May is Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) month—a time toast the many AAPI cultures, communities, and extraordinary individuals that help make the U.S. such a culturally rich nation! To celebrate, we’re spotlighting 10 fine jewelry collections founded by Asian and AAPI designers that have a strong retail presence in the U.S. and are favorites with American jewelry and style editors. Could one of them be your store’s next runaway hit?
Last year, not long after Constance Polamalu founded her line, Birthright Foundry, she was tapped to participate in the Natural Diamond Council x Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative. Embracing her American Samoan heritage, the designer gives culturally significant motifs like Ula nifo necklaces (traditionally made with whale’s teeth) and paopao (a Samoan outrigger canoe) a modern, elegant twist. Polamalu is also chief operating officer at her family’s business, Zachary’s Jewelers in Annapolis and Severna Park, Md.
Designer HyJune Park was born in Korea and moved to Singapore when she was six years old before coming to the U.S. for college. This background helps shape the aesthetic of her brand, Hi June Parker, which marries Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, European, and Korean influences. Her motifs artfully interpret architectural and organic forms, all filtered through a playful and irreverent lens. Her signet rings are best-sellers (especially the Trickster rabbit shown above) and she’s currently growing her alternative bridal business.
Deftly mixing richly embossed metalwork with gemstones that display unique patterns such as opals and labradorite, Keiko Mita is a highly trained jewelry artist and sculptor who’s deeply inspired by her birthplace of Rebun Island on the northern tip of Japan. Ocean and sand motifs surface in her work, as do stylized florals and even abstract forms that strike the perfect balance between delicate and strong. Her newest collection, Washi (pictured), is named for a traditional handmade Japanese paper known for its subtly translucent, irregular texture.
Designer Michelle Hisae Meronek of M. Hisae, who is Japanese American, specializes in understated, elegant engagement rings and wedding bands for jewelry lovers who appreciate thoughtful design and the art of restraint. There is a delicacy to her work that reveals itself in subtle curves, satiny finishes, and beaded elements that add light, life, and texture to the designs. Whether it’s a stacking ring, the daintiest studs, or the chicest wear-everyday hoops, she nods to her Asian heritage with an abundance of poetic style names, while her overall aesthetic points to less-is-more simplicity—i.e., the essence of Japanese design style.
The designer formerly known as Nina Nguyen recently decided to change the name of her line so that her legions of fans across the country would know just how to pronounce her surname (Nguyen = Wynn). Born in Vietnam, she immigrated to the U.S. as a child and after a post-college career in finance, she founded her jewelry line in 2005 and quickly became known for beautifully hammered and etched finishes and her ever-growing line of mix-and-match convertible gemstone earrings. Everything is produced in a small artisan-staffed workshop in her native Vietnam.
When designer Shibani Shinde Patil left a career in the energy trading industry to pursue jewelry design, she was enamored with the Art Deco shapes and color stories of the 1920s and 1930s. Since founding her line Ri Noor in 2016, she’s evolved those concepts to reflect a fresh, contemporary point of view infused with the jewelry craft traditions of her Indian heritage. Her Pinstripe collection (examples above) has emerged as a customer favorite, especially among women looking to celebrate their achievements. “These pieces are purposefully strong, bold, timeless and elegant to endure a woman’s multifaceted life that could involve juggling a serious career, children, and more,” says Patil. “I wanted pieces that could be worn comfortably anywhere from a more conservative setting —like a trading floor from my past life—or worn at home around the kids but also any social setting that calls for a bold statement.”
It’s an Indian American sister act at Sethi Couture, where Pratima and Prerna Sethi share the design responsibilities. Not long after launching their brand in 2010, their beautiful stacking rings caught the attention of Instagram scroller looking to emulate the endlessly chic style combinations available. Rose-cut diamonds are also part of their DNA, adorning everything from engagement rings to pendants and delicate chain necklaces. The line has also been worn by a multitude of celebrities at events (hello, Jennifer Lawrence) and for photo shoots at major magazines. In keeping with the latest trends, the sisters have recently found great success with their Confetti collection and P.S. Collection charms.
Founded in 2015 by husband-and-wife team Lin Ruiyin and Afzal Imram, each a highly trained creative (Ruiyin studied at Central St. Martins and Imram majored in industrial design at the National University of Singapore), State Property is full of graphic, geometric concepts and bold details that reveal multi-cultural inspirations expressed through the interplay of enamel and negative space. Based in Singapore, the brand has cultivated a global audience through a retail tableau that includes a robust concentration in the U.S. market (American retailers include Twist, Marissa Collections, and Saks). Check out the new Marmara necklace (above) which features interlocking gold arcs accented with half-moon diamonds.
Today it seems like every jeweler is using salt-and-pepper diamonds in their alternative engagement ring offerings. But Chinese American designer Xiao Wang was at the forefront of the trend when she launched her line in 2015. She saw the inherent beauty of these perfectly imperfect stones, often pairing them with colored gemstones in likewise unconventional colors and cuts. Wang is also a model and an actress, work that infuses her jewels with a strong sense of personality and storytelling. For newness, check out her “juicy, gemmy Neptune collection” and signet rings made with natural no-heat sapphires. Right now, says Wang, “I’m very passionate when working with private clients to design totally out-of-this world, one-of-a-kind statement jewelry, or redesigning their heirloom jewelry, it’s so meaningful to give new life and continue traditions and memories.” Also check out the main line’s two little sisters: Dot and Ice Cream Candy.
A former stylist and editor at Vogue China, Yi Guo, founder of Yi Collection, recently moved back to her native Shanghai after living in New York. She is best known for delicate chain earrings, rings, and bracelets that lend themselves to layering. And all her pieces are bursting with cool-girl energy, an ethos that resonates with prestigious stores like Moda Operandi, Lane Crawford, Olivela, and Jo Latham. Her other work effortlessly balances minimalist metal designs with bold, playful combinations of colored gemstones. Her new multi-stone Rhythm rings have a sculptural quality, combining gems like tourmaline and aquamarine in lean, elegant step cuts—each standout style feels fresh, modern, and wearable. —Amy Elliott
Top photo: Yi Collection jewelry pieces
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