Istanbul-born Selin Kent took a market research job in New York City after she graduated from college. Feeling uninspired by the work, she randomly signed up for a metal smithing course. Two years later, Kent quit her job and went back to school for jewelry fabrication. Since then she launched her eponymous sustainable collection of jewelry. Her pieces are made from recycled gold, recycled silver, and conflict-free diamonds and rubies. Kent’s jewelry is designed to be stacked and layered – allowing each client to interpret the pieces for her own liking.
How did you discover your love for jewelry design?
For me, jewelry started out as a hobby and naturally evolved into a career. I had just graduated and my first job out of college was at a market research firm in New York. Looking back, I think I had an adverse reaction against being behind a computer for a large chunk of the day, so I sought out a hobby that would allow me to use my hands, and make something tangible. I was curious about metal and how it was manipulated, so I signed up for a metal-smithing class. I took classes after work and over the weekends for about two years, after which I decided to go back to school to study jewelry fabrication and design full-time. It was a natural evolution rather than a spontaneous decision.
What is the biggest difference between living in New York and Istanbul?
I lived in Istanbul and New York at very different stages of my life. I grew up in Istanbul and was there until the age of 18. I moved to New York at the age of 22, after graduating from college. There are notable similarities – they are both big, dynamic cities with amazing energy. I would say the history in Istanbul is definitely more palpable – it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire for centuries and you definitely feel that. Walking around the Grand Bazaar or going to a 17th century hamam is like being in a time warp. Istanbul will give you a great dose of culture and history, and New York on the other hand is more cosmopolitan and international.
How do you interpret casual luxury in your design aesthetic?
My aim is to create high quality fine jewelry from the finest materials that will stand the test of time and offer a sophisticated look without being opulent. I take a ‘less is more’ approach to design, which results in pieces that maintain a casual ease.
Why is it so important for you to honor women you admire through the names of your pieces?
It’s a small way of paying homage to the women who have inspired me throughout the years – from musicians such as Fiona Apple and Patti Smith to writers such as Elena Ferrante. It’s also a fun way to inject some personality into my pieces. Not to mention that it has resulted in some great coincidences. Someone who recently purchased my Marla Ring (named after Marla Singer from Fight Club) told me that her pseudonym in high school used be ‘Marla’ (after the same character).
What are some of the steps you take to make your collections sustainable?
Pieces from my collection are handcrafted in New York with recycled or fair-mined metal and ethically sourced gemstones and diamonds. For example, the company I source my findings from get over half their metal supply from scrap metal purchased from jewelers. The remainder comes from refineries that also recycle scrap metal. Working with local jewelers (who are paid a fair wage in a healthy workplace setting) also minimizes the carbon footprint of my line.
How do you typically spend your days in the studio?
Every day is a new day. I split my time between production, design and operations. I’ll spend a few hours every day checking in with my vendors and sourcing materials. The custom side of my business has expanded, which keeps me designing new pieces all the time – which I love. Operations is the least exciting, but necessary to keep the wheels turning.
I was immediately intrigued by your ‘Ersa’ floating diamond collection – what inspired those designs?
The collection is named after Ersa, the Greek goddess of dew. The pear-shaped diamonds, particularly when hanging (or floating) reminded me of drops or tears so I wanted the name to relate to water somehow. We often see diamonds set in metal, but I liked the idea of somehow “freeing” them from these constraints and seeing them in their most natural light, which led me to look into the process of having them drilled instead of set.
What are some of your personal staple jewelry pieces?
The Ersa Bracelet is one that I haven’t taken off since I first developed the model. I sleep and shower in it. Same with the Artemis Necklace, which features three rose cut floating diamonds. These pieces are the perfect staples because you don’t even realize they’re on and they are so easy to layer – they look good layered with just about anything!
Is there any advice you would give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid of trial and error. In the beginning, a lot of decisions are going to have to rely on your gut or other people’s advice because you can’t rely on experience. It’s important to try things out, but not get stuck – if something works, stick with it, if it doesn’t, move on. It’s important to be nimble.
What can we expect from Selin Kent in the near future?
I’m being commissioned to design bridal pieces and engagement rings more and more, so I plan on expanding those offerings. I also always need to keep designing and keeping things fresh – I want to do more one-of-a-kind pieces where I don’t have to worry about sourcing materials for production.