In 2002, the jewelry designer Jules Kim, aka Bijules, moved from West Virginia to New York in the wake of September 11th. Even though she had never lived in NYC before, she felt it was already in her blood. One of her first jobs was as a DJ and to increase her income she also took on a job as a cocktail waitress at a Sports bar. It’s where Bijules began. Jules Kim was friends with graffiti artists and asked one of them to draw a name on a napkin which she could then place on a sheet of silver to hand-cut it. That was the birth of her graffiti nameplates.
One evening, while Dj’ing in NYC, an editor came up to her and asked her if she could make one of her nameplates for Gwen Stefani.
It was the beginning of her custom celebrity jewelry. Before she even had a name for her brand, she was having her pieces worn on celebrities: Rihanna wore the bar ring in Jay Z’s Umbrella video and Cardi B wore the golden nipples and nail rings in the WAP video. Other celebrities sporting Bijules are Lady Gaga, Grace Jones, Erykah Badu, Beyonce…
photo by ALESSANDRO SIMONETTI
gold nipple jewels as seen in the Cardi B video clip
“There are moments in every person’s life that transcend what we believe and redefine life itself.”
Bijules pieces entering our pop culture brought both validation and visibility to her work. The visibility has both good and bad sides because once the work is out there, it inevitably gets copied. Bijules likes to refer to Chanel’s statement “If you want to be original, be ready to be copied.”
“When I feel triggered by being copied, it impacts the way I see the world. I don’t want to feel personally negatively impacted every time I create something. That is not the context an artist should be working from. My point of view is very direct and everything that leads me to creation is very personal.”
says Bijules. In 2003, Bijules created her signature bar ring, knuckle rings, the handlet, and her collection of nail rings. They are all trademarked, and extensions to the body, playful gestures that she alchemized into metal.
diamond pave nail ring made for BEYONCE
gold Serpent Pinkie nail ring
You would think that having your work trademarked would act as protection. In fact, it doesn’t work that way because even if you can take the infringement to court, it takes a lot of time. Brands drag it out, so the independent’s funds are exhausted. Unless you are able to fight Goliath, moving on is often a better strategy. With that in mind, Bijules has become an activist not only to protect her own brand but to form a community of independent designers acting as a mentor and a mentee. Together, their voice can be heard, and it is possible to achieve a positive impact.
Amber Hires Compass ring
For now, Bijules is concentrating on the luxury market-making Bespoke and made-to-order pieces. Bijules is the only jewelry brand to implement an All-Female Production mandate. Everything is produced in a factory in Bangkok and all the women are paid ethically.
Both the development process and the manufacturing take time, but Bijules is not in a hurry because her pieces are meant to be forever. Storytelling and engaging the client’s personal story in the creative process helps Bijules manifest the Bespoke piece. Everything can be done online, from consultation to the ultimate fabrication of the design.
The compass ring, for instance, is something Bijules has developed over twenty years. The price starts at 10 thousand euros with gold and diamonds. You can choose the gems you want and that will be reflected in the final cost. All materials are sustainably resourced.
The bar ring comes in either silver or gold. She does not gold plate any of her pieces. The gold bar ring is 2,200 euros based on the weight of the gold. Every piece can be customized.
Things to consider when you place an order are:
Do you know what kind of material you prefer? 18K? Recycled gold? Do you like diamonds or semiprecious gemstones? Do you have heritage gems to upcycle? Bespoke Bijules is committed to creating deeply personal pieces. Each work is designed for a unique destiny and crafted to match the highest imaginable standards.
by Diane Pernet
bijulesnyc.com Instagram @bijules
Beyonce, Rihanna and Rooney Mara with Bijules jewels
images curtesy of the designer