Jewelry Designer Jennifer Dawes Dishes on Personal Style, Emeralds, and Why She Quit Her First Job

Taking stack of the designer’s inspirations

When it comes to Dawes Design rings, the more the merrier. With hand-hammered 18k gold and gemstone creations from more than a dozen collections—­including the wavy California Canyon, delicate ­Dewdrop, and sleekly modern Blockette—the stacking and mixing-and-matching options are practically endless…especially for brides looking to liven up their left ring finger. (Not an option, however, is sending Dawes your own diamond to pop into one of her designs: “Most of my diamonds are rose cuts,” she explains. “And because they are all hand-cut, they have a quality and personality that needs to fit with my ­aesthetic.”) Here’s more on the Santa Rosa, Calif.–based designer’s sunny aesthetic.

Dawes’ Spectrum-winning emerald, diamond, and aquamarine necklace

Age: 42

Number of years in the biz: 12

Number of employees you oversee: 4

Family and pets: Quill, my 6-year-old boy; Soquelle, my 3½-year-old daughter; my husband and best friend, Malcolm; two dogs, Claudia and Trigger; Zeezoo, the great feline hunter

Describe your personal style: Relaxed with a pop of something special

With Quill, Malcolm, and Soquelle

First piece you ever designed: Barrette with an unattachable stick

Single piece of jewelry you’re most proud of: The necklace that just won the Spectrum Award in the Fashion Forward category! This piece is just the beginning of a much bigger body of work, which will combine ethically sourced stones with the idea of creating a half-faceted, half-natural mineral gem.

Favorite gemstone: I am absolutely crazy about emeralds right now! Light, dark, all different shades!

Dewdrop, Lux, and Hewn bands with pavé, chocolate, and opaque diamonds

Best piece of advice you ever received: “Find something you love to do and do it!”

Worst piece of advice: “Do what you’re told.”

First job ever: When I was 14 I was a retail clerk at a really tacky clothing store. The job ended when a junkie held up me and my coworker. I quit because the woman I was working with lied to the attacker as he was pointing a gun at me and told him she couldn’t open the cash register! I was looking right at the key left in the register! Why would anyone do that?

How did you get started designing jewelry? I knew I wanted to design. I thought I would be a fashion designer, but it all became clear when I took my first metalsmithing class. The moment I touched the material I was hooked!

If you weren’t designing, what would you be doing? I would either be an architect, interior designer, or visual merchandiser. I just love to think outside the box.

Jewelry you’re wearing right now: An asymmetrical pearl choker, my new diamond studs, and two fingers stacked with opaque diamonds and 18k yellow gold

Five items on your desk right now: My journal/­sketchbook, my phone, picture of my husband and me at our wedding, an appraisal, and a thank you card


Five songs on your playlist: Easy! “Free at Last,” G Love & Special Sauce; “Fall Line,” Jack Johnson; “Home Life,” John Mayer; “Crazy, Crazy, Crazy,” Michael Franti; “Supply and Demand,” Amos Lee

Exercise regimen: I run between three and eight miles every other day.

What did you have for breakfast? I juiced a bunch of veggies and fruit and ate an apple.

Guilty pleasure: A ridiculously big bathtub full of hot bubbles and salts

Drink (daytime/evening): Hot tea with milk and sugar in the afternoon. It just calms me during a busy day.

First website you check every day (not your own!): Embarrassingly, Facebook

Scent: L’Artisan Safran Troublant

How do you unwind? Run, swim, romp with the children. Or if I really need to relax—a glass of fruity red wine.

Superstitious? Yes, but also rebellious

Books you’re reading: The Diamond Cutter, Cleopatra

Book you’ve been meaning to get to: The Fountainhead

Favorite movies: Better Off Dead, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Notebook

Who would play you in your life story?: Cate Blanchett? I love her! She needs to wear my jewelry!

Personal motto: “Just do it!”

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