Designers / Industry

How I Got Here: Jennie Kwon Blends Art, Music, and Logic into Her Jewelry


Once people find out jewelry designer Jennie Kwon was an attorney, they have questions. Those questions double when they discover she also was a classical violinist.

Throw in there that she also is a mother to twins, and those asking the questions typically are stumped, Kwon says. But there is a through line to all these roles, including her leadership at Jennie Kwon Designs—they require an extraordinary level of meticulousness that Kwon says she thrives on as an artist.

“It’s grueling to perfect a musical piece or to get ready for a performance. You have to comb through things with a fine-tooth comb, polish out the rough spots,” Kwon says. “When you’re in corporate law, going through contracts, you have to plug every hole. You have to go through it again and again, thinking about every scenario.

“For jewelry, people think it’s just a creative job. They have this romanticized view of someone sitting at a workbench when their kids are in bed, tinkering around,” Kwon says. “In the end, it’s also about running a smooth business day to day, communicating with vendors, talking to your retail partners, reaching out to customers.”

Jennie Kwon ringstack
Delicate rings with lots of details like milgrain, including the Black Diamond Marcato ring ($1.375), are a signature of Jennie Kwon Designs.

If you look at Kwon’s jewelry designs, you see that marvelous detail work play out. Take her love for milgrain. It is found across her jewelry designs, which this type A personality says she sweats over to make sure every little bead is right.

“Some designers put it into CAD, but for me, that lacks soul,” Kwon says. “As much of a pain as it is, we have our jewelers hand-bead every single piece, even a tiny earring. Our jeweler stamped each one. That is why we often hear from our customers how the jewelry is so much prettier in person than its pictures. They can see and feel it.”

Kwon says jewelry wasn’t a part of her life until she became a designer. Her immigrant family didn’t have heirlooms to pass down, she says. Kwon found her way to the violin, which she played at a concert level, graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2000.

Kwon worked during that time with people experiencing homelessness, and she says she wanted to expand what she could do for others. She chose to become a lawyer, graduating from the University of California College of the Law in 2005. She worked as a corporate lawyer for a prestigious law firm through 2009 and then for 20th Century Fox until 2011.

Jennie Kwon necklaces
Jennie Kwon offers a variety of stackable necklaces, including classic Cuban chains ($1.500) as well as custom signet pieces.

That is when Kwon and her husband welcomed a twin boy and girl into their family, and Kwon decided to take maternity leave. She used those two years to care for her family and herself, dabbling in creative arts including ceramics and metalsmithing. In 2013, Kwon had a small jewelry collection, which caught the eye of New York’s Catbird.

Kwon says from that moment she could have grown quickly as a brand, but she wanted Jennie Kwon Designs to be a slow, steady burn that she could nurture. She wants to create those family heirlooms and custom work that brings her customers back time and again.

“I created what I wanted to wear, even if it wasn’t in tune with what was ‘in’ in jewelry at the time,” Kwon says. “We found our customers through that work—people who want authenticity, who are not bound by tradition, and care about selecting a piece that uniquely resonates with them.”

Top: Jennie Kwon founded her eponymous jewelry brand in 2013 after working as a classical violinist and corporate attorney (photos courtesy of Jennie Kwon Designs). 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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