Design of the Times: Enji

Enji Studio Jewelry is a sustainable luxury jewelry brand founded in 2014 by designer Niki Grandics and based in San Diego. As Grandics puts it herself, “In a sea of mass production and fast fashion, [Enji] is on a mission to bring you something timeless and meaningful.”

As a brand, Enji is focused on the future, taking steps toward positive change in the jewelry industry by practicing ethical sourcing and manufacturing and giving back to the local and global community.

We caught up with Grandics to learn more about her journey in the jewelry industry, her inspiration, what sets her designs apart from others, her favorite part of JCK Las Vegas 2019 and much more:

How did your journey in the jewelry industry begin?
I initially sort of stumbled into jewelry. My family is full of doctors and scientists and there was definitely always an expectation that I would go for a PhD or go to medical school. I have always had a creative streak and been a lover of jewelry and fashion but initially went to university to study international business and graphic design, thinking graphic design was my only path to a creative career. I figured out pretty quickly that working in front of a computer all day wasn’t for me and began exploring other areas in the art department like sculpture and glass blowing. A friend recommended I take the jewelry and metalsmithing course and it was really love at first solder. I’m pretty sure I changed my major the next day and after I graduated, I got a scholarship to attend GIA and I never looked back.

What was the initial inspiration for your brand?
I’ve always loved style but about two years before I started my brand, I was seriously reevaluating my relationship with fashion and how I shopped in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse. It was one of the largest industrial disasters in history when the factory, which manufactured clothes for a number of international brands (a couple who I regularly bought from at the time) collapsed killing 1100 people and injuring over 2000 more, most of whom were young women my age. It made me think about where these pieces I loved came from and who made them under what conditions. So when I started my brand, I brought these values I had developed as a consumer into it. While traceability and fair labor were something I was looking for, at the time I didn’t see many options that weren’t a more “bohemian” style. I was never going to start wearing flowy prints and pastels when I’m more of an all-black everything kind of person because those were the only ethically made options and I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only person with those feelings. So I went in the direction of ethical with an edge.

What else inspires you when designing?
I guess outside of gemstones too I find nature very inspiring, she really is the best artist. I’m also very much inspired by architecture and the “nature” we’ve created for ourselves and how these worlds blend.

Can you give us an idea of your design process?
For me the design process always begins with the stones. I’m usually drawn to stones that retain some of their natural characteristics, like unique inclusions, natural edges, visible crystal structures, or in some cases just the rough gem itself. I enjoy designing by highlighting these traits of nature’s original artwork inside the stone and work to mirror some of those elements in the metal work. I design pieces that are true to the stone and the person wearing it.

How long does it typically take to create a piece of jewelry?
It depends. Sometimes I immediately know what to make with a certain stone, sometimes it might be a while before the stone reveals what type of jewelry it should be set into.

How would you describe your brand using only three words?
Modern, intrinsic, edgy

How do you personalize your jewelry and designs?
Some designs I personalize with different gemstones or engraving. Some designs don’t require personalization because individual characteristics of certain gemstone. When doing custom work, I love getting the opportunity to design something completely personalized.

You have a number of different collections. Do you have a personal favorite?
My Pyramids single origin capsule collection is definitely my favorite. Each piece of rutilated quartz comes from the Pyramid mine in Bahia, Brazil and I always look for the most interesting cuts and rutile patterns to create one of a kind pieces with. Each one is hand fabricated reflecting elements of the rutile patterns in the gold, highlighting and framing nature’s stunning artwork.          

How about a favorite piece?
I have a couple favorites. One is my black tourmaline slice pendant. Each one is unique because of natural variations in the stones but there is one in particular I made a pendant for myself with, and this gem really is my shield. Another of my favorites are the Flavia red rutilated quartz earrings. There’s something about the bold striking rutile patterns in it those stones that immediately spoke to me.

Are you partial to any particular stones or hues?
I’m definitely partial to rutilated quartz and also the beautiful blue and green hues of Montana sapphires. I’ve also been getting into some beryls lately with aquamarine and mint beryl and I am excited to work on some new pieces with those.

What do you think sets your jewelry apart from other companies that specialize in fine jewelry?
One thing that sets Enji apart is that as a designer, I’m also making the pieces at the bench and many of them are one of a kind. Gemstone sourcing is also something I take very seriously in not only in how it was mined and sourced but also for their uniqueness. These unique variations in the stones make even the pieces in the line one of a kind, since no two necklaces or pairs of earrings will be exactly the same. I also use my business and designs as a platform to advocate for fair and responsible practices and help educate people in the larger fashion community and general public on what the issues are and what’s being done. There’s a lot of amazing work being done and a lot of people dedicated to creating positive changes and highlighting these stories is so important.

Have you noticed a shift in consumer attitudes since the start of your brand?
Definitely! When I first started I was worried that no one cared about ethical sourcing or fair labor. At one of my first wholesale shows I even had a buyer loudly scoff at my messaging, “Pffft, millennials!” Every year it’s becoming a bigger topic of conversation and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about these issues and solutions in and out of the industry.

How would you describe your target audience?
My clients are usually entrepreneurial women who buy for themselves. A lot of them are in creative fields as well, but really when isn’t running your own business creative? They love the unique gems and modern style and the fact that the stones are ethically sourced. Some also love the properties of the stones or that there are no animal products used in my line.

What is one of your favorite memories at JCK Las Vegas?
Probably one of my favorites would be my first time going to JCK Vegas. Being there with my assistant at the time, especially from having come into the industry without family in the business or other connections, made me feel like I’m here and part of this.

What was your favorite part of JCK Las Vegas 2019?
Reuniting with some old friends at the GIA booth.

Did you do anything fun in Vegas off the show floor?
The food in Vegas was amazing! Trying the tastiest vegan food in town is always part of my trips. After spending the days on the show floor and after show events as an exhibitor, sleep was definitely part of the trip I enjoyed.

What are you most looking forward to at JCK Las Vegas 2020?
I always look forward to how events like JCK bring people from all over the industry together. It’s always great reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones.

Learn more about Enji here.
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