Inside The Designer’s Studio: Kimberly McDonald

Jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald is known for her chic, sexy, organic designs. From creating her first piece as she thought “just for herself”,  to being Michelle Obama’s go-to jeweler, Kimberly proves that focusing on your passion and believing in it will bring you places. Originally from North Carolina, the New York-based designer told us about her background and explained how jewelry making is similar with songwriting.

Kimberly McDonald

Kimberly McDonald

You’re the designer who popularized the geode trend. What’s the story behind it and did you ever think it would be such a huge trend?  I’ve always loved rocks and natural materials. As a curator for private fine jewelry collections, I had the privilege to buy amazing large and important stones, but the more earthy materials I work with now always held much more interest for me. I found a few pairs of petite geodes and bought them at the gem show with the intent of just making myself something cool and interesting. Once complete, my closest friend demanded that I sell them to her and, long story short, she is now my business partner. I don’t think at the time that I made the first pair either of us considered it a possible trend. Now that I have been working with these amazing materials for several years, I see that they are more than a passing fascination. My pieces are one-of-a-kind, like the wearer. People have an appreciation for bespoke jewelry and look at my pieces as small talismans that carry meaning and memories as you wear them.

Have you always wanted to design jewelry, or what led you down this path? Do we ever really know what we want to be? As a creative person, I always loved jewelry and always knew I didn’t want to work for someone else. I have a keen eye for color and a deep interest in the earth and the materials the planet produces, jewelry design came naturally to me.

We know a lot of your inspiration comes from nature, but what else inspires you creatively? Not to be too simple, but the stones inspire me. I can sit in front of a table covered in various stones and they just make sense to me. I imagine that it’s much like a musician or song writer, who can hear a melody in their head before even the first note has been put on paper; my mind mixes materials and plays in shapes, textures, and color.

Out of all the famous ladies that have worn your jewelry, who was the first to wear one of your creations down the red carpet? Stacy London! I adore her and she is still a friend. She has a great story about Kanye loving the bracelet she wore, I believe to the Grammys. Around the same time we started working with the amazing Jennifer Nettles [of the band Sugarland], and not long after that we had our first big celebrity placement on an awards stage – Halle Berry at the Golden Globes. It has been a really fun ride.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You have a successful jewelry collection and now a home collection, any new projects on the horizon? I am always trying to present new and exciting things to my clients, who clearly love the natural materials that inspire my work. Stay tuned!!

Of all the beautiful things you have created, is there one item that you would consider a all-time favorite? I don’t think there is just one favorite, but I do have a few pieces I just can’t part with; it’s about the quality and rareness of the materials as much as it is about the design. Unlike diamonds, many of the materials I work with are very rare considering quality that I work with. Also, many of the materials I use are mined out – meaning that they were only found in small pockets and once that has been mined, there will be no more of those particular materials.

Michelle Obama wearing Kimberly McDonald on Vogue US April 2013 Cover

Michelle Obama wearing Kimberly McDonald on Vogue US April 2013 Cover

What is your most memorable career moment, so far? Wow. I have been so blessed, that would be a tough one to limit to one moment. I would have to go with the Mrs. Obama moment. Perhaps the Inaugural Ball, when she wore my jewelry as well as the Jason Wu dress that I designed a jeweled element for. But then again…the April cover of Vogue with Mrs. Obama was quite spectacular as well. Understand my dilemma? 🙂

If you weren’t a jewelry designer, what would you be? I don’t know what else I would do for a living but for sure natural stones and materials, rocks, jewelry, and puppies would all be a part of it!