Cultivating Connections: Interview with Rosena Sammi of The Jewelry Edit
This week, we’re excited to introduce you to The Jewelry Edit, a jewelry platform that is reshaping the way we shop. Launched in September 2020, The Jewelry Edit is dedicated to supporting and expanding a network of diverse, sustainable, and emerging designers, giving customers a personalized and thoughtful shopping experience, and building meaningful relationships between designers and their customers. There’s much more to come from The Jewelry Edit on Future Heirloom, but first, we asked The Jewelry Edit’s founder, Rosena Sammi, to tell us more about her platform. We spoke with Rosena about her background in the jewelry industry, what led her to start The Jewelry Edit, how the site reflects her own values, and—of course—what jewelry she’s loving currently. Let’s chat with Rosena:
Future Heirloom: The Jewelry Edit isn’t just a shopping site, it’s a catered experience. Can you walk us through how a customer can navigate the site?
Rosena Sammi of The Jewelry Edit: That’s exactly right, it’s a catered experience. The moment you arrive on the site you know that you’re shopping all socially responsible brands. Part of our magic is that we carefully vet and select all the designers we work with to ensure they adhere to our Sustainability Code of Ethics. But you can get even more personal — with a few clicks you can tailor your experience to your specific interests, whether it’s shopping only Black designers or AAPI designers. Then there’s our personalized shopping services — engage with a survey about yourself, upload a selfie, and we will pair you with a personal stylist and apply our proprietary algorithms to determine what jewelry best suits your face and your desires. In other words, it’s all about you.
FH: You have a really unique Resident Stylist program, where you brought in one of our favorite stylists, Nicole Chapoteau. Could you tell us more about Nicole’s role?
RS: As Fashion Director at Vanity Fair, Nicole definitely brings red-carpet glamour to The Jewelry Edit. She also brings the experience and perspective of a Black stylist who has been in the accessories industry for many years. One “Edit” I especially loved was when Nicole styled me for a shoot in NYC, which we called NYC Is Back. We were able to showcase some of our most exciting sustainable and diverse talent and capture behind the scenes, real-world examples of the hows and whys around how Nicole does what she does. There’s so much to learn and so many looks to steal and it’s all chronicled in her Edits on our website.
FH: You have such an exciting roster of established and emerging talent mixed together. It’s so wonderful to discover new designers or new work each time we visit. Tell us more about why this is important to the platform and how you discover the talent you feature.
RS: It’s phenomenally important, not only to us, but to our entire community. We love providing a platform for established and emerging designers who are diverse. The talent that we bring together can be hard to find on your own, but that’s why we’re here. We love being a platform where customers can always come and find someone or something new and exciting. Something we hear so often from our community is that they absolutely love a particular designer but why hadn’t they ever heard of her before? A huge challenge for new designers is finding retail space to be featured and discovered. Department stores often have barriers that prevent some designers from being seen. And that’s especially true when it comes to diverse designers. But again, that’s why we’re here and why we love doing what we do.
I love curating new talent. I love meeting them, speaking to them and learning about their journeys. I find them through word of mouth, walking the shows and through my connections within the industry. But also by voraciously reading anything and everything on jewelry (including all the great content coming out of NYC Jewelry Week!)
FH: We know that “democratization” of the jewelry buying experience is important to you personally and was an impetus behind launching The Jewelry Edit. We love this! Tell us why and how TJE is breaking down the barriers of a traditional jewelry retail experience:
RS: We need to dismantle a lot of the unnecessary, and frankly bloated, infrastructure that has been built up around buying jewelry. It does nothing but separate you from the jewelry you would love (if only you knew about it and could find it).
Over the years, buying jewelry has become more and more intimidating. From walking into jewelry stores and feeling you’re not dressed appropriately. To feeling shy or nervous that you’re not asking the “right” questions and that you might be mistaken for someone who doesn’t know “enough”.
Sometimes you’ll encounter store employees who don’t know much about the designer and can’t really answer the questions you most care about, like: Where was it made? How and with what? Sustainably? Who is the designer and what inspires her? What are her values? Other times you can only get personalized service at luxury fine jewelry stores (especially if you look like you’re about to spend a lot of money!) But then only for a limited set of designers chosen by a multinational conglomerate.
You deserve more access, more selection, more information, and more insight. My goal was to create something personalized and special that puts the least number of obstacles between you and your perfect pieces from designers you won’t find at the “mall”. Our stylists are ready to answer any and all questions. Many of our clients are trying to choose jewelry for a specific outfit or a special event and they may send their stylist a pic of the dress they’re planning to wear. Others are simply building their jewelry wardrobe and we’ll work with them to review the jewelry they already own so that they can freshen up their collection by mixing in some new pieces. Recently we helped a husband curate a “re-emerge wardrobe” for his wife for their wedding anniversary.
Put simply, interesting and innovative designers with beautiful pieces that speak to you should be available to everyone, minus the obstacles. Welcome to the Jewelry Edit.
FH: Let’s talk about equity and representation. We think the world wants to purchase and wear jewelry made by all types of people with different visions and different stories to share…seems simple enough, but that hasn’t been the case in mainstream retail. You are seeking out jewelers of all races and backgrounds to be a part of TJE and that’s so refreshing to see. Tell us why this is important to you and the platform.
