Renna Taher entered our lives in the most fortuitous way. After a chance meeting at our work club Spring Place, she told us she’d followed The Stone Set since launch, when she worked at Sotheby’s. We had a fangirl! And then we noticed her stunning jewelry.
Small seashells are Renna’s mark, drops hanging as small objet from her ears, a statement perched on a diamond band, and the pièce de résistance: a gold shell charm bracelet with major movement. What was her story?
As weeks went on, we became fast friends with Renna and bonded over a fanatical love of jewelry and craftsmanship. She shared the formative story behind why the coffee bean shell is the debut signature of her eponymous new fine jewelry brand, Renna, and we were captivated.
Renna’s jewelry features metals that are perfectly toned (her rose gold is flawless; a feat) and each piece has a quiet elegance yet feels substantial like an heirloom. It is rare for a new jewelry designer to have such a defined and cohesive point of view.
When you try to select a piece, it’s impossible—each is distinctly covetable and feels wholly new. Emerald and I now have matching Thread and Shell rings and it’s just the beginning. We are excited to watch Renna command the attention and following she deserves (we foresee retailers clamoring for the collection), and to bring you her first interview! -Jenna Wise for The Stone Set
Tell us about your life. How did growing up in California shape you?
I grew up with my mother in Pacific Palisades, California. She is from Laguna Beach and has an incredible free spirit. We even have a Phil Edwards surfboard in our den. I have very strong memories of playing in the waves with my cousins until it was dark out when we would go to Laguna on holiday. My father is from and lives in Saudi Arabia so, naturally, I have a very international upbringing. I spent most of my summers wandering around museums throughout Europe, which has had tremendous influence on me.
I often struggle to make sense of my identity and making jewelry has really helped me tap into who I am at the core. My mother and I found the shells that my pieces are made from at Salt Creek Beach when I was nine years old; I remember it so vividly. I have lived in New York for almost ten years now and thrive off the energy but when it gets to be to much for me, I take a minute to touch a shell and it brings me back to the beach and centers me. I suppose it’s sort of Proustian, for me my jewelry is deeply personal and immediately transports me to my childhood in California.
You spent years at Sotheby’s. What was the experience like?
When I made it onto the specialist team I was over the moon; it was my goal from day one and it was an incredible education. I would say there are two main aspects to working in the jewelry department at an auction house: evaluating the big stones and inspecting the historical, signed, vintage pieces. I was always drawn to the historical research and I loved writing catalogue notes. One of my favorites was an incredibly rare natural pearl brooch from The Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman that sold for 1.8 million USD in 2012. Sitting at the phone bank, watching the bids climb during that sale was so exhilarating.
Another particularly rewarding experience was working on the Alexandre Reza private selling exhibition. The stones I got to work with were beyond my wildest dreams, just setting up and taking down the exhibition every day was pretty wild. I am particularly proud of that catalogue.
How did you realize you wanted to create your own collection?
My mother made me a gold bracelet out of the shells when I graduated from UC Berkeley. I have worn it almost every day since. I can’t tell you how many times someone commented on how cool my bracelet was while I was showing them a piece at Sotheby’s. I always wanted to start my own line but it took me a good five years to realize who I am as a designer. For me, discovering my design sense is intrinsically linked to self-discovery. It sounds so corny and I would totally roll my eyes if someone ever told me that, but the past few years I have really had to tap into myself and grow up. At some point in the process, my creativity awakened. Hopefully, it only gets better from here!
What draws you to the coffee bean shell? What does the line represent for you?
The coffee bean shell is a very tough shell to find. If you spend the whole day in the tide pools you might not find any. Now you really shouldn’t take shells from the beach so the ones from my childhood are the only ones I’ll ever have (and for good reason). A lot of people mistake them for cowry shells which are smooth and curl in at both ends. Coffee bean shells have these beautiful ridges and only curve at one end. The shape and delicacy of the shell makes it incredibly difficult to create a mold from. I love the challenge of representing it in gold.
What are your go-to pieces that you can’t stop wearing?
I do something I like to call “bookending”. (Yes, I think I just invented this term.) I wear a pinky ring on each finger. I think there’s something incredibly chic about the simplicity and symmetry. I either wear one Bookend ring on each finger or a stack of Bookend rings on one pinky and my small thread and Shell Diamond ring on the other. I wear my Vintage Charm bracelet every day along with the bracelet which my mother made me, of course.
We love your attention to materials and quality. Why is this important to you and how does it help your jewels stand out?
Growing up at Sotheby’s, I was incredibly spoiled to work with the highest quality jewels every day. It never really crossed my mind to do anything less. I use eighteen karat gold and a very special rose gold that really pops. Each shell is solid all the way through which gives it a nice heft. I love the FEEL of wearing jewelry, there’s something so grounding about it. I am hoping to work with colored stones in the future but each one is so different with a distinct personality, I really want to take my time finding the right material. The level of high touch that goes into finishing each product is integral to my line and I hope that’s what sets it apart. I guess you’ll tell me if I am successful in that!
Who are you creating your line for? Is there a certain woman in mind?
For me! I create pieces that I want to wear. I love fashion, it’s a method of expression for me. I try to avoid wearing logos and I enjoy a mix of classic and eclectic. I enjoy the process of finding pieces. The woman who wears my jewelry is probably on the hunt for a treasure; she wants to stand out in an understated way. I don’t like being obvious but I like to know that I am wearing something well made. It’s sort of hard to find pieces that work that way these days. In New York, especially, we get so caught up in who’s wearing who. I like to stay more under the radar. My dream client is a sort of elegant, eccentric, unicorn.
What’s an average day like for you?
I wake up around 7:45 and take my miniature dachshund, Stevie Licks, for a walk and to get a matcha tea (for me, not her) at either the Elk or Kava in the West Village. I try to work out most mornings (so let’s call this an optimistic day). I either go the Class by Taryn Toomey or workout with Mike Maloney who teaches a killer class at Bandier. For the rest of the day I either head to Spring Place to work or I am in midtown with my jeweler. No day is really the same for me. It’s an exciting time, my line is young and demand is growing! After work, home to Stevie, perhaps dinner with a friend, early to bed. I love to sleep.
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set