By Rachel Garrahan in New York
"Understated chic," is how designer Nam Cho summarizes her jewelry. Add to that exuberance, color and texture and you begin to get a full picture of the Nam Cho jewelry collection, which pulls off the rare feat of being classic and contemporary, glamorous and fun, all at the same time.
We are sitting in Nam's office, a stone's throw from Central Park, and she is looking effortlessly chic in a black silk Equipment shirt and simple, hedgehog-spiky diamond studs of her own design.
A modern update of the classic diamond earring, these Nam Cho studs feature rose-cut sparklers in different sizes, reverse-set in her signature random pavé style. The Korean-American designer says she wears them all the time. "It's like a little black dress," she says. "They go with anything you wear."
Wearability is an important feature of Nam's aesthetic. Her pavé hoop earrings, which were an early success and which are still available today in myriad sizes and gemstones, are glamorous yet lightweight. Like so much of her work, "they can be dressed up for evening or dressed down with jeans," she explains.
Before turning to jewelry design, Nam studied fashion at Parsons in New York, where she developed a love of texture that carries through to her gem designs today. Pointing to rose-cut pavé earrings that mimic the texture of nubby bouclé fabric, Nam says she encourages people to touch her work so that they too can appreciate the feel of them.
A delicious textural mix is achieved in her Couture Design Award-winning blue sapphire and diamond drop earrings. The clean lines of dazzling sapphire baguettes contrast with random faceted sapphires and tiny white diamond accents, and were inspired by childhood memories of her mother's love of Navajo blankets and also by the geometric designs and convertible elements of Art Deco jewelry.
Her Elizabeth Taylor-inspired Riviera convertible pendant and pin is another statement mix of color and texture, with a central pastel blue chalcedony orb surrounded by circles of random pavé-set faceted sapphires and diamonds.
Nam Cho jewelry is often described as vibrant, a look she achieves with top-quality colored stones and an intricate plique-à-jour setting, which allows light to come flooding through as with a stained glass window. This vibrancy also reflects her attitude to life. "I like having fun!" she laughs.
Above all, she likes to mix the glamor of fine jewelry with a more subtle, edgier twist. "I think a softer bling makes women look more beautiful," she says, and on this occasion we have to agree.