s jewelry box holds many meaningful jewelry pieces, including the pearl earrings her mother gave her when she graduated from business school. There’s also the ring that passed from Wong’s grandmother to her mother on her wedding day and then to Grace for her wedding.
“When I hold hands with my children, they’re touching that ring,” Wong says. “My mom likes to celebrate milestones with jewelry, and she planted that seed in me as well. Her jewelry pieces were vehicles for me to learn more about her—how she started her business, her buying trips, the people she met.”
From this jewelry heritage, Wong founded her Toronto-based brand Jewels & Aces in 2018, after a 15-year career as an accountant for such companies as PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust.
Yup, accounting. This self-taught jewelry designer says she wanted to be just like her mom when she grew up—her mother owned a costume jewelry and accessories boutique—so she majored in business, receiving a bachelor of commerce from Queen’s University in 2002. Granted, learning to crunch numbers and analyze a business plan wasn’t as sexy as designing jewelry, but it was practical.
To get to the point where she could create a jewelry company, Wong says she needed to come up with that “Big Idea” to do something different than the rest of the industry. She got it from wearing a capsule collection—a small wardrobe of clothing that the wearer mixes and matches. Adapting this concept to jewelry came to Wong while she was a new mother of two and working as a consultant.
Her idea resulted in Jewels & Aces’ earring capsules, core sets of earrings—including studs, ear jackets, pearl drops, and stones in solitaire, emerald, and marquise cuts—that customers can arrange any way they desire. Each four-pair capsule can produce at least 10 different looks.
“Growing up, I was a creative kid,” Wong says. “It was a shock to everyone that I went into accounting, I remember working crazy hours, studying for exams. I called my mom and said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ And my mom replied, ‘You should quit. I never thought you’d be an accountant anyway.’”
Nontheless, Wong says, her family admires the work she did during those years, helping companies with everything from cash flow to forecasting.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but in hindsight it was the perfect balance to my creative side,” Wong says. “Those analytical skills set me up for success in jewelry.… My mom was so proud when I decided to quit, though. She always had a sixth sense that was I going to start my own business, too.”
Wong says she loves interacting with customers of all ages—whether they’re teens getting their first earrings or grandmothers with multiple piercings—about how they style her jewelry.
“Jewelry transcends generations. People connect through it,” Wong says. “I design Jewels & Aces for creative expression—as a way for people to get that sense of joy and delight when they make their own looks. They get to be the creator, and that’s a great feeling.”
Top: Grace Wong worked as an accountant before starting Jewels & Aces as an earring capsule business. (Photos courtesy of Jewels & Aces)@jckmagazine
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