Up the stairs of a non-descript building in Chinatown you will find the beautiful design studio of Nikolai Rose, a jewelry brand and creative studio founded by Jacob Melinger. When you put on a piece of Nikolai Rose jewelry you do not want to take it off. It seems to meld into your identity because the designs are so minimal, honest and pure. Every piece is meticulously hand-made. I spoke with Jacob about his design process, philosophy and the evolution of the line below.
Kristina: Have you always been interested in jewelry design? How did your fascination with jewelry develop?
Jacob: I grew up working in the fine arts and when I was 20 moved away from traditional paint to focus on wood and metal work. When I started making jewelry, the challenge of creating pieces at a limited scale resonated with me. Nikolai Rose was formed around that time as a design studio and we were able to release a tight collection of accessories to compliment our other projects. The jewelry collection gained momentum immediately and has grown into what Nikolai Rose is today.
What is the design philosophy of Nikolai Rose if you could sum it up in a few words?
Minimal, honest, and romantic with a hard edge. Our focus is dedicated to the materials, process, and form.
What inspires your jewelry designs? Is it nature or art imagery, mathematical concepts, or something more ethereal like dreams, music and emotions?
There isn't one particular genre that drives inspiration but rather a constant theme in the artists that I channel, mainly artists that balance hard masculinity with romance and the power to create something beautiful. For me, it is important to seek inspiration in many areas of life- art, music, literature. A lot of jewelry brands are heavily referential, using literal representations of skulls or nature. That has its place for some but hand making a clasp to compliment a specific chain or carving a signet ring with the exact right proportions to make it wearable is far more creatively challenging and rewarding.
What is your favorite type of metal to work with? Why?
The Nikolai Rose Collection is comprised of solid sterling silver and solid gold pieces. For a men’s heavy collection, working in sterling silver is preferred as silver is durable, yet soft enough to shape. It is high end, yet affordable and has a warm grey tone that pairs well with everyday style and wear.
Guide me through the process of designing a piece, What are the first steps? How do you know when a piece is done? How long does the process take?
As with most creative processes, we begin each piece at Nikolai Rose with concept sketches. From there we move to sampling a prototype and revising before producing the final piece. Every piece we make begins in the Nikolai Rose studio and finishes here. We also create many custom pieces, which breaks from our core collection but allows us to develop completely unique pieces for our customers all while relaying our aesthetic into their vision.
How has Nikolai Rose evolved or developed? Have you found any new ideas emerging or has the aesthetic been relatively stable?
As the Nikolai Rose brand develops, we prefer the expansion to be horizontal rather than vertical. To keep perfecting and releasing the ideal ring or necklace for our customer rather than creating wild statement pieces or trend based jewelry. Our ethos has always been based on honesty, to ourselves and the things we like, and to our customers who trust our process and the pieces we make.
Tell me about the team behind Nikolai Rose, Tell me about your studio, how do these faces and places inspire the sensibility of your jewelry design?
My sister, Caroline, manages the studio so we work side by side every day. Working with a family member is great as there is an unseen connection, which is hard to find in other employees, especially when it comes to intuition and creative decisions. Caroline and I both grew up in New York City and our studio is located in Chinatown. Being centrally located is extremely important and the pace and vibe of the city is definitely reflected in the collection. It is an authenticity that truly cannot be faked or replicated.
What does jewelry symbolize to you? Is it an ornament or an extension of one’s style?
I prefer to design jewelry that can be worn everyday without having to think twice- accessories that will fit seamlessly into someone's daily wardrobe, style and life. It is important that our pieces evoke a personal statement and become an extension of the wearer. I have been wearing the same set of rings for years and their natural wear has become part of my daily life, travels, and character.
Finally is there anything else you would like to tell us about Nikolai Rose? Any upcoming projects?
Over the past few years we have worked with a lot of clients to make their wedding rings, both male and female. It is extremely rewarding to provide a ring that symbolizes so much to the customer and is something that they will have forever. This coming spring we will be releasing a full collection of simple wedding bands that are classic, yet stylish making the choice easy for men who are unsure where to look. The men’s market for wedding rings is heavily underserved and we are excited to be able to extend Nikolai Rose to any one who is looking for a tasteful, unique solution.
Photography: Johannes Spengler
Stylist: Romina Hererra Malatesta
Stylist Assistant: Kristina Hamner & Haley Wells
Makeup: Veronica Valez
Casting: Anna Bloda
Producer: Hazel Kiesewetter
Models: Hakeem Nieght & Ian Weglarz
Shot at Candy Studio NYC