I first heard of Jessica Biales when I saw Celia Cohen wearing her Diamond Slice ring, effortlessly mixed in with a well-collected stack. The ring was a tad larger than the others and its subtle curves and delicately placed diamonds made it shine. It had to be mine. Fast forward to when I met the New York-based jewelry designer behind it.
Jessica is a true artist, infusing many forms of art, architecture, photography, and collage into her collections. Her fascinating lost wax process, use of handcrafted lush metals and gemstones, and overall powerful visual vocabulary make her line a special rarity amidst a crowded market. And we’re not alone—J.Crew agrees. In 2013, the retailer marked its first foray into fine jewelry through a partnership with Jessica, selling her prep-with-a-punky-twist Candy Signet rings. Jessica invited us into her home overlooking NYC’s East River for a conversation about her career arc, creation process, and surprising muse. -Jenna Fain for The Stone Set
“It was an amazing opportunity to take metal smithing in high school. I went to Calhoun on the Upper West Side which had a very strong creative spirit and wonderful arts courses. I loved making jewelry, being in the art studio and being with the other creative kids. They were the most interesting people to spend time with. I now use the lost wax method of jewelry making which is very different from metal smithing. I create the designs in my head and go to straight to wax and begin to carve. I start with a block of wax and carve with files and tools. I love the carving process. It is therapeutic almost like meditation requiring my complete attention. Sometimes I sketch a little to record my thoughts and ideas.
Photography and photo collage are other passions of mine. In both jewelry design and photography/collage, I focus on sculptural form, patterns and colors. I am a very visual person. I am always looking at my surroundings and imagining jewelry designs, capturing images, collecting and composing designs all the time. It is hard for me to walk down the street without stopping many times.
I have always been an artist at heart. I went to law school because it was practical, but I never stopped creating. I was a very creative lawyer. I invented and patented the “octopus” strap to carry legal files. My art and design affected my legal career more than my legal career affected my jewelry!
My rings are my strongest pieces. The Slice, Candy Signet and Block Signet rings are my trademark classic designs. Recently I have been wearing a collection of rings from my most recent collection inspired by Matisse cutouts called the Scissor collection. The rings are Mimosa and Antler mixed with some Diamond Slices. I love mixing and stacking different rings. Like puzzles or collage. I love gold for its warmth and how it wears over time. I am very fond of silver for certain bold designs especially chunky rings. A highlight so far was having my rings published in Vogue.
My daughter Michaela has become my partner in observing the world with art and design in mind. She is developing her eye and has a natural sense for colors and patterns. She is very interested in photography and wax carving and we do these together. It is very special for me to share these interests with her. She is even creating her own unique art form of salad design, arranging vegetables and fruits in careful quilt-like patterns. They are too beautiful to eat!
My father taught me how to look at the world. How to see things artistically, compose a shot in photography and appreciate art and sculpture. My eyes are now quite sensitive to my surroundings and I find inspiration everywhere. New York, architecture, art, sculpture, fashion. Missoni, Matisse, Calder, Serra, Breuer, Abstract Expressionists, Minimalists.
My studio is at home overlooking the East River. I love to watch the river and the boats go by. Especially the tugboats! I am surrounded by my art and architecture books, my children’s artwork, and my father’s sculptures. The presence of my children provides a wonderful energy that I am privileged to be around. TSF Jazz is always playing in the background.” –Jessica Biales
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set.