This week, I am pleased to introduce to you the work of Niki Grandics, the jewelry designer and goldsmith behind the creative, fearlessly modern brand Enji Studios. Read on to learn more about Niki and what we’re featuring in our showroom…
Our intern Annie suggested I look at Nikki’s collection and I’m so glad I did – it’s completely unique and versatile but with a contemporary edge. Like our other featured designers, Niki utilizes sustainable sourcing methods for her materials and hand-crafts everything from scratch. It’s hard to find unique jewelry that isn’t… well, crazy, and Niki’s pieces toe that line beautifully. Take a look, and let us know what your favorite picks are!
Meaghan: Nikki, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Could you introduce yourself to our readers who may not be familiar with your work?
Niki: I’m Niki, the founder and designer of Enji Studio Jewelry, based in Carlsbad, California. We make all of our pieces in our Carlsbad studio, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With the days getting shorter, one thing I look forward to is gorgeous sunset views from the studio. I work with a small team, including our jeweler Omer, our shop dog Dio, and every so often, my partner too. I also serve on the advisory council of Ethical Metalsmiths, write about mining and international initiatives for their blog The Source, and create resources for anyone looking to start their responsible jewelry or fair fashion journey.
When I’m not writing or making jewelry, you can usually find me cooking or baking some plant-based treats, reading, or going for hikes and enjoying the Southern California scenery with my partner and my greyhound. I also volunteer with the Alliance for Hope and their Pathways to Hope mentoring program and with the Greyhound Adoption Center at local adoption events (prior to the pandemic).
Meaghan: What struck me about your collection was the totally modern viewpoint you have. Can you describe your aesthetic to an average jewelry consumer?
Niki: I would describe my aesthetic as a modern blend of organic and geometric, combining unique gemstones (some rough or sliced with natural edges) with linear details in gold.
Meaghan: What do you want wearers of your jewelry to feel while they are wearing a piece of yours?
Niki: I want the wearer to feel proud, to feel loved, and to celebrate what makes them so unique. We’re all one of a kind; why wear the same jewelry as everyone else?
Meaghan: I completely agree! What brought you into jewelry making?
Niki: I accidentally stumbled into jewelry making back in college at San Diego State University. I don’t have any family in the industry, and this came as quite a surprise to all of my family in the scientific and medical fields. I originally began my studies dual majoring in graphic design and international business, but pretty quickly realized sitting in front of a computer all day wasn’t for me. This led me to start taking other art and design courses that sounded interesting like sculpture and glassblowing. A friend recommended I take a jewelry and metalsmithing course and it was love at first sight when I sat down at the jeweler’s bench. I’m pretty sure I changed my major the next day. After I graduated, I got a scholarship to GIA to continue my studies where I learned more traditional stone setting techniques and honed my craftsmanship. During my studies and the early years of my business I also worked for other independent designers learning about the industry and how a growing jewelry business functions and I’m thankful for the lessons I learned there too.
Meaghan: From where do you draw inspiration for your pieces?
Niki: My inspiration often comes from the gemstones themselves and the cut, color, and inclusions that make each one so unique and captivating. Mother nature truly is the best artist. Sometimes I immediately know what I will design and create with a gemstone, other times it may take longer for the stone to reveal what type of jewelry it should be set into.
Meaghan: To you, what is the most important consideration when contemplating a “green” model in the jewelry industry? What should consumers consider?
Niki: I think it’s most important to consider the people behind the jewelry. While we may think of the jeweler, we can’t overlook the miners and gem cutters who make what we do possible, especially artisanal miners who are often already marginalized. By using Fairmined gold, we’re supporting artisanal gold mining that benefits the communities mining our gold while protecting the Earth with strict environmental standards. Gold mining in particular can be dirty business, as it’s the number one source of mercury pollution on Earth, releasing 1400 tons of mercury into our waterways every year. I think the industry needs to do more to address the environmental and public health crisis that is mercury pollution and find alternatives for the 15 million miners globally who use mercury every day by supporting projects to find alternatives like the Mercury-Free Mining Project and mercury cleanup projects like Better Without Mercury.
I always encourage consumers to ask their jeweler or their favorite designers, “Where was this gem mined?” and “Who mined these gems?” “Where did this gold come from? Is it recycled, Fairmined, or FairTrade?” I encourage jewelers to ask the same from their suppliers. The more calls there are for greater transparency, especially from the consumer, the more the impetus will be on the industry to provide answers. Transparency is the first step in creating meaningful accountability and change.
Meaghan: What do you wish clients understood better about the jewelry design and fabrication process?
Niki: That it’s so much more than sticking a diamond in a setting and bending the prongs over and that the process really starts way before a stone ever makes it to the jeweler. There are a lot of people involved in creating these pieces that we hold so dear from the miners all the way to the retailer all making their own contribution. For just the fabrication process, that it really is a labor of love, combining gold, fire, and years of technical skills to make each piece.
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.