Q&A: How Anna Sheffield Built Her Inimitable Brand

A decade ago, Anna Sheffield was one of the first jewelry designers to create so-called alternative bridal designs that felt as opulent and sophisticated as traditional bridal styles from jewelry’s most prestigious brands.

And Sheffield’s collections have always had a little something extra—call it cool-girl cachet. Her now-classic engagement ring styles, which include the Bea, the Hazeline, and the Theda, are flashy and splashy, but never obvious or gauche. The designer makes an emerald-cut rutilated quartz feel as glamorous as a 2 ct. diamond. Hers are rings for brides who prioritize good design over bling factor.

Though the New York City–based designer is a well-known name in the industry, we were curious about how she built her business over a decade ago. We recently caught up with the designer to find out more.

JCK:  Where are you originally from?

Anna Sheffield: I grew up in the beautiful state of New Mexico. I actually have lived all over, but it’s the place I think of when I conjure up the idea of home.

JCK: What was your first passion in life in terms of professional pursuits?

This is it! I had never dreamed of being a jewelry designer or running a company (much less two!). But I had always just intended to be an artist and to follow where the universe leads me. And that just happened to manifest as making jewelry. And though I learned the techniques while I was pursuing my BFA in sculpture, they have served me well.

Anna Sheffield Bea Suite Ruby
Bea Suite No. 16 ring, $10,200

I had a studio for making sculpture with the same tools I used for jewelry, so a small bench, torch, and all the hand tools. Once the pieces I made started to attract attention, I took a more vested interest in pursuing the path and launched my first brand, Bing Bang, in 2001.

JCK: Please tell me about the time or moment when you felt, “I have an actual jewelry business, this is really happening!” 

So many of those “pinch me” moments! It’s quite surreal and a tremendous luxury to succeed a lifetime of rule-breaking into a career. I think one of the first real pins in the timeline was when Bing Bang was picked up by Barneys and a bunch of other amazing stores from all over the world. That was the first season showing at The News in Fall of 2004.

For my fine jewelry, which I launched in 2008, the shining moment was when I added the ceremonial collection in 2010. We threw a fabulous party, debuting the collection, in a suite at the Standard during New York Fashion Week. And seeing all these people I love and respect and have known through my years in NYC respond to the pieces so positively—it was a fantastic sense of accomplishment.

JCK: How do you think your background shapes the kind of jewelry you design and the kind of marketing you create?

Because I started as an artist and as a builder, or fabricator of sorts, I think of my process as very design-oriented; lots of engineering, innovating, and problem-solving goes on as I work. But there is also a lot of thought and attention to meaning and detail given to the pieces, which is the artistic sentiment, and how I really feel that things carry the spirit of the person that creates them.

JCK: In what ways do you share your background (or stories from your early days in the industry) with your clients or customers? 

I am full of anecdotes, and I love to make people laugh. So, I share stories all the time—with my team and our clients—of my journey…the failures as well as the successes. There is something to be learned from every new day in this line of work!

JCK: How do you think your background has shaped who you are as a designer and jewelry retailer?

I have quite a DIY approach to having the store and being a brand. I like to be involved in every aspect—from the window and store displays to the furniture, the flowers, the music, the fragrance (I just launched my own candle as a result!). It all feels so holistic to my mind in terms of that expression. It’s all about what I want people to feel when they encounter the space or try on the jewelry.

I also have the wonderful good fortune of working with so many amazing people at my brand and with the Bing Bang team, and that shapes the expression as well. I was raised to be very independent and to follow my intuition, so I really try to impart that in my companies. I prefer that there is autonomy so that everyone has their own sense of purpose in the work they do, as individuals contributing to a whole.

(Top image: Anna Sheffield; all images courtesy of Anna Sheffield)

JCK Magazine Editor