Made in New York

Jewelry designer Melissa Kaye’s journey from Wall Street to the Diamond District

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A born and bred New Yorker, designer Melissa Kaye infuses all of her jewelry with a little bit of that Big Apple energy. “The only time I haven’t lived in New York was when I was in college for four years,” she says proudly. “I don’t know how to be more New York than I am, let’s put it that way.”

From design to production, Kaye’s pieces are all made in New York, with the same team she’s been using since she first seriously dove into the industry. “My background actually has nothing to do with jewelry,” she reveals. After getting degrees in computer science and computational finance, Kaye worked on Wall Street right out of college –an NYC locale just as iconic as the Diamond District in Midtown.

Audrey Suite (Photographed by Vincenzo Dimino)

“Long story short, I had been renovating my apartment at the time and I had hired an interior designer and was working on this creative project with him,” Kaye says. “I really loved the project and decided that I might also want to do something a little bit more creative.” She had always had an innate interest in jewelry as a hobby, so after taking a few classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Kaye decided to take it to the professional level. 

“I met my team fairly early on [in my career] and they have been my team pretty much since I started,” she says of her NYC-based production team. “We all love what we do, and I do think it shows in the end result.” Her latest end results are the Audrey Collection, bulbous and voluminous, the Lola Collection, made up of needlepoint-inspired pieces, and the Lulu Collection, inspired by modern chain links. 

“The DNA of the brand has remained constant, but the collection has certainly evolved,” Kaye says of her nine years creating jewelry. “I think you could easily style original designs with today’s designs, and they would work seamlessly together.”

Cristina Earring (Courtesy of Melissa Kaye)
Lenox Tennis Bracelet 15 Row (Courtesy of Melissa Kaye)

One of the hallmarks of her jewelry is one consistent, strong silhouette within each collection, available in different metals, enamel colors, gemstones, sizes, and more. “You end up taking on different personalities so you can broaden your client base,” she says of the end result.

The Audrey collection, for example, is available in different-sized spheres as well as an all-diamond version, a solid gold version, an enamel version, and a graduated version. “I had always kind of wanted to do something with spheres,” shares Kaye. “And that dovetailed nicely with the idea of wanting to do something with a little more volume.”

Lola Suite (Photographed by Vincenzo Dimino)

Even with new concepts and designs, one of their best sellers an original piece from one of her first collections. “Our Christina earring is kind of a marquise-shaped hoop, and it comes in four sizes and all sorts of different finishes.” And the same team that created the Christina earring are the ones working on the Audrey, Lola and Lulu collections today, a testament to Kaye’s craft and vision and also to her loyal customers. “There are many benefits to having the work produced here [in NYC] for the collection and also for the clients”, explains Kaye. “We have very fast turnaround times because again, we control all of our production. We are incredibly nimble.”

Working in the Diamond District can be inspirational in itself. “There are definitely a lot of really kind people and a lot of characters, for sure, in the best possible way,” she says of the mayhem of 47th street. “There’s so much going on in this very small, little space. But so much amazing, beautiful work comes out of this two, three block radius,” she muses. “It’s pretty fascinating.”

Lola Needle Linked Bracelet (Courtesy of Melissa Kaye)
Audrey Studs (Courtesy of Melissa Kaye)

Just walking down the block, you can peer into hundreds of windows, each of which house different offices and design spaces, an energizing thought for an artist that is inspired by the perfect chaos of New York City. “There’s this whole little world happening in this little, tiny space.”

Kaye’s first introduction to the Diamond District was actually when she went to get her engagement ring re-sized, before she ever thought of making jewelry design her career. “We’re at this place, and this gentleman takes us up to some random floor, to some tiny little room,” she explains of the experience. “A guy is sitting with a tiny little bench and we stood there as he sized the ring. And I thought this was just the most wild thing, right?” 

Lola Needle Ring (Courtesy of Melissa Kaye)
Lulu Bracelet (Courtesy of Melissa Kaye)

With roots in the famous Diamond District and a commitment to providing her customers with only the best, it goes without saying that Kaye works only with natural diamonds. “Natural diamonds have intrinsic value, period,” she says. Plus, given her background in mathematics, using natural is the only thing that makes sense for the designer.

Emotions play into her decision too, and the romance of what natural diamonds represent. “The strength, the history, the longevity… the romance of the diamond is the fact that it is natural and coming from the Earth,” Kaye muses. 

Strength, longevity and romance all play into Melissa Kaye jewelry, creating striking silhouettes, playful baubles and pieces to last a lifetime and beyond. Melissa Kaye’s new Audrey, Lulu and Lola collections are all available to shop now on her website and various retailers.