Next up in our 'Meet The Maker' Series is the incredibly artistic, insanely talented Jay Kim of Hiddenspace Jewelry. You know those art deco-inspired, gorgeously architectural statement rings you keep seeing on our IG? Jay and his wife Eunmi are the creative masterminds behind them! Keeping reading to learn more about his design process, why he loves alternative stones, and how Southeast Asia helps inspire his designs.
How did you get into jewelry design?
A lot of things led to my becoming a Jewelry Designer. When I was 20, I moved to Vancouver, Canada to study Architecture Design at UBC. All the while, I had a deep love for music, and after a few years studying architecture, I realized I was more passionate about music. So, I decided to switch my major to music and Show Production. After graduating, I worked for a few years as a Stage Lighting Designer, but wasn’t loving the job.
When I met my wife (who had been a successful Jewelry Designer for a decade), I was instantly captivated by her designs. Her pieces were so creative and beautiful - it seemed like the perfect combination of many different art forms.
I decided to join my wife on her path and that’s how Hiddenspace was born. It’s a wonderful creative outlet that brings joy to us and to those who wear our pieces.
I’m still amazed and grateful that I am where I am. Most of all I’m grateful to my wife, Eunmi – my partner in life and in jewelry.
It sounds like you've travelled a lot in your life – how has this influenced your designs?
I’ve been travelling solo since I was very young. When I was 14, I left my home in South Korea to study aboard in Thailand (which wasn’t easy at such a young age). In Thailand, I was exposed to a massive array of architecture both locally and in its neighboring countries (Cambodia, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Laos, etc.).
The architectural styles from each of these countries continue to influence my designs today – so many of my pieces reflect the delicacy and elegance of Southeast Asia.
How does your background in Architecture influence your jewelry designs?
Architecture is the framework and structure of my designs - from the most logical, simple architectural principles to the most complicated details. To me, architecture is an amalgamation of all art forms - music, painting, and the wisdom gained from daily life. I love that I can integrate all my passions into one medium.
You seem to design mostly with salt and pepper diamonds and alternative stones. What do you love about these alternative stones?
People who choose alternative stones are those who refuse to be ordinary. They have an artistic aesthetic and appreciate the distinctive and unique.
For me, I love the natural look of Salt and Pepper Diamonds because of the mysterious colors and shapes. When I look at a S & P stone closely, it looks like a galaxy. They’re truly a precious gift from the earth.
What is your design process like?
Design ideas always seem to pop up at the most unexpected moments. So, I always have a notepad or my cell phone handy so I can sketch a ring right when the idea enters my mind. Then, I come back to my office and put together a more organized sketch.
Next is the digital CAD rendering which takes the ring from paper to a more 3D model. I spend a lot of time in CAD to better see the shapes and visualize the completed ring. Once we’re happy with the design, we start on production where our expert Jeweler, Fred, and our master Diamond Setter, Juan work on bringing the ring to life.
The whole process usually takes about 20 business days from concept to completion.
Where did the name ‘Hiddenspace Jewelry’ come from?
One of our key design elements is the spaces between metals in our rings. It creates a spatial impression that sets our designs apart from the crowd. I felt Hiddenspace captured this feeling and aesthetic perfectly.
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
I try to find inspiration from non-jewelry related industries – interior design, lighting, design patterns in classical architecture – whatever art and medium speaks to me in that moment.
What’s your favorite ring you’ve ever designed for Gem Breakfast?
“Lumi” is my favorite on the Gem Breakfast site. It’s designed to express the purity and beauty of snowflakes. Snow crystals, like salt & pepper diamonds, are never repeated, one-of-a-kind creations – no two look alike. I wanted to capture the beauty of nature in the design.
When I first designed the ring, my wife really wanted it for herself!
What’s your favorite ring you’ve ever designed for your site?
My favorite ring ever is the 'Hexagon Star Ring' - it’s the most popular design on my site by far. Why I love it: many failures led to the creation and perfection of this design. I did a lot of experimental casting with silver before eventually landing on the proportions and delicacy I wanted.
