“Elegant, modern, creative and never too precious to wear. That’s the motto of this company”, says Nina Runsdorf, the horse-riding farm girl come Upper East Side jewellery designer best known for her iconic Flip Ring, and use of Slice Diamonds.
Effortlessly chic, and filled with curiosities, Runsdorf’s salon feels like an extension of her home. Her private art collection, which showcases the likes of Enoc Perez and Misha Kahn, creates the perfect backdrop to her jewellery which is designed for a modern lifestyle.
Here Runsdorf talks to us about her love of antiques, accessorising and inclusivity.
Nina Runsdorf in her salon
Diamond slice earrings
How did you get into jewellery?
I grew up on a farm in upstate New York. We were allowed half an hour of television a day and there were only two stations we could get on the farm so I spent my days horseback riding – competing very seriously. In the evenings there was nothing to do so I would sit around pulling pages from fashion magazines. My mother realised I was creative so set up a jewellery bench in the kitchen when I was eleven and I started making pieces in silver.
Nina Runsdorf wearing wearing flip rings and tassel earrings
Flip Ring in 18k rose gold, diamonds and smokey topaz
Why did you decide to launch your own line?
I didn’t set out with that intention. I was looking for something for myself that was precious, yet casual enough to wear everyday; something I could wear with my jeans and cowboy boots or a ballgown. When I couldn’t find what I wanted, I created it. That’s when the first Flip Ring was born. I took a rose cut diamond and created a setting that would allow the diamond to move and catch the light. I’ve been wearing it for many years, without it I feel like something is missing.
And it just took off from there?
I wore it everywhere and people kept asking if they could buy one. The Flip Ring is such a good design – they are for any age – my daughters who are in their 20’s wear them and so does my 85-year-old mother.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m fascinated by how other people live and what they believe in. When I was riding I met people from all over the world and my parents always filled the house with interesting people. We learnt to treat all people equally. It’s so important to be inclusive and get to know people. When I am designing a bespoke piece, I want it to encapsulate much more than the client’s style – pets, children, passions are all important too.
What’s your design process?
I start by sourcing gemstones – I choose them for their energy, how they make me feel. I then create rough sketches, placing the stones on the paper as I draw. Once I have the design, I sit with my jewellers, who know my aesthetic well and make the designs a reality.
Let’s talk about the diamond slices.
The first pair of diamond slices I saw, I didn’t know what they were. No one was using them in jewellery at the time. I brought some back to New York and made a few things for the launch of my first collection in 2005. We did not sell one piece.
Then a very sophisticated client, a woman who had everything, saw them in a show room and said ‘I want those’. She liked the idea that she could walk into a room and no one would know what they were. After that they became a huge success. Our latest collection mixes Slice Diamonds with pops of enamel colour called the Phoenix, it celebrates them as a signature of our brand.
How would you describe the way you style your jewellery?
I’m a lover of accessories. Clothes are the canvas, and the accessories – the jewels, the handbag, the shoes are the expression. Great style has to be effortless. When you wear a piece of jewellery it should become a part of who you are.
What are your favourite pieces?
Aside from my flip ring, I wear a Tiffany & co watch my late husband’s family gave to me for my engagement present in 1991. The other thing I’ve worn every day for the last seven years is a Turkish charm bracelet with a 13th century coin and an evil eye. I love antique pieces for their personality.
What does jewellery mean to you?
Jewellery is about emotion. When someone wears it there is a personal connection. My job is to create pieces that stir emotion in my clients.