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Designer Profiles: Monica Rich Kosann

She’s taken vintage inspirations to a new level.

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FROM ROSE GOLD OPENWORK lockets with tiny diamond accents to carnelian fob pendants with the word “love” engraved into them, Monica Rich Kosann has taken vintage inspirations to a new level. She takes a sentimental journey through the best of jewelry’s past and brings back to life pieces that reflect a highly meaningful style. She modernizes them into collectible pieces that women want to wear and pass down to their loved ones. Charm bracelets, heart locks and picture frames all figure into her collection, which she describes as “conveying a woman’s individuality and personal history.”

GROWING UP: “I grew up a first-generation American on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. My mother is Viennese and my father is Hungarian. The arts are a significant part of both of their cultures, so they became part of my life at a young age. My older sister and I were taken to museums, operas and concerts. I think my parents wanted us to have as much of a cultural education as the general education we received in school.”

REFLECTING ON THE PAST: “I’ve always had a passion for jewelry. I was intrigued with classic beauty. I would always notice the incredible jewelry the women wore in both period and more contemporary paintings. And I loved looking at the photographs of actresses wearing their jewels. Some of my favorites were icons such as Jackie O, The Duchess of Windsor and Grace Kelly.”

FREEZE FRAME: “My own photography career began at 16 when I got my first Rollei camera. Some of the photographers I love are turn-of-the-century pictorialists like Gertrude Käsebier and Edward Weston. Käsebier would go into homes and photograph the lives of people in their most comfortable place. I try to capture people in everyday life, and I use only natural light. Käsebier’s photos are very emotional, soulful, dreamy — also aspects I strive for with my own photographs.”

JEWELED MEMORIES: “I began really getting into the jewelry world when my affinity for antiquing turned into a weekend sport. I scoured flea markets, eventually finding great vintage pieces such as lockets, brooches and cases from different time periods. I would bring them to my studio and clean them up while still preserving their vintage feeling. I began selling them to friends and friends of friends. Once a piece was purchased, I would Velcro photos of their loved ones into the vintage pieces, and this was a big selling point — the idea of wearing or holding their cherished children, husbands or parents close to them!”

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JUST CHARMING: “I’ve always been drawn to charm bracelets. My mother had one that I loved, and it made such a great noise, you could hear her coming down the hall. My uncle was a world traveler, and would always bring my mother a new charm from an exotic place. I started to make my own collection in 2004. I was inspired by the vintage pieces I had found over the years, but mine all have emotional themes and messages such as carpe diem, true love, faith, hope and other sayings. It’s important for a woman to create a bracelet that is completely unique and special to her.”

PAST PRESENT: “I like to think that my pieces convey a similar timeless elegance as the vintage pieces I once used. When we introduce a style, I want a woman to be able to enjoy it no matter what the trend, time frame or prevailing fashion. My jewelry is more about sentimentality and meaning. Yet, I do work with certain jewelry directions like longer necklaces, multi charms and details of openwork, engraving and filigree for lockets and pendants — aspects that work well with my signature style and design sensibility. I never introduce something just because it’s ‘of the moment.’”

THE PERFECT PARTNER: “My husband, Rod, and I are partners and have been since we launched the business. He is the true genius behind running the business end of things. He definitely balances me with creatively figuring out how to get in all of my favorite things while also taking care of all the other aspects of sales, marketing and promotion.”

ENDURING MOMENTS: “I love all the personal pieces the women chose to wear and carry in the 19th and early 20th century: powder compacts, cigarette cases, lockets and other jewels. These and other pieces, revamped into charms, necklaces bracelets and rings are the components in a woman’s jewelry wardrobe that offer insight into who she is, what she conveys to the world, what she keeps secret. Whether it’s a locket engraved with her initials or a style that has her favorite stone, it reveals a bit of her heart and soul.”

Beth Bernstein is a published author of three books and jewelry and fashion expert with 18+ years experience. A broad knowledge of the history of jewelry and fashion coupled with a background in "the story", writing, trends, design concepts has earned Beth a proven track record.

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