To me, it looks like a shining star connected to, and cascading away from, the hexagon salt & pepper diamond.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Layouts and proportions are the two main principles of all Hiddenspace designs. Like architecture, I craft delicate works of art from the most basic foundational structure. Unique gems are placed in interesting layouts atop a sound structure to create a ring to remember.
How has your design aesthetic changed/evolved since you started?
In the beginning, my designs were very experimental. I was obsessed with being completely different from anything available. I also tried to apply all my favorite design elements into one piece which often ended up being either impractical, uncomfortable to wear, or too delicate.
I learned from each failure and removed unnecessary design elements to create the most beautiful, structurally sound, just-right rings that speak to my aesthetic and also work on a practical level. What has remained all throughout is my architectural inspiration.
Where did you first meet Catherine (Gem Breakfast Founder)?
I found Catherine on Instagram. The designs on the Gem Breakfast site felt very aligned with mine – unique, one-of-a-kind, distinctive, and far from conventional. I really identified with Catherine herself and how she ran the business – that she’s giving indie, alternative designers a platform to showcase their designs to an audience who truly gets it, who loves the alternative and unique.
Not long after discovering her on IG, I reached out to Catherine. She loved our designs and our partnership began. I’m very thankful to her for the opportunity.
What’s your favorite kind of gemstone, and why?
Salt and Pepper Diamonds! Only a few years ago, these stones were worth nothing. But lately, salt & pepper diamonds are becoming beloved for their distinctiveness.
The advent of lab-grown diamonds has made the value of natural diamonds even more apparent. This is especially true for Salt & Pepper diamonds - you can’t replicate their one-of-a-kind pattern that reflects the state of the planet billions of years ago. They’re truly amazing - I love seeing the history stored in the stone’s inclusions.
What about stone shapes? You have a lot of hexagon, square, and kite-shaped stones - what do you like about these shapes?
I like geometric shapes to express architectural elements. A diamond with defined angles gives a bolder, stronger impression – it makes a statement. I feel these stone shapes represent the strength, success, and influence of women.
Does your wife, Eunmi wear any of your pieces every day?
Four out of her ten fingers are always filled with my rings. She’s sad that she only has 10 fingers! Our 5th Anniversary was last week and I gave her one of our favorite designs as a gift. I’m very thankful for my wife’s talent and dedication.
How do you and your wife work together to design your pieces?
We balance each other out really well. If I’m working on a more bold, masculine design, she’s working a more feminine, delicate design or vice versa. Once we finish our design drafts, we come together to hone and perfect them.
When we first started, our opinions were not always aligned, but we’ve learned to respect and understand each other’s aesthetic sense.
Who is the woman who loves your rings?
Generally, people who like Art Deco tend to love my designs. I think it’s the combination of symmetrical shapes with delicate details. Also, people who like the Gothic style identify with the geometric quality of my designs.
Overall, she’s a style-savvy women who loves the alternative and interesting. A woman who appreciates artistry and finds beauty in the unconventional.
How do you want women to feel when wearing your pieces?
I want them to feel loved. If it’s an engagement ring, I hope she feels loved by her partner and excited to spend the rest of their lives together.
If it’s a ring just for her, I hope it can be a symbol of her love for herself.
In jewelry, more is more. True or false?
Can you tell us more about your ethical stone sourcing and the use of recycled gold?
I work with the largest and most reliable casting company in downtown L.A. and use mostly recycled gold.
Our diamond supplier has been trading salt & pepper diamonds for over 20 years and works directly with mines in Canada and India. They also work with one of Catherine’s favorite diamond dealers, Misfit Diamonds.
What do you love most about what you do?
It’s so rewarding to be a part of people’s special moments – knowing that my ring played a role in their lifelong commitment to each other. A proposal is such an overwhelming moment and I love creating that symbol of love for them. Just as diamonds symbolize eternity, I pray their love and family bonds will last forever.