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February 12, 2019

GETTING PERSONAL

A celebrity connection, precious stones, and the custom jewelry of James Banks Design

By its very nature, jewelry is personal—worn close to the body, always present, often gifted, and imbued with sentiment. But not all pieces are created equal. When it comes creating to deeply personal keepsakes, James Banks Design rises above the rest.

Created by Heidi Nahser Fink and Adam Shulman, the company was founded on a remarkable occasion of serendipity. Twenty years into a design career, Nahser Fink was balancing her goldsmith duties with stints working in film props. While on set for Tim Burton’s 2010 fantasy Alice in Wonderland, she happened to meet artist and writer Shulman, who was visiting his then-girlfriend, Anne Hathaway. The actress commissioned Nahser Fink to create a personal keepsake for Shulman, and he reciprocated by asking the designer to make a necklace for Hathaway  in return.

That token was the Lightkeeper, a tiny pendant of glass filled with precious stones. Hathaway loved it so much, she commissioned another for a friend, and Shulman and Nahser Fink used the fee as seed money to launch their business.

“I was looking to be part of a team and Adam was looking for a present—that’s what brought us together,” recalls Nahser Fink. “The project we did together was so interesting, fun, sentimental, and beautiful. I’d been making jewelry for a long time and was kind of tired of myself, so I was praying for a partner.”

Choosing Shulman’s grandfather’s name as a moniker, James Banks Design was born. Now Shulman’s wife, Hathaway has continued to serve as a muse for the brand, inspiring delicately hinged butterfly pendants with inlaid gold, palladium, shakudō, copper, sterling, and bronze. Like the Lightkeepers, they can be customized according to the wearer’s preference. James Banks’ latest “Code Collection” is equally bespoke, featuring custom locks studded with gems that reference the owner’s DNA.

“There’s a term that has come to us (about our jewelry),” says Shulman. “It’s an ‘impregnated biography’. Whoever is wearing the piece influences it with the story they choose. One of the best parts for us, and for the brand, is that so much comes from conversations with our customers who’ve had dreams of what they wanted to do or how they’re inspired by our jewelry to take it to the next point.”

In fact, the duo hopes their clients continue to return to add other stones or elements to their favorite pieces throughout the years. “The nice thing is we don’t sell it and say goodbye. We sell it and a year later we have a reunion,” he says.

Currently working on a line of flowers with kinetic petals surrounding a glass pistil, the partners are developing even more pieces with a timeless, romantic appeal. Modern heirlooms, each James Banks Design feels simultaneously Victorian and of the future—and always unique to the wearer.

“You’re supposed to look at it and have a memory or connection to your life,” says Shulman. “Rather than just being an empty stone or bling, it resonates with you.” —Kendall Morgan 

The Details: Shop James Banks Design at Forty Five Ten, 1615 Main Street. Happen to be in Aspen next week? Stop by and meet the designers during their trunk show at Forty Five Ten Aspen on Monday, February 18 from 3 p.m.–6 p.m. 535 East Hyman Avenue.