New York-based Selin Kent captivated us last year with the debut of her minimalist fine jewelry collection. Her concise line of clean and geometric pieces feel impactful on their own yet playful and powerful when worn together. Kent’s dedication to only using responsibly sourced precious metals and stones and a jewelrymaking apprenticeship in her native Istanbul were enough to intrigue us. She recently invited us into her downtown studio to learn more about her passion for female entrepreneurship, personal favorite rings, and vision for her company. -The Stone Set
“I found myself in the jewelry industry in a roundabout and unexpected way. I was initially the more academic type, and I studied International Relations and History as an undergrad. My first job after graduating from college was at a market research firm in New York. It was during this time that I sort of had a reaction against sitting in front of a computer all day, and I wanted to learn a craft. I was always curious about how metal was worked with and manipulated, so I started dabbling in metalsmithing. I took classes at the end of the work day and over the weekends for about a year and a half before deciding to enroll in a two-year jewelry fabrication program at FIT. It was a very hands on program. I basically spent two years behind the bench learning jewelry fabrication and had some wonderful teachers during that time.
To really hone my hand skills, however, school wasn’t enough. I spent some time apprenticing with master craftsmen at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. I’m originally Turkish and my family lives there, so it was a great opportunity to go back and learn it from the masters! Even though I’m not actually making the pieces I’m selling right now, I think my background in jewelry fabrication and metalsmithing sets me apart and allows me to be a better designer as well. When it comes to the two to three years I spent at a market research firm, I don’t regret it for one second. It instilled a sense of professionalism and strong work ethic that I think I’ve carried with me in my more entrepreneurial ventures.
My aesthetic is very clean and linear. On a visual level, I draw inspiration from modern architecture, geometric compositions and patterns, and 20th-century art movements such as Bauhaus. On a more visceral level, I am inspired by powerful and talented women who have left their mark. I named the pieces from my edgier first collection after famous blues, rock, and jazz musicians who spoke to me throughout my childhood and still continue to be a source of inspiration for me. The names include Ella, Françoise, Nico, and Koko. My recently launched capsule collection exudes a quieter sophistication and glamour, and is named after legendary Hollywood actresses such as Greta, Sophia, and Louise.
My favorite pieces are a combination of two rings stacked together. I create many of my designs with the idea that they might be stacked and combined with one another. I have a few models, such as Koko and Koko Mini, that interlock like puzzle pieces. I just developed a new model which is an open-shanked twisted ring called Eva, where two of them interlock and fit together in a different way. I think these pieces encapsulate my approach to design—minimal but thoughtful.
We seem to have entered a new era of adornment where we’re encountering fine jewelry that’s modern and fresh, and I see my brand as part of this trend. The lines between fashion and fine jewelry are increasingly blurred, offering more interesting options than ever before. As I created my line, I tried to fill a void that I noticed in the marketplace of fine jewelry options that were understated without being simple. My aesthetic is minimal in that I try to strip my designs down to the essentials by cutting out anything that is unnecessary. I think it’s more challenging and ultimately more fulfilling to come up with designs that are understated yet striking, and that’s what I’ve tried to achieve with my line.
Madeleine Albright, whom I hope to name one of my pieces after one day, once said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I’ve found the jewelry industry to be quite insular, with people keeping their secrets close to their heart. While I’ve encountered many of these types, I have been fortunate enough to develop relationships with a few women (and men) who have helped guide my thinking on design as well as on the business front. I’ve only been in business for a little over a year, but I’ve learned a ton and developed valuable insights during this time. I’m very generous with my knowledge and contacts, and am happy to share these insights with those who are interested in taking the same path. Your success is going to be defined and ensured by your hard work and dedication, not by your competition.
I’m definitely a big ring person. Our hands are constantly in motion, and central to the way we express ourselves. I also appreciate that rings are very rich in symbolism and sentimentality. I’ve always been a fan of rings—I used to wear one on every finger in high school. While I’m a bit more toned down now, I enjoy wearing rings more than any other kind of jewelry and I don’t leave the house without them. I generally like to pair a more sentimental piece, such as a ring from my grandmother or the first ring my dad bought my mom (not an engagement ring) with one of my models. I enjoy the contrast in pairing older styles with more modern styles.
An exciting milestone would be to have one of the more contemporary female rock or jazz musicians whom I’ve named pieces from my first collection after (such as “PJ” Harvey, “Fiona” Apple or “Charlotte” Gainsbourg) wear one of my pieces!” –Selin Kent
Photography by The Stone Set.