Smell the Flowers

My mother always told me, “Remember to stop and smell life’s roses.” Such a simple concept; take a moment to appreciate the detail and beauty surrounding us. However, we often get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget these precious details matter in our increasingly hectic and minimalistic world. Enter Bernard James.

Bernard’s work walks a tightrope of clean design and considered detail; it acts as a reminder that beauty surrounds us daily. Classic signet rings, chains and stackable bands are accented with curious florals and unique textures while showcasing a distinct perspective of scale and proportion. Hot off the heels of showcasing his collection at JCK 2023, as part of the Natural Diamond Council’s Emerging Diamond Designer’s Initiative, we took a moment to get to know this masterful artist a bit better.

Bernard James, jeweller from New York portrait
Photo c/o: Bernard James

Who are you?

My name is Bernard James, and I am a designer, an artist, and a lover of all things beautiful. Growing up in Brooklyn, the spirit of New York has always been a source of inspiration for my work.

What do you make/sell?

I strive to create exquisite pieces of jewelry that are truly unique – pieces that are not only beautiful and timeless but also represent the person wearing them. I specialize in using the highest quality materials, such as diamonds, gold, and other precious stones, to craft elegant and long-lasting pieces that will be treasured for lifetimes. All of the jewelry I’ve created is a source of great pride for me, as each piece embodies my life experiences and community. For me, jewelry is more than just an accessory – it is a work of art that can be passed down from generation to generation.

Where do you make/sell it?

All of our jewelry is handcrafted right here in the heart of New York City.  I am passionate about creating exquisite, one-of-a-kind pieces that are inspired by the beauty of the city around me and take great pride in the craftsmanship that goes into every piece. Currently, our jewelry is available for purchase on our website, in our private Williamsburg studio, and through select retailers such as Saks and Moda Operandi.

Bernard James fine jewelry collection made in New York.
Photo c/o: Bernard James

When/why did you start?

I began designing jewelry right after my first year of college. I knew I always wanted to design fashion or luxury goods but didn’t try my hand in jewelry specifically until I decided I needed something more manageable at such a young age. Of course, I was wrong about it being manageable, but I became obsessed with the intricate designs and details of fine jewelry – and also the endless possibilities. After connecting with a family friend who had been in the industry for over 40 years, I wanted to dive deeper and learn how to make my own pieces that were both unique and awe-inspiring. Jewelry has always allowed me to express my voice and share my love of beauty with others.

I started designing men’s jewelry specifically, because I felt what was being offered in the market was so monotonous and uninspiring. Today, I am proud to offer a wide range of unisex jewelry to all clients, including custom pieces that are designed specifically to suit their unique tastes and preferences. Each piece is meticulously crafted with the utmost attention to detail, and I am constantly inspired by the joy that my creations bring to others.

Bernard James floral pendant fine jewelry collection made in New York.
Photo c/o: Bernard James

Where do you get your best ideas?

As a designer, I find inspiration in a variety of places, but the two main driving factors are emotion and experience. Being born in NYC and having fortunately been able to travel a fair amount abroad, I am constantly surrounded by an eclectic and diverse array of people and places that fuel my creativity.

In addition to my surroundings, I also look to my clients for inspiration. Each piece of jewelry I create is a collaboration between myself and the person who will be wearing it. I listen closely to their stories and preferences and use their unique style as a guide for creating something that is both meaningful and beautiful.

Ultimately, my best ideas come from a combination of these sources – my environment, my community, and the people who wear my jewelry. By staying open to new experiences and perspectives, I am able to create pieces that are truly one-of-a-kind and reflect the spirit of the world around me.

Bernard James funghi fine jewelry collection made in New York.
Photo c/o: Bernard James

Do you ever feel bored? What do you do about it?

I wouldn’t say I ever feel bored, but I definitely feel stuck creatively sometimes. I know, for me, that just means it’s time to go explore and see something new. 

What’s the next big jewelry trend?

At the risk of sounding contrived, I’m not big on following and studying trends. I feel jewelry is so personal and should allow the wearer to express themselves unapologetically and however, they choose. I do appreciate how much men’s jewelry has grown to be more expressive, as that is what I originally sought out to do earlier in my design journey.

What’s our industry’s biggest challenge?

Our industry’s biggest challenge is authentic inclusivity and representation that isn’t performative or based on archetypes.

Bernard James black diamond necklace fine jewelry collection made in New York.
Photo c/o: Bernard James

How do we fix it?

To truly affect change, having a continuous pursuit of knowledge and adopting new perspectives are crucial components.

Where do you want to see yourself creatively in five years?

Within five years, I would love to solidify my permanent fine jewelry collections and experiment in high jewelry, further exploring the application of significant adornment in our everyday lives. I would love to also address how jewelry, art, music and interiors all converge in a person’s overall lifestyle.

Bernard James funghi earrings and diamond pave ring fine jewelry collection made in New York.
Photo c/o: Bernard James

If you could ask an industry peer one question, what would you ask and to whom would you ask it?

I would ask Walter Bolognino if he would like a new creative collaborator for the US market.

Questions and introduction written and laid out by Future Heirloom Editor Nicholas Hyatt. Answers are written by Bernard James. Find Bernard James online and on Instagram.