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An Interview with Jewelry Designer, Elise Coleman

Jewelry designer Elise Coleman sits down with Frank Darling to discuss her inspiration behind the collection

We were lucky enough to meet Elise in the very early days of Frank Darling. Not only is Elise an incredible jewelry designer, but 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 she stunned us with her style, wit, and design sensibilities.

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

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A JEWELRY 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 PROCESS AS A JEWELRY DESIGNER

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.

A lab grown diamond engagement ring that has been sustainably grown designed by jewelry designer Elise Coleman.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE

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

YOU DON’T CONSIDER YOURSELF PURELY A JEWELRY DESIGNER. 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.

The Parker Collection

AS A JEWELRY DESIGNER, 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 designed by jewelry designer Elise Coleman.

FAVORITE DIAMOND CUT?

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

WHITE GOLD OR PLATINUM?

Platinum. 100.

White gold cushion cut engagement ring

THE MOST EXPENSIVE PIECE OF JEWELRY YOU’VE 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.

A diamond and gold necklace for for Francesca Amfitheatrof, Tiffany & Co. Met Gala, 2015 designed by jewelry designer Elise Coleman.
Necklace by Elise Coleman for Francesca Amfitheatrof, Tiffany & Co. Met Gala, 2015
Met Gala 2015 Francesca Amfitheatrof & Reese Witherspoon in Tiffany & Co. designed by jewelry designer Elise Coleman.
Met Gala 2015 Francesca Amfitheatrof & Reese Witherspoon in Tiffany & Co.

YOUR FAVORITE RING IN THE 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 — half carat baguette solitaire by jewelry designer Elise Coleman.
Harer No.4 Pavé — yellow gold emerald solitaire by jewelry designer Elise Coleman.
Parker No. 6 emerald east west solitaire in yellow gold by jewelry designer Elise Coleman.
Sidney No. 6 — georgian beaded cluster in yellow gold by jewelry designer Elise Coleman.
Mason No. 2 — double half moon solitaire in yellow gold by jewelry designer Elise Coleman.

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 ONE OTHER PIECE OF JEWELRY OTHER THAN YOUR ENGAGEMENT RING & WEDDING BADN 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 RING?

Princess Eugenie’s Padparadscha Sapphire ring. 

Princess Eugenie's Padparadscha Sapphire ring. Jewelry designer Elise Colemans favorite celebrity engagement ring.
Image from Brides