RS: As a woman of color myself, it’s part of my DNA to be aware and active when it comes to breaking down barriers for minorities. Throughout my own history as a designer, I rarely met a woman of color who was a buyer, merchandiser, owner or CEO. There is a dearth of diverse women in these roles, especially at the major retailers. These are very real obstacles in the way of change and specifically in the way of diverse designers getting shelf space and getting in front of customers.
While we all have favorite designers that we see across many outlets, isn’t it fun to find something unique too? While we certainly carry many designers well known and even iconic in the industry, we also love to highlight new talent. At The Jewelry Edit we don’t focus on reputations or trends we focus on connections—making a connection between our client and the designer.
FH: What are you crushing on right now on the site? Tell us who and what.
RS: The Vervet Earrings by We Dream In Colour is one of my favorites on the site right now. I love the playfulness in the design and the hand crafted details. I also love creating drama with my jewelry and We Dream In Colour always delivers.
I really stepped up my earring game with earlobe wraps from the Parisian designer Jolie Bijoux. They’re an investment piece, but they’re bejeweled candy I can’t keep my eyes off!
The meticulous details in Jennie Kwon’s earrings and rings have me coming back for more every month. Right now it’s her use of colored gemstones that’s helping me amp up my color palette for fall.
Jam + Rico is a brand I recently discovered. The designs are joyful and speak to the designer’s heritage. The Carmen Earrings are now a staple in my wardrobe.
FH: Your background is as a jewelry designer. What led you to shift your focus to TJE?
RS: Jewelry is part of my DNA, as I think it is for most South Asians. It’s such an important part of our cultural identity and it’s always been a passion for me. After almost a decade practicing law (yes my path to jewelry was a circuitous one!) I embarked on a career in jewelry. Being able to partner my culture with my career was incredibly rewarding. But eventually, after much success working with major department stores, famous boutiques and A-List celebrities, I grew disillusioned. I grew disillusioned with not only the lack of diversity of the people I was working with, but with the rise of fast fashion itself. In jewelry, fast fashion was nothing more than a race to the bottom. I was being asked to make things quicker and more cheaply than is fair. And jewelry was moving away from something to be treasured, to something to be disposed of on a season to season basis. I saw the disparity between being offered champagne and coffee table books at heritage brands, and turning a cheap turnstile at a fast fashion store.
The most common question I would hear was where to buy unique jewelry and how to put it together. So I answered it by creating The Jewelry Edit.
FH: TJE promotes “slow jewelry” in lieu of fast fashion and a throw away lifestyle. You mentioned your disillusionment with that disposability — can you elaborate on how those values play out on The Jewelry Edit?
RS: We have a Code of Ethics that we have all our designers get behind. It ensures that we support and promote designers that are aligned with our mission of working towards a sustainable jewelry industry.
The relationship between “sustainability” and “jewelry” is complicated, but we need to address it. It’s often difficult for emerging designers to have the budget to ensure their jewelry meets the highest of ethical and sustainable standards. Heritage brands, with all their resources, have only started to take on these goals in recent years. But we want our designers to embrace sustainability on any scale, and we work with them as they navigate the steps they can take towards that goal. Maybe they can use recycled metals, but they aren’t yet able to trace all their stones? Every journey starts with a single step. We’re proud to be walking together with our designers on that journey.
FH: We love that TJE cultivates a relationship with customers, and values sharing the story of the maker with buyers — it offers something you don’t often see in a retail space. Why was this important to you to include?
RS: Our most treasured jewelry is jewelry that tells a story. And often that story comes in knowing the story behind the jewelry itself. We love connecting customers with jewelry that will mean something to them. With every designer, we have a “why we love them” section, it shows that we really invest in each designer, we know them and we know their craft. Maybe it’s where the piece was made, how it was made, or the inspiration behind it. The more you know about your jewelry the more you can share with other people. When people say to me “that’s a great pair of earrings” I love being able to share with them why I love them too. If you love something you want to share it. We’ll help you find the pieces you’ll love for years to come.
FH: Finally, are there any last inside insights you’d like to give our readers? What’s coming up that we should get excited about?
RS: One thing I’m definitely excited about right now is The Jewelry Edit’s panel for NYC Jewelry Week. “The Need For Diversity In The Jewelry Industry: The Importance of Being Seen”.
See more from The Jewelry Edit on their website, thejewelryedit.com, and follow them on Instagram @jewelryedit. You can read more about Rosena here, and learn more about The Jewelry Edit’s Resident Stylist Nicole Chapoteau here.
Join the NYC Jewelry Week mailing list to be alerted when details about The Jewelry Edit’s panel discussion are released.
Special thanks to Rosena Sammi for taking the time to the share the inside scoop on The Jewelry Edit with us. Interview responses written by Rosena Sammi; interview compiled and edited by Jackie Andrews. Images provided by Rosena Sammi and The Jewelry Edit; photography for the NYC Is Back shoot by Michael Dumler, assisted by Micaela Ribello.