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Meet the Designer: An Interview with Elise Coleman

We were lucky enough to meet Elise in the very early days of Frank Darling. She took our fledgling idea, and breathed life into the collection, creating the 54 unique and distinct styles that comprise our debut collection today. When we met in IRL we were stunned by her style, wit, and design sensibilities.

Today, we sat down with Elise to discuss design, the creative process, and her favorite pieces of jewelry.

On Design

What inspired you to become a designer?

I’ve loved to draw for as long as I can remember. I tried to take a more conventional path, since I’d grown up thinking artists had to starve, but ended up in art school anyway. I figured design was the best way to get a job.

What’s the first thing you do when you sit down to create?

Panic.


Tell us about your design process. 

When I’m at the very beginning, when a project is completely open-ended, I like to walk around and look at things — anything, a cityscape, flowers in a field, maybe a museum if there’s an interesting show. Eventually, I pick up a pencil and sketch rough ideas. I refine the best of those and put them into work.

What inspires you to create?

It’s just a drive I’ve always had. I like to imagine things and make them real.

Talk to us about the concept behind the collections.

 I try to think of who I’m designing for. I didn’t have any given markers for Frank Darling, so I imagined all these different kinds of women in love and created stories about them in my head. I looked for images that reminded me of each of the people I’d dreamed, and then I designed the kinds of things I thought they would like.


What differentiates your work from other rings people might see online? 

Many rings on the market are built as a structure to hold a stone. They can be very mechanical objects. I believe in attending to the detail of every portion, even that which people other than the wearer will never see, and making sure the design is an elegant sculpture from all angles.

Parker No. 1 Asscher Solitaire Ring Photographer of Prongs
Parker No. 3 Featuring our Signature Rosette Prongs

On Jewelry

Favorite diamond cut. Why?

I LOVE Asscher’s and other step-cuts like baguettes. They have a special way of refracting light that gives them an architectural and modern look.


Favorite non-diamond stone? 

Tourmalines: they come in the most wonderful colors and they cut so beautifully.

Photograph of watermelon tourmaline
Tourmaline

White gold or platinum?

Platinum. 100.

The most expensive piece of jewelry you’ve ever designed?

That’s hard to say. I once did a set of custom cuff-links using a pair of trillion cut natural green diamonds worth about $5M; however, the Tiffany & Co. necklace worn by Francesca Amfitheatrof to the Met Gala in 2015 may have been more. I never learned the final price, but there were around 100 diamonds set in many thousands of dollars worth of gold.

Necklace by Elise Coleman for Francesca Amfitheatrof, Tiffany & Co. Met Gala, 2015
Met Gala 2015 Francesca Amfitheatrof & Reese Witherspoon in Tiffany & Co.

Your favorite ring in the FD collection?

This is too hard! I love them all! To narrow it down, I’ll give you my favorite of each collection: Billie No. 4, Harper No. 2 Pavé, Parker No. 6, Sidney No. 6,  Mason No. 2, (but really, all of Mason’s).

On Style

You’ve got an amazing look. Who’s your style icon?

Some unseemly mix of Tilda Swinton, Andy Warhol, and James Dean. 

Tell us about your engagement ring. 

I didn’t design it! It was a total surprise, and predates my life in jewelry design. My husband asked my best friend what he should get, and she just said, “get a classic Tiffany ring!” She knows me so well.

If you could only own piece of jewelry other then your engagement ring & wedding band what would it be?

A Dot Losange bangle by Jean Schlumberger in white enamel: like the ones worn by Jackie O! I really wish I owned one…

Dot Losange Bracelet by Jean Schlumberger
Dot Losange Bangle by Jean Schlumberger | Image from Tiffany & Co.

Favorite item in your jewelry box?

It’s an exquisitely carved deep green antique bakelite ring given to me by my grandmother.

Best celebrity engagement ring?

Princess Eugenie’s Padparadscha Sapphire ring. 

Image from Brides