For a lot of fledgling jewellery collectors, determining the place to start is usually a bit overwhelming, and that’s the place Zenobia Morrow is available in. A non-public jeweler and GIA-certified Graduate Gemologist, Morrow can also be the designer behind SevenJune Jewelry, a vigorous assortment of daring gold staples and traditional silhouettes studded with diamonds. By means of her customized designs and jewellery concierge service, Morrow provides her purchasers the chance to lastly see themselves adorned in the best way they’ve at all times dreamed.
We caught up with Morrow to debate how rap music’s bling aesthetic result in her curiosity in regards to the jewellery business, her journey to GIA, and her trail-blazing profession as one of many few Black ladies within the diamond commerce.
headshot by Antoinette Brock, used with permission
How did your childhood in Atlanta affect your love for jewellery?
Rising up in Atlanta, I might spend a whole lot of time with my mother on the weekends going to varied vintage shops throughout the town. You might at all times discover me on the jewellery counter. A number of these items are paste or rhinestone, however there was undoubtedly a direct attraction to all the things sparkly and particular.
Though my early introduction to jewellery was on the vintage retailer counter, I used to be a teen within the early ‘2000s. This was the peak of the “Bling Period.” Culturally, we as a folks have at all times been into adornment, however one thing shifted round that point. This was the period of platinum all the things, iced out all the things, enormous Jacob & Co. watches, and rappers elevating their jewellery with the assistance of personal jewelers like Lorraine Schwartz. So, I used to be rising up on this tradition, and [saw] the best way that converged with music and re-defined luxurious in a really younger and really Black metropolis. I puzzled: the place had been the individuals who regarded like us within the jewellery business? I feel that knowledgeable me loads in my determination when it was lastly time to get critical about my diamond training.
You first studied design at Howard College, appropriate?
Sure, I moved to DC and went to Howard and was finding out of their high-quality arts division—promoting, graphic design. I used to be in AP artwork in highschool; I’ve at all times been a painter and simply at all times had an curiosity within the high-quality arts.
Would you say that your artwork was primarily in portray or did you discover another medium?
My art work was primarily portray. On the time I might do a whole lot of artful issues. I might make envelopes and pocketbooks out of laminated journal pages. I might make little zines. I used to be simply at all times creating one thing, and utilizing that creativity to maintain myself occupied.
Do you continue to paint?
I nonetheless paint—I painted the entire work in my condominium. Proper now, I’m actually getting again into images. I don’t have as a lot time as I used to for it, although.
Do you discover that there are any connections between your artwork—your work, images—and the jewellery that you simply create?
There’s a hyperlink between my work and my jewellery, and that’s actually simply the aesthetic, as a result of I’m very minimal. I’m minimal in my life, and I’m minimal in my artwork. I like summary expressionism and I feel that form of interprets into the jewellery, as a result of I’m not fussy with my jewellery, in any respect. I prefer to maintain the emphasis on the stones. I don’t do a whole lot of filigree. I don’t do a whole lot of extras; it’s actually in regards to the stones and the supplies being the main target.
How quickly after graduating from Howard did you start your gemological research at GIA?
After Howard, I moved to Dubai for a few months. That was an unbelievable expertise. It actually opened my eyes to a unique stage of luxurious and a unique high quality of life. In addition they have a wonderful jewellery tradition—there’s a gold market that focuses on excessive carat gold. Then in 2008, the financial system crashed and I ended up again residence in Atlanta for a number of years earlier than I left to go to the GIA.
What motivated your determination to check gemology?
My curiosity in gemology got here from at all times having a love of high-quality jewellery, however not figuring out the right way to enter into a really closed-off, insular world just like the high-quality jewellery enterprise. Exterior of my very own self-teaching, I didn’t actually know something about stones or diamond grading. I feel my mom had a 50-pointer in her engagement ring, however no one in my household knew something about jewellery. I needed to strive to determine the diamond enterprise and the jewellery enterprise, and what that meant. The best manner for me to do this was to go an precise program and get these credentials, as a result of the credentials communicate for you if you don’t have connections within the business—which I didn’t.
