In today’s Meet the Maker, we’re chatting with Jenny Norman, an NYC-based Jewelry Designer who’s designs are the stuff of dreams. With the energy of the cosmos and the intricate perfection of nature, her rings lift your mind from the mundane to the mystical. When you meet her, you see where the pure, unfiltered magic comes from – a woman who believes fully in the infinite goodness in every one of us.
When did you begin loving jewelry?
I’ve always loved jewelry. My mom’s great aunt left her a couple of really amazing pieces and I would always open her jewelry box and ogle at all the beautiful things. There was this one piece – it had rhinestones in little star settings and I loved it so much. Just looking at it took me to a magical place.
When I look back at the jewelry I loved as a kid – it wasn’t about the value, it wasn’t whether it was diamonds or gold. It was about those little details that make it feel special and unique to that person, and the story behind it.
How did you get into jewelry design?
My friend invited me to take a wax carving course with her, and though it sounded interesting, I mostly just went to spend time with my friend. Halfway into the course, a lightbulb went off. I couldn’t believe that I could create a piece in wax and translate that to wearable jewelry - it felt seriously magical and blew my mind.
After that class, I was hooked. I bought all the wax materials and carving materials, found a book on wax carving from the library and away I went. The designs in this book were incredible and so intricate. I woke up every morning to practice carving - I was so excited to channel some of the designs in the book. The only problem: I was terrible at it – it was akin to macaroni art and sadly, no amount of practice seemed to improve my wax carving. I was so frustrated because I had such grandiose visions and couldn’t make it happen.
But all was not lost - I discovered I could use CAD design to get the same result. So, I taught myself CAD with a free trial of the program, and THAT skill did get better! Within a little while, I could confidently design through CAD and bring my visions to life.
Your pieces have lots of cosmic vibes and nature vibes – what’s the story or significance behind that?
I’m always inspired by the cosmos and nature - even the first piece of jewelry I fell in love with had those Victorian stars. I live my life with the belief that life is so much more than the mundane everyday experiences. There can be so much magic in life in we look for it, let it in, and be open to it.
That’s why I create pieces that both root you into the beauty and stillness of nature and take you into the wonder and infinite potential of the cosmos.
What’s your jewelry motto?
It’s about attention and intention – the economy of effort. It doesn’t matter the size or the price, it’s the effort and the meaning.
What’s your design aesthetic?
Victorian Symbolism had a love child with modern minimalism
Is there a piece you dream of making?
I’m putting the touches on a dream ring that hasn’t yet come together. My vision is to combine traditional orange blossom symbolism with a rebel streak that represents the bold symbolism of today.
What was the first engagement ring you made?
I was waiting on the subway platform one day and I passed a guitar-playing busker who was fundraising to marry the love of his life. He had an Instagram called marryingkatie. I loved it - it was so sweet and he was playing my favorite song so I put a couple bucks in and went on my way.
I checked out the IG when I got on the subway – he had photos of them, their whole story, and his girlfriend knew nothing about it. I decided to reach out to him to help guide him towards a quality (non-boring) ring for Katie. He responded and was planning to get a conventional ring from a mall store. After talking for a while, I told him that though I was pretty new at this, I'd love to make him something really special for free, minus the cost of the materials.
We kept in touch for almost a year, planning the design, deciding on the stone, and meeting at different subway stops where he was busking to talk about the ring. At some point, I pulled the trigger, bought the diamond, and got on the subway to deliver it. It was a moment of faith - I had to meet this person in the 34th street subway station and hope he wasn’t going to run off with my self-purchased diamond.
In the end, it all came together. He livestreamed the whole proposal and I got to watch everything. It was the most magical moment ever, I had tears streaming down my face the whole time. All my coworkers were in on it too - one of the ladies donated a diamond from a lost earring – it was such an amazing experience.
We have to talk about your 'Golden Snitch' ring –was that intentional?
I wish I could say I meant to do the golden snitch, I didn’t, that’s a missed opportunity!
I actually made that ring for a client who wanted a nature themed ring for her partner. She wanted it to represent past, present, and future – looking forward and upwards. So, clementine had willowleaf engraving and three beads to represent being aware of your present, looking forward to your future, and a gentle bend upwards to represent looking towards the sky.
How did you and Cat find each other?
Cat had posted a story looking for new indie designers who want to work with Gem Breakfast. I emailed her immediately, introduced myself and said I would love to work with her.
We chatted, she looked at my designs, and said we’d give it a shot. I made a special ring for her (a salt & pepper ring with tulip petals springing from a very thin band) and it sold that weekend. After that, she was like “ok I guess we’re good!”
All of the designers at Gem Breakfast and the community of jewelry lovers she’s created is really inspirational. I’m so grateful to be a part of this incredibly special group of people.
What is your process like from start to finish for a GB piece?
- A concept: something I want to bring to reality.
- Sketches: I could do 50-75 different sketches before pinpointing exactly what I want to say.
- CAD Design: I sculpt the ring digitally. There’s a certain type of CAD that’s a bit more engineering. For me, I start with a CAD ball and I sculpt it into a ring. Every single detail in my rings is digitally sculpted. That process takes a long time.
- I have it cast: I work with great local casters in New York. Sometimes I have it cast in silver first to make sure I love it. Then, I make any finishing touches and then have the final casting done.
- I do a pre-polish (I’m very particular about how my rings are polished) and then I send it to my amazing production designer in New York for stone setting.
What are you inspired by to create your designs?
I’m often inspired by words – a phrase, or a song lyric will come to me and stick in my head. Then, oftentimes a mental image picture will form and I start to envision the phrase and picture as a piece of jewelry.
The ring Bellis (sold) has wildflowers that spring up from the setting. It was about freedom - loving the wildness of your free spirit. The inspiration for that ring is a line from a Tom Petty song called Wildflowers: “you belong among wildflowers, you belong somewhere you feel free”. That line took hold and I had to bring it to life.
Favorite GB ring you’ve ever made?
It’s a toss up between Bellis and Oracle – I don’t think I could choose between them. I love Bellis because it calls to my heart. Oracle was inspired by an ancient philosopher's poem and I love the big sun that springs out of the ring, mixed with the diamonds and stars. It’s such a power ring.
More is more, true or false?
I think, meaning is more. That could be more or less, whatever creates meaning to you.
What jewelry do you wear on the daily?
- A couple of very special heirloom pieces: a cross that my grandmother had and a cameo that my grandfather gave to me - the face is almost completely worn off.
- An Ouroboros (a snake that’s eating itself) with circles of flowers to represent a new phase. I made this after becoming a mother because it completely changed the fiber of my being.
- My wedding band, which is by an amazing artist, Carla Caruso.
- An antique diamond ring that I bought for myself because we all deserve diamonds!
What do you love besides jewelry?
I am a mom of an amazing little boy and the wife of a really great man. I love spending time with them, I love being in nature, and I love working out.
I like to live pretty quietly - watching my family thrive. I also love to find small ways every day to make people's life a little better. There’s so many opportunities to brighten someone’s day – hold the door, hold your temper. It’s the little moments, the one-on-one interactions that can change the world.