There's something inexplicably intimate about sliding a ring onto your finger, about fumbling for the clasp of a necklace as your fingers graze your neck. Jewelry, more than handbags or boots or jeans, holds emotion. The pieces you choose to wear every day carry a story and weight along with them. For Jean Prounis, the founder and designer of the emerging jewelry brand Prounis, there's a clear connection between the emotional and the tactile. Each piece is luxurious, unique, but also down to earth — it's the future of fine jewelry, but is also rooted in the past.
"My Great-grandparents owned a cabaret club in New York during the '30s and '40s called the Versailles," she explains. When launching her line in 2017, Prounis used the club's menus, tablecloths, and even celebrity headshots as sources of inspiration. She notes, "I wanted to create something that would act as homage to my heritage and my family’s history in New York."
Today, Prounis' studio is located in the same city, and she finds the streets where her relatives once walked as a source of creative energy. "New York has been my muse in every aspect of my business and design," the designer says. "I can be at my studio one part of the day and then transported into another era through a visit to The Met. I see the city as being a place of finery mixed with casualness and ease, a mingling I consider in all of my designs."
But, take a look at the rich metal pieces created by Prounis and it's not necessarily New York that first comes to mind, but ancient Greece and Rome. She notes, "when I first started making jewelry, I took ancient goldsmithing classes, where I learned a breadth of techniques including granulation, chain making, bezel setting, and repousse." After mastering the techniques, the designer began to adjust ornament and sizing to modernize these antique concepts. "I like to play with delicate details in my designs by scaling up the fine details to create a bolder and more wearable pieces."
In the age of Instagram, it often feels like trends can move at the speed of light, and the pieces that manage to capture a moment in time are those that essentially are the loudest — that sparkle brightest, that take up the most real estate on the body — but the sophisticated simplicity is part of what makes Prounis particularly exciting. It takes a sharp eye to pick out those extra special details that she has honed in on.
"Each piece is handmade in New York using recycled gold we alloy in our studio. We purchase gold that has been refined from scrap and add other metals to create our buttery 22 karat gold," Prounis notes on the jewelry's warm, antique glow. "Depending on the piece, we search for the perfect stone, inclusions and all. I think it’s really special that our clients have pieces that are truly unique and no two pieces are alike."
Top quality materials and exacting attention to detail demand a higher price point than mass produced lines, but Prounis avoids feeling too delicate or pretentious to break out with jeans and a t-shirt. The designer explains, "I like to see our jewelry as a staple in [a woman's] wardrobe, as an everyday piece that enables her to express herself. She can be wearing heather grey sweats but still feel elevated knowing she her Trade Rings on." The phrase "down to earth" may have once felt dichotomous with the concept of fine jewelry, but no longer.
This ability to straddle worlds — merging ancient history and modern design, straddling luxury and everyday — is part of what makes the brand one to watch. The design feels purposeful, an idea crystalized in Prounis' own acknowledgement that achieve balance has been a challenge over the last year. "When you start your own business, it can be very easy to get lost in the ebb and flow of it all, largely because it’s so exciting," she says. "It has been vital for me to take a step back from time to time and focus on personal growth. I love going upstate on the weekends to slow down and recharge." It's in slowing down the cycles of business and fashion, that something timeless emerges.
And though Prounis admits to the challenges of turning her passions into a successful business, with the launch has come a slew of positives. "I think the greatest success has been the growth of the business over this initial year," she notes. Prounis continues to make the majority of the jewelry herself, and that meticulous devotion is exactly what makes her designs forever keepsakes. With thousands of years of inspiration behind her baubles, they're not going anywhere anytime soon.