Q & A with Jewelry Designer Johnny Ninos

portrate-1-435x567 I first laid eyes on Johnny Ninos' incredible designs when I visited Love Adorned earlier this year in New York City.  His barnacle collection stands out for its unique out-of-this-world look, and I had to know more about the designer!  I enjoyed learning about Johnny and his approach, and how this sculptor turned into a jewelry designer. The best surprise was finding out we both were born in the same small town in upstate New York, small world!

His use of recycled metals and conflict-free black and white diamonds is as organic as his technique and style.  Each ring looks as though The Little Mermaid would wear them all stacked, one on every finger. And they all pair so well together!  Can't wait to see what the future holds for this talented designer, but first I had to catch up with him:  




I’ve been building a new workbench that I’m excited about. I built my first bench before I really knew what I needed and I’m ready for an upgrade! I will probably want to build another one up in a few years but I’m treating this one as though it is my one and only and totally geeking out on the whole thing.



I grew up surrounded by makers in Alfred, a small college town in western NY. It’s intoxicating atmosphere of creativity led me to stay for my BFA where I focused in Sculpture. I started working in clay and eventually wood and metal followed. It was at Alfred that I learned how to work and think about materials. The metalwork I was creating was at a much larger scale. I was casting steel and bronze using 200 lb. crucibles, welding and cutting large sheets of metal and hammering away at the forge. Soon after graduating I accepted a teaching job at a small private boarding school in CA. The curriculum had jewelry and small metals and at the time those practices were completely new to me. To keep a step ahead of my students I spent a lot of time learning through books and youtube. At the bench I focused on building from the basics and found my background in sculpture translated well and quickly grew comfortable taking risks. A few years later my wife Ashleigh and I got engaged and I took on making the rings which gave me my first experience working with gold and diamonds. From there I was hooked. My first gallery representation came from taking a wrong turn while walking in San Francisco which led me past Love & Luxe. It was there that I met owner and jeweler Betsy Barron. We hit it off and when I left, I took with me a new friend, a commission for a custom display case, and an agreement for my work to be represented in her gallery. That moment where I was able to show my work along side jewelers I admired and respected was a huge confidence booster and gave me a lot of forward momentum.



I spend as much time as I can by water, not only for the visuals, but for the smell and sounds. Much of my recent work in my barnacle series is a result of time spent along the coast here in CA. However when I create a piece it’s not always representative of a particular event or finding, but a result of the drive to create which for me often comes from being outside.



I have a lot of ideas that keep me up at night. Necklaces, earrings and new bridal sets are in the works. I’m also looking forward to getting some pieces out that are more delicate than than my current work. I’m playing around with flush and prong settings and see a lot of potential. I’m also really looking forward to the mystery of the future. I have a lot to learn and I look forward to how that will influence my work.



My favorite piece is my wedding band and my wife’s wedding set. I will always remember creating these rings and the timidness for the way I approached the material that was significantly more precious than I was used to. Mine is a no frills band made in 14k white. Ashleigh’s is a bit more special. The day we got engaged we ventured out with our kayaks and found a small beach stone from a great little secluded spot we love. Her set is a three ring stack, one with the beach stone as the setting. I look at these rings now and see so much growth in my knowledge of the material from when I created them. For me they are a time machine of good memories.


Ask Gem Gossip, Volume One!

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I've decided to add another segment to Gem Gossip after getting LOTS of questions in my inbox and finding it difficult to answer everyone!  Since I love to connect with my readers, I thought it was unfair that I couldn't find time to answer everyone--so, Ask Gem Gossip was created!  This will allow me to take the necessary time to get back to everyone's questions, and letting others in on our conversations!  Whenever I post an #AskGemGossip photo on Instagram, you can ask your question in the comment section.  Or you can always fill out the Contact page, with the subject #AskGemGossip...Hope you enjoy!


@taniadundou writes: If you ever see a portrait ring similar to your blindfold lady, I’d be super interested! But maybe you don’t see those in your travels in North America?  Do you have one era that you collect more than others?

Gem Gossip answers: yes!  I rarely come across rings with painted portraits here in the States, that is why when traveling abroad I made sure to buy things that I knew I would never or rarely see here.  That portrait ring was one of them!  I do tend to be infatuated with the Victorian Era more than others, but also love Art Deco.  Lately I’ve been on a 60s/70s kick, loving big bold all-gold designs.


@theoneilovenyc writes: I have way too many questions for this IG post haha, but alas, I’ll ask one.  What is your favorite book on antique jewelry symbolism? I’ve been searching in every direction to find an encyclopedia of such...

Gem Gossip answers: I’m working on a compiled list of all the jewelry books one would need to create a nice library...more on that soon!  But, yes...you’re right, there’s not really a book that focuses solely on jewelry symbolism--there totally should be!  But the book, Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria: A Mirror to the World has a chapter called The Language of Jewellery which pertains to symbolism!


@brittchamp3 writes: What is the best place to shop for antique jewelry?

Gem Gossip answers: This is a tough question to narrow it down to one particular place, because I feel like there’s many stores out there I have yet to discover...but the one place I would say would be the World Wide Web!  Sites like eBay, Etsy and Ruby Lane make it easy for a collector to find what they’ve been searching for right from the comfort of their home.  I also recently became a huge fan of live auctions--some of my best finds came from an auction house.  For a list of the best auction houses, click here.