What was your favourite half about your research at GIA?
The entire course of was only a actually nice time. It’s a graduate program, so everybody there desires to be there and is targeted on the work. I studied jewellery design and hand rendering, in order that introduced in a few of my portray background. I did the complete Graduate Gemologist program, which begins with diamonds, and then you definately learn to determine coloured stones. The coloured stone a part of it was actually enjoyable, as a result of there’s such a wide range of coloured stones that I had by no means even heard of earlier than. And apart from my research, I met so many great folks at GIA—pals within the enterprise that I nonetheless should this present day.
It sounds such as you didn’t have the connections earlier than you determined to go to GIA, however this system itself offered these connections.
I undoubtedly I had a lateral community of relationships popping out of GIA. And that was actually vital as a result of all of us had been capable of assist one another.
What was your first job popping out of GIA?
I went straight into the diamond business. I used to be actually centered not on the jewellery portion of the business, however straight diamond shopping for, diamond promoting. That’s the place I needed to be. There have been no Black people who I may determine within the business doing that form of work. That form of place was very a lot closed off to us. For girls within the business, they form of push you into jewellery shopping for, or they push you into design. These are the sorts of stuff you sometimes see ladies doing. However you don’t see a whole lot of feminine diamond consumers—particularly Black, feminine diamond consumers. In order that’s the place I needed to be. I interviewed with a diamond home in New York known as Nader Kash Worldwide. He simply had very nice items, and he was centered on fancy shapes. I got here in and acquired the job mainly operating his operations. On the time it was such a small firm; he had simply gone out on his personal, and he was younger as effectively. I used to be there for eight years, actually constructing the organizational basis of his enterprise. All of us simply grew collectively. I employed and skilled his employees. Among the folks I employed didn’t even know the right way to use a loupe once they first got here on board, and now they’re operating the diamond manufacturing! It was a whole lot of team-building, and l simply realized a lot in regards to the unfastened diamond commerce.
When did you launch SevenJune?
SevenJune got here a bit later. As I acquired deeper into the business, I needed to have one thing that was for myself, as a bit aspect mission. I had pals who had been getting engaged or needed recommendation about shopping for jewellery basically. I made a decision to place collectively a bit web site that I may promote by. From there it blossomed into its personal factor. Now everyone seems to be procuring on-line, so I’ve been capable of make a reputation for myself. However it actually simply began with folks asking me for various issues as a result of they knew I labored within the business, they knew me, they usually knew I used to be an individual they might belief.
It’s been since 2018 that I began actually focusing by myself enterprise. Whereas I used to be nonetheless at Nader, I used to be doing this on the aspect, however I knew ultimately that it was one thing I needed to have as my very own factor.
What’s your hottest piece, and why do you suppose it’s been so profitable?
I began the enterprise with hoops. I had a ton of gold hoops on the location in numerous sizes, they usually had been my largest vendor simply because that’s what I had. However I might say earrings basically are at all times an enormous vendor as a result of, whereas they could be a self-purchase, you may as well purchase earrings as a present for another person. It’s form of onerous to purchase a hoop or a bracelet on-line—they may not match. Earrings at all times match. And the pattern now’s a number of ear piercings, so folks at all times want earrings.
SevenJune provides a concierge service, which can embody help curating a jewellery assortment. What do you take into accounts earlier than serving to a consumer choose items for his or her assortment?
This can be a actually attention-grabbing a part of what I do, the jewellery concierge and the jewellery styling. I’ve sure purchasers who’ve shopped with me for a number of items, so I do know what they’ve of their assortment and I can actually advise them on what so as to add subsequent. However for individuals who haven’t shopped with me and simply need that help, I’ll do a name or an electronic mail. I’ll ask them to ship me pictures of any high-quality jewellery they’ve. As soon as I see what they’ve, I’m capable of suppose creatively about alternative ways they will put on what they already personal—perhaps you may have an 18-inch chain that you simply by no means put on, however you need an anklet; I can try this for you. Or I can provide items so as to add to your assortment that can give the chain a unique look. It’s nearly having the ability to provide items that work with somebody’s life-style.
