How could an individual named Sterling King be anything but a jewelry designer (or perhaps a silver miner)? But it was more than a fateful-feeling name that brought King, a longtime New Yorker, into the jewelry industry. Rather, it was her life’s trajectory, which has long held art, beauty, and elegance at its center.
King was a professional classical ballet dancer in her youth and early adulthood. After her career ended, she studied fashion design at Parsons School of Design and Central St. Martins. Her first career was as a womenswear designer, but in 2018 she pivoted to designing jewelry, launching her eponymous brand out of her NYC apartment. It was a soft launch, she says, but the designs—which are outré in spirit and size (most are quite voluminous)—quickly piqued the interest of editors, stylists and celebs. Kylie Jenner, Lady Gaga, Naomi Campbell, Katy Perry, and Cardi B. are all fans of the collection.
The brand currently operates out of a studio in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood, and all the pieces are made in Manhattan using lost-wax casting.
King tells The Zing Report, “Accessories, specifically jewelry, offer a lot of creative freedom and allow me to reach a broader audience, less constrained by age or sizing. I’ve found jewelry to be an ideal medium for me to maximize my creative visions while offering a product that is functionally wearable and commercially viable. I love that our jewelry encourages people to explore their style and embrace unique or unusual pieces.”
We caught up with King to chat about her background, vision for the brand, and what inspires her daring designs:
The Zing Report: Tell me a little about your background before coming to jewelry.
Sterling King: Before launching my brand, I worked as a ready-to-wear designer and textile designer for New York brands like Theory and Helmut Lang. I also interned for several fashion magazines and stylists as a student, which taught me a lot about PR and photoshoot production. My experience across many different arenas of the fashion industry has helped me tremendously in launching and managing my own brand. Prior to attending design school, I was a professional dancer and spent most of my early life dedicated to classical ballet training.
I love that you use so much silver, which is largely what makes your collection so well-priced—what’s the allure of silver for you?
In demi-fine jewelry, silver is a great metal to work with. It’s hypoallergenic, malleable, and serves as an ideal base for both coated and uncoated pieces. Sterling silver elevates jewelry pieces to luxury status while remaining accessible in price. It’s serendipitous that I share a name with this precious metal!
How important is keeping your prices within reach of younger consumers for you?
We strive to have an aspirational-yet-attainable price point and work hard to create luxury pieces that are still in reach of young, trend-driven shoppers. Historically, jewelry has fallen into two categories: high-priced fine jewelry or low quality, inexpensive costume jewelry, with a lot of space in between. I view our positioning as the jewelry counterpart to designer womenswear. As a consumer, I find it’s easy to get too precious about expensive purchases and be afraid to use them. I want our pieces to be worn and enjoyed.
What inspires the many pieces that resemble artful crumpled paper (my favorites!)
I’ve always been drawn to very organic shapes and forms. As a womenswear designer, I enjoyed draping and experimenting with 3D textiles. I apply that sense to my jewelry and enjoy exploring ways to create fluid shapes and movement through metal, an otherwise rigid material. One of our best-selling earring styles, the Georgia Crystal Drop Earrings, is inspired by the dramatic curves and shapes in the works of Georgia O’Keeffe.
What is it about jewelry, fundamentally, that called to you?
I love creating very bold and sculptural pieces, whether in metal or in fabric. I enjoy the tactile aspect of jewelry and the challenge of sculpting solid forms to work with bodies that ebb and flow. Jewelry design and manufacturing offers a unique blend of ancient techniques like wax carving with cutting edge technology like 3D modeling and printing. I enjoy bouncing between the two worlds and taking aspects from both old and new.