JCK Asks…Karen Karch

On rose cuts, roses, and thorns

“Obvious beauty bores me,” says Karen Karch. She’s explaining the evolution of her trademark claws, a chunkier, more jagged version of your everyday prong. “An unpredictable, if not slightly dark, juxtaposition creates the poetry.” Plus, the claws mix so well with vines—another of the designer’s signatures, which she’s been winding through her hand-textured gold and silver jewels for some 20 years. Later, she was “seduced” by the rose, not to mention the thorns. And as they say, every rose has its thorn.


Age: Just turned 50 in July!


Number of years in the biz: 25.

Number of employees you oversee: Currently ­operating in chic old-school mode, as a mom-and-pop shop boutique/atelier in the Gramercy Park area, with a fabulous team of talented contractors.

Family and pets: My husband, Frank, and my ­Australian cattle dog, Spitfire, are my world.

Describe your personal style: I am a luxe grunge, ugly-beautiful, edgy individualist with a weakness for exquisite leather pieces—jackets and leggings—with chunky boots and layers upon layer of jewels, of course.

18k gold Legend dog tags with diamonds

First piece you ever designed: My first pieces were street-inspired statement pieces created in silver from found objects that were studded with semiprecious stones and broken reflectors.

The single piece of jewelry you’re most proud of: Always the next piece I am working on!

First job ever: Waitress.

How did you get started designing jewelry?
After completing a degree in communications at
The ­University of Texas at Austin, I had an epiphany that the creative career I wanted was to be designing jewelry. I then studied at the university in El Paso with Rachelle Thiewes, and got my second degree in metals from Parsons in New York.

Lithe beaded lariat in 18k yellow gold

If you weren’t designing jewelry, what would you be doing? I would work for a fashion designer that I admire highly—like Haider Ackermann. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, [be] involved in a raw vegan chocolate business. 

Jewelry you’re wearing right now: Stacked Tiara rings, a Vine Gladiator ring, Vine midi rings; a ­prototype of a new bangle design on my wrist that is soon to become a mid- and upper-arm design; a Completely ­pendant in platinum with my grandmother’s diamond paired with a yellow gold diamond studded horn as a choker, layered with various other diamond-studded Legend dog tags and diamond-studded horn amulets, with a silver bead lariat and a 32-inch gold bead ­necklace; a silver Blade Runner earring paired with a gold ear cuff, and on the other ear a tiny gold Double Vine hoop. 

Triple Vine 18k yellow gold band

On your desk right now: Jewelry (finished and ­unfinished), sketches, paperwork, water, ­chocolate-flavor hot tea, and chlorella tablets. I have a very big desk!

On your playlist: “A Thousand Kisses Deep,” Leonard Cohen; “Into My Arms,” Nick Cave; “Cherokee,” Cat Power; “Save Me,” Aimee Mann; and, when working late, something more upbeat, like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.”

Exercise regimen: Hatha and Kundalini yoga, cardio, and weight training. I also walk to and from work every day and as much as possible.

Vine solitaire stacking band in 18k yellow gold

What did you have for breakfast? Every day the same: a green shake I make in my Vitamix. And fermented coconut yogurt if still hungry.

Guilty pleasure: Raw chocolate! Shopping! Massages!

Drink (daytime/evening): Alkaline water/tea.

First website you check every day (not your own!): Instagram—if that counts!

Scent: Perhaps one day I must create it, as I have not yet found one that suits me.

Intrigue Crown ring in 18k rose gold

How do you unwind? When overworked, I love to shut out the world and binge-watch Netflix.

Book you’re reading: #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso.

Book you’ve been meaning to get to: Isabella Blow:
A Life in Fashion by Lauren Goldstein Crowe.

Preferred news source: Instagram! Am I too visual?

Favorite movie: Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire.

Iggy Azalea

Who would play you in your life story?
Cate Blanchett.

Personal motto: “To thine own self be true.”

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