For people who find themselves beginning straight from scratch, that’s a very cool alternative as a result of I get to ask them about their model icons. How do you need to really feel in your jewellery? I ask questions that can give me a way of their life-style and who they need to be. A lot of what we mission to the world is costuming. What do you need to appear to be? Whose model do you actually love? It may very well be somebody like a Rihanna, who does a ton of layering. Or it is likely to be someone like Tracee Ellis Ross, who focuses on huge assertion items, however may solely put on one or two issues on the identical time. It may very well be somebody actually traditional like Meghan Markle, the place all the things is white diamonds, white gold. It simply actually relies on every particular person, how they need to really feel, and what they need to mission.
I like what you stated about how a whole lot of what we put on and what we mission to the world is costuming. I’ve by no means actually considered it in that manner, however it’s true.
It’s! You allow your home, and also you step out into the world, and also you’re projecting the way you need to be handled, the way you need to be considered. That is likely to be a bit completely different from who you’re at residence. It’s form of like an armor that we placed on.
It makes me marvel: what do you want to mission to the world with the jewellery you put on day by day?
My factor is: I’m simply making an attempt to have my look collectively [laughs]. I’m additionally an individual who lives in my jewellery. I would like items which can be sturdy. I like a chunky chain. My life could be very go-go-go, and I would like jewellery that I don’t should take off on a regular basis. I would like items that coordinate so I look effectively put-together. If you’re working actually onerous, you’ll be able to look and feel a bit frazzled. So I would like items which can be straightforward to put on and look easy.
Have you ever skilled any adjustments in your online business because the pandemic started?
Positively. Final summer time was very busy, truly. I feel with folks not having the ability to journey, they’d a bit bit extra expendable earnings. And despite the fact that you weren’t going out, you perhaps needed one thing that made you are feeling higher about being at residence, or made you are feeling a bit extra dressy in your sweatpants.
I additionally had a pleasant push primarily based on the renewed curiosity in shopping for Black. That actually helped my enterprise, having mainstream bloggers and publications trying to suggest Black jewelers and placing my title on the market.
That really leads proper into my subsequent query, which was whether or not you’d seen any elevated help. So has that help remained constant?
It’s form of onerous to inform. Enterprise has been good, however I don’t know for certain if that’s due to the pandemic, or due to the Black Lives Matter motion. All the pieces was taking place on the identical time. That renewed curiosity is at all times good, though I might say my main buyer is from my neighborhood. My neighborhood has been supporting me since I began. That’s actually the main target of my enterprise.
I respect that.
That doesn’t change, proper? I’m making jewellery for us, and I’m making an attempt to assist us dwell the life that we wish. I need us to have heirlooms for our households. Something outdoors of that’s nice, and I’m tremendous pleased for it. However my neighborhood has at all times supported me.
Do you may have any recommendation for anybody who could also be desirous about coming into the high-quality jewellery business?
My recommendation would simply be to analysis and attempt to construct that lateral neighborhood of individuals inside the business. Issa Rae is the one who I first heard say this; she stated we at all times search for mentors who’re making it within the enterprise, and who’re the place we need to be. However we overlook about our friends. Lateral relationships are actually what’s going that will help you and what’s going to be vital to you. I couldn’t do what I’m doing now with out my pals within the business. We had been all making an attempt to make one thing occur for ourselves on the identical time, so we had been capable of educate one another what we knew, and assist one another, and that’s simply as vital as having a mentor.
Are you engaged on something new?
I feel this 12 months I truly need to carry extra of my very own concepts to life in relation to designing. At present, the design facet of my enterprise is just about relegated to bridal, however I wish to deal with a few of my very own concepts in different design areas.