If you aren’t lucky enough to inherit jewelry that you can wear forever, J. Hannah is the next best thing. Founded by Jess Hannah Révész, J. Hannah is all about pieces that are meant to be future heirlooms. In fact, the line with a cult-following was inspired by jewelry Révész received from her grandmother. The jewelry line was officially launched in 2014, and nail polish followed a few years later when she needed just the right palette to compliment her pieces. Now J. Hannah is stocked everywhere from FortyFiveTen to 10 Corso Como to Violet Grey, Barneys Japan and Need Supply, to name just a few. Révész gives us the scoop on her line.
Why did you decide to focus on sustainability? At the early stages of J. Hannah I was making each piece myself by hand, and sustainability was default to my practice. Learning about where my materials came from was part of the craft that drew me in in the first place. As our orders increased and it was no longer possible to personally make the jewelry, I wanted to keep production local for control reasons. Using foreign manufacturers and materials never crossed my mind. As a jeweler myself I was aware of the environmental and ethical ailments of the industry and was conscious of circumventing these as we grew. It’s been an intentional and uphill journey to prioritize sustainability since then, but always worthwhile. What’s disheartening is that there are very limited independent certifications or standards, so you really need to do your own legwork to figure out what terms like “recycled” or “ethically sourced” mean to different suppliers. It’s taught me a lot about greenwashing and false marketing, and motivated me to be better at telling this story. It’s important to share how to authentically support and sustain better business practices with other jewelry companies as well as consumers.
How is J. Hannah sustainable? For us, sustainability requires a thoughtful and holistic approach because there are so many points of consideration. Specifically, the ethics of environmentalism, humanitarian concerns and business operations are three areas we work to address in our efforts to be sustainable. We treat it as an ongoing effort, and something we are always actively striving for—not a definitive marker of achievement. We are just barely scratching the surface with these examples.
Environmental concerns most obviously include how much waste is produced by our business and if we are partnering with suppliers who are concerned with their effects on the environment. We’ve cut most plastic out of our packaging, aside from our nail polish caps and labels, and our shipping boxes come from an amazing company called EcoEnclose, which makes recyclable and compostable packaging using recycled materials. We make an effort to reuse any plastic that does end up in our offices from our jewelry manufacturers. Jewelry baggies were a hard thing to banish but we finally found a compostable alternative; these still of course have a disposal issue but strides are being made. All our cast gold and diamonds are 100% recycled, which was a hard-won goal since we weren’t willing to sacrifice in quality. It also required adapting certain designs, like our Diamond Demi Signet (which we will be changing to a brilliant cut versus the current rose cut because we can’t find a reliable ethical source), to ensure we would always be able to reliably source recycled stones. Currently we are working on incorporating detailed sourcing for each piece on our website for improved transparency with our customers.
Sometimes the most ecologically sustainable option is not the most human friendly approach. For example, using recycled gold makes the least impact on the environment, but what if you want to make a positive impact? Communities near sites rich with gemstones and metals will always mine there. Supporting safe and fairly compensated mining and stone cutting can make a huge difference in these communities. If more companies refuse to support unregulated and dangerous mining practices, we can show the world that exploitation is not lucrative. Our gemstones sometimes come from other countries, or they might be cut in other countries, but we make sure that each person in our supply chain was paid fairly and working under safe conditions.
This extends to our company culture, which I think is the last prong in our efforts to be genuinely sustainable. It matters to me that I have a monetarily viable business that can provide for its employees. At J. Hannah, despite being a very small team, that means healthcare, vacation time, etc. I consider this an essential investment in the foundation of the company. We all take care of each other.
How would you describe your aesthetic? It’s been described as “minimal” so many times but I’d have to respectfully disagree. More often than not my designs are informed by the decorative, historical, and traditional. If you boiled down these opulent themes into a reduction I think you get the J. Hannah aesthetic—simplified opulence, edited maximalism. Classics like signets and hoops are a huge part of our collection because they are wearable staples. Recently I’ve been delving more into kinetic and inventive designs. Our Objet Pendant, Duo Form Ring and Duet earrings are just a few pieces that employ moving parts, and there will be more.
Tell me about your philosophy of designing jewelry that never is taken off. “Never taken off” is how we want our customers to wear their jewelry, but it’s also a context for their purchase. We do not expect people to be able to afford our jewelry on a whim—it’s a luxury product. We see a lot of language used in our industry that tells women “this product will empower you” or “you need and deserve this,” as though jewelers are providing something necessary or benevolent, which is such a fiction. Jewelry is extra, it’s fun. It’s special and rare and expensive and hopefully something the customer will deeply consider as a special purchase that will last them a lifetime. We envision our customer as someone who saves up for that perfect piece of jewelry they’ve wanted for so long, or to commemorate a major life event. Hopefully they will pass it down one day as an heirloom. This feels closer to reality, which is important when we are continually exposed to entire Instagram feeds that promote excess as the norm. The prevalence of fast fashion works against us in so many ways and everything comes back to sustainability. Trend-based shopping is a wasteful pursuit. If the consumer started thinking about their purchases from a cost per wear perspective, it could change the whole design industry.
What are a few of your favorite pieces in your jewelry collection? I’m always found in at least one pinky ring—but usually two!—which currently is our Duet signet. Another favorite is our Clara necklace. A big part of why I became a jeweler was my early interest in tinkering with my grandmother’s jewelry. She had accumulated a lifetime of pieces that all had different significance for her. My favorite piece of hers inspired my Clara collection; it’s a delicate oval bead that is suspended from a cable chain. I elaborated on the original design with a few variations, including a bracelet and a few other necklaces. My Clara Necklace is a foundational piece that I never take off.
Why did you decide to launch a nail polish collection? It mostly started out of personal desire. I am often showing off the jewels on my hands, so I make an effort to keep them well-manicured. I was having so much trouble finding good colors at my usual nail salons aside from your typical fire engine red and a sea of pale pinks. I decided to fill the void I saw at the time, selfishly in a way I suppose. It has grown to become an integral part of the brand: A key storytelling opportunity (#jhcolortheory) as well as a product with a lower barrier to entry price point. It’s now more accessible to buy into the brand.
You said the palette is “color-resistant”—what does that mean? J. Hannah polish is not about having every color in the rainbow or following trends—rather a tight selection of effortlessly wearable colors. I figured I probably wasn’t the only one craving some respite from the louder pop colors you usually see on the shelf. I wanted to make it easier to find that laid back shade that you won’t ever get sick of, and that will actually look good once you put it on, not just in the bottle.
Why do you focus on neutral nail polish tones? We started with a palette dominated by neutrals, and we will definitely continue to expand our array of muted shades because you can never have too many. One of the reasons was my own frustration with how it was so difficult to select a color that would blend with my wardrobe. If it’s going to be on your nails for one to two weeks it should look good with anything you might want to wear, so that posed a fun design challenge for me. That said, some of our best sellers are actually our least neutral shades, like Eames (a midcentury green) and Ghost Ranch (our red rock shade). They’re colorful, but not in a polarizing way.
How can people choose a nail polish color to complement their jewelry? Styling advice is hard to give; I think it’s always a matter of personal choice and the main thing is that there are no rules. I think a good arena for juxtaposition is with cool and warm tones. Our aquamarine is an icy green color and it looks beautiful set in warm yellow gold. Ghost Ranch, our red rock shade of polish, looks incredible paired with bigger silver rings for a more modernist look. Maybe that’s because both evoke the New Mexican desert.