Melissa Kaye has an head for problem solving and an eye for making jewels that are modern masterpieces. Since launching her eponymous brand in 2013 she’s developed a sharp aesthetic that’s inspired by architecture and generously doused with diamonds that seem to float on the skin. For the New Yorker, it’s a long way from the purely analytical requirements of her former career. Once she was ready to try a more creative path after working in finance she returned to one her earliest outlets. “I’ve always had an interest in jewelry since I was a child,” says Kaye. I don’t remember exactly how it started but even back then I had a jewelry bench in my room.”
How do you begin to conceive of a new design?
A lot of ideas are influenced by prior ideas. Our earliest Aria collection pieces were very linear and angular. With the Aria Jane ring I wanted to create something more fluid and organic. It’s a great statement piece on its own, like a cocktail ring, but it also works in with other pieces. You can pair it with jewelry in different materials—in all gold, enamel or colored stones. My classic clients are attracted to it and the most edgy ones too.
The Lola Triple ring is an evolution from the original Lola ring, which was a design that was a little more straightforward and not too fussy and could serve as an engagement ring or wedding band. When worn in multiples they would stack together like puzzle pieces. With the Lola Triple ring I created a single ring that looked like a stack of the Lola ring, but with nice spacing between them and a lot of negative space.
Most of your designs feature diamonds to some degree. Why did you make that choice?
I’ve always been a huge fan of diamonds. From a practical standpoint, they have broad appeal and their extreme hardness makes them easy to work with and durable. And they match everything.
It’s important to stay true to who you are and what your brand represents. For me, quality of materials and meticulous craftsmanship are very important. The rarity and quality and intrinsic value of natural diamonds is a no-brainer for me. Their mystique and rarity and the way they have been formed is so appealing.
Did you collect any special jewelry pieces before you started your own line?
When I graduated from college and got my first real job I decided to buy myself something nice. I chose half carat diamond studs. I had never bought something like that for myself. It was exciting. It had real meaning. I worked hard and got something special that I would wear all the time. I felt like I’d earned it. They’re pretty, sparkly and I still love them. Now that I have my own brand I work with a lot of women who buy their own jewelry.
You had previous career involving computer science and finance. Does that affect your work as a jeweler?
Definitely. For me, it’s not enough for the pieces look pretty. I also want them to function well and have a high quality feel when they’re worn. When you put on a ring I want it to feel like a diamond hug, not a thing that’s getting in your way. I don’t believe anyone should suffer for fashion.