Known for his exquisite precision and inspired designs, Bernard James shares the inspiration behind his commitment to handcrafted jewelry—plus words of wisdom for creatives just discovering their vision.
What does the Bernard James brand stand for?
Quality, craftsmanship, community and individuality. My goal is to create wearable but aesthetically strong objects that tell a story and convey emotion.
The details and precision in your jewelry are exquisite. Tell us about your commitment to handcrafted luxury.
In an age where almost everything is mass-produced, it's rare to find items that are made with care and attention. All of our pieces are handcrafted in the heart of New York City [with] the finest metals and precious stones. Everything is carved, cast, polished and set traditionally by hand.
When did you start making jewelry and what inspired you?
I've always been drawn to design because of its ability to transform. Transform physical matter, transform perceptions, transform moods. I connected with a family friend who had been in the jewelry industry as a craftsman for 40-plus years, and he taught me everything I know about the production process.
What was the first piece you created? Who was it for?
I actually began designing jewelry for myself because I couldn't find what I wanted in the market. The first piece I created was a bracelet inspired by a classic bangle silhouette with all but the structure left exposed. The idea was to explore the essence of an item, stripping it down to the bare minimum.
Men's jewelry is a nuanced category. What do you think about when designing jewelry for men?
I felt like there was a huge void in the market for a men's brand that didn't communicate one particular and overstated message. I'm a huge fan of the origin of things and what makes something "classic," [but] I like to explore how we can modernize those ideas and bend them slightly to something that can be viewed completely differently.
Launching a brand is no small feat. What was your first step?
The first step for me was knowing myself and understanding what I wanted my message to be. I feel like some spaces can be so saturated, and it's important to understand your voice specifically.
You've accomplished a lot before the age of 30. What advice would you give to those just getting started on their dreams?
Focus on your journey and understand that no two paths are the same.
What's one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?
Not to give in to fear and stop overthinking. As long as you are true to yourself, all things will work out as they should.