Designers / Industry

How I Got Here: Jennifer Rush on Transitioning From Politics to Gemstones


When something goes wrong on the job—and, like most industries, something will go wrong, even in jewelry—Jennifer Rush thinks back on her first job out of school, working for the U.S. Senate.

Her desk sat right outside the office of the senator she was working for at the time, and he previously worked in business. Those two profiles put together meant Rush never got to make excuses for why something wasn’t done or whose fault it was.

His mantra? Just fix it. It’s something that Rush says she still uses, especially when something goes sideways in design, production, marketing, or just about anything else in her business, Rush Jewelry Design.

“I work with my team to learn from what went wrong and to shift the focus to fixing it,” Rush says, recalling how the senator’s female chief of staff gave her everything and then some to work on back then, including drafting a statement that the senator then read on the floor.

How would she describe this period in her life? “Fast-paced. Hyper–detail orientated. Long hours,” Rush says. “After that, I thought, ‘I can do anything!’ ”

Rush Jewelry Design
Jennifer Rush has worked mostly in politics, but she got started in jewelry as a way to tap into her creative side and express herself after she became a mom and worked with her daughter’s diabetes diagnosis.

That was, in some ways, ideal training for what would come next. Upon graduation from George Washington University, Rush worked in all areas of politics, including on the Hill, in policy, campaigns, and elections. When she moved back to her hometown of New York, Rush says she worked mostly on campaigns and fundraising, which was challenging and invigorating at the same time.

“I shifted gears to policy, then worked my way up in one of the top lobbying organizations in the country. I loved my job. It’s how I met my husband, and I continued to work there until my third child was born,” Rush says. “I felt pulled in so many directions and that I wasn’t doing anything particularly well—to my own person standards. So, after I had Benji, I decided to step away from that world. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.”

Perhaps the second hardest? Helping her daughter with a diabetes diagnosis, which she received when she was 8 years old.

“We were on vacation in LA. We spent a week in the hospital at Cedars. It was very dramatic and traumatic,” Rush says. “Someone told me having a child with diabetes is more of a marathon than a sprint, and as I sat in that hospital room, I knew two things. One, that my past career taught me about endurance and inner strength. Not that you are ever prepared for a child to have a lifelong illness, because you’re not. Two, that I would need something for myself to clear my head.”

Rush jewelry
Rush says her mom, Harriet, had been a model but later became a real estate broker. Fun fact: Her most famous client was actor Al Pacino. “In addition to being beautiful inside and out, she was super stylish, cool, and always was ahead of the curve on everything when it came to fashion,” Rush says. “I mention this because it really had a huge impact on me in terms of my own personal aesthetic.”

That something was a jewelry class. Well, it actually was like a boot camp, Rush says. Rush, whose mother was a model, felt heavily influenced by her mother’s grand style and grace, so she loved jewelry from the 1960s and 1970s. She made jewelry mostly for herself, Rush says, but enough people wanted to wear it that she started making it for other people.

It helped that she was in New York City, where funny things happen all the time. For example, Rush says her transition into making jewelry professionally came when a Barneys stylist saw her in the dressing room and asked where she could get Rush’s jewelry. She launched Rush Jewelry Designs as an 18k fine jewelry, direct-to-consumer brand in 2013.

“While the brand has grown to also include retailers, the core tenets have never changed,” Rush says. “I love all things ’60s and ’70s now and always. While certain trends happen within fashion and jewelry, this is a constant for me. I think jewelry rooted in vintage design with attention to detail, unique stones, and craftsmanship is the kind of trend that is always in style.”

All of these influences—her mother’s strength, her daughter’s resilience, the city around her, her background in politics—play into who she is today, Rush says.

“I believe every day is a new opportunity. A chance to do things better. I try to live by example,” Rush says. “Sometimes you will need to choose between what is right and what is easy; remember that nothing worth having is easy. Take pride in everything you do. Be humble. Be graceful. Be brave.”

Top: Jewelry designer and founder of Rush Jewelry Design Jennifer Rush says being immersed in New York culture for her formative years shaped her, but her work in politics also gave her the drive to be able to succeed in the jewelry industry (photos courtesy of Rush Jewelry Design). 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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