@lisajshuler writes: What is the one piece that got away that you still think about?  I know we insane jewelry lovers all have many, but what is the one that stands out?

Gem Gossip answers: Ughh...I can still remember the day and all that was happening.  It was eBay of course, and the biggest, mossy green emerald and diamond ring had just alerted me on my phone that it was about to end.  I was in the middle of an appraisal for a client and couldn’t really bid.  I remember slyly typing in some ridiculous bid and having to put my phone away immediately after.  I wasn’t able to check my phone until a few hours later, only to see I was outbid and that the ring was more perfect than ever!  


@shopfiligree writes: What are your top 3 favorite pieces from your personal collection?

Gem Gossip answers: My antique engagement ring--my garnet, diamond and enamel ring from Skinner auction house--and my Gram’s gold and glass ring she gave to me.  (pictured above)


Flowers & Insects, Antique Jewels from The Eden Collective

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The Eden Collective continues to offer some incredible pieces of antique jewelry, and the latest batch of acquisitions does not disappoint! Inspired by the summer season, Eden has been working hard on some flower rings and insect trinkets, most of which have been created using antique elements and incidentals.  I love the idea of repurposing parts of jewelry, whether they are unwearable or broken, and turning them into treasures that can be worn and look cool!  Eden knows all about that, having been brought along to auctions and sales with her father since she could remember!  She loves all things antique and vintage, and with an eye for styling which she has done for many years, she is keen on what catches the eye!  

The above photos depict the beauties she currently has for sale in her Etsy shop--if not listed, make sure to start a conversation with her to ask if certain items are still available, or what you're looking for! I recently purchased a Date Ring, dated 1922, from her shop (pictured inset) and I am so in love!  I have found that it pairs so well with other antique rings and is stackable too.  Can't wait to collect more!

Above photos, from top to bottom:


Photo One:
1. repurposed 10k art nouveau lace pin with baroque seed pearls and sapphire mounted on our own design 10k scroll shank
2. big bug ring: repurposed amethyst paste body from stick pin with recycled garnet and diamond accents, the rest 14k our design
3. antique ostby barton with garnet baby ring as midi
4. antique ostby barton baby signet as midi
5. antique 14k and diamond flower bracelet 
Photo Two:
1. repurposed antique bird micro mosaic (was a button) set in 14k with our own design scroll shank in 14k
2. our own bicolor gold (rose inner band and yellow outer bands) gimmel ring with diamond set cuffs & posy motto engraved on the inner band “endless be my love for thee”
Photo Three:
1. rose cut diamond fly: repurposed from antique collar button. our 14k shank fly is 14k and sterling with ruby eyes.
2. our own design bug cuff midi will be available in 14k or 10k with diamond eyes/ other stones as requested
3 repurposed antique rose cut diamond set sterling fly on 1920’s onyx ring set in 10k filigree mounting
Photo Four:
1.  our sterling silver big bee ring repurposed and molded from a vintage brooch and mounted on our thick ribbed shank
2. our newest! “pollinate me” crossover ring in sterling with 14k shank and bee body and recycled diamonds
Photo Five: 
1. 10k “amor” ring our design after vintage ring found in Merida, Yucatan
2. little bug ring: recycled cabochon sapphire and opal, 14k shank and wings, etc. our design
3. antique art nouveau enamel forget me not stick pin repurposed as ( midi) ring
Photo Six:
1. antique 14k art nouveau enameled pansy stick pin with diamond repurposed as ( midi) ring
2. antique 14k art nouveau enameled pansy pin with diamond mounted on our own design 14k scroll shank
3. antique 14k pansy stick pin repurposed as ring



annesophiemgx bochicny colettejewelry farandwild3 jaimiegellerjewelry3 marianilsdotter metiersf necessaryexcess whitebirdjewellery

{from top to bottom:

annesophiemgx trying on some of the latest Messika Jewelry

Bochic confidently sporting the Conquistador collection in black and white

Colette Jewelry mixes snakes with leaves, very symbolic 

Far & Wild having an impromptu photoshoot with some gorgeous rings

Jaimie Geller Jewelry enjoying a fresh batch of Carbon & Hyde Jewelry

Maria Nilsdotter and her well known claws and skulls

Metiersf stacking some antique rings that compliment each other incredibly well

NecessaryExcess creatively shows me her rings, some of her personal pieces mixed with Jemma Wynne

White Bird Jewellery loves Lito Jewels, these are some cool rings!}

Obsession: Gold Lockets #LoveGold

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Here’s a little secret for you--you can file this under things you may not know about Gem Gossip: lockets were my first collection and eBay obsession.  Of course I was still in high school, so every locket I found on eBay was costume jewelry, but I did have one 14k yellow gold locket that had “Danielle” engraved on the outside, which was a birthday gift from my parents when I turned 12.  Since then, I lost interest in lockets...until recently!  An auction score from Fellows landed me with a yellow gold etched locket, but not an ordinary locket which hangs from a chain--this is an unusual locket ring.  I’ve been wearing it nonstop lately, although I have yet to place any mini-photos into the locket.  

My newfound love for lockets has led me to search out some amazing yellow gold lockets, each available and ready for a new lifestory.  

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18k yellow gold masked woman enameled portrait locket, from Lang Antiques, Price: $2250

15k yellow gold Victorian turquoise and diamond flower locket, from Metier SF, Price: $2400

15k yellow gold archaeological Revival Victorian locket, from The Three Graces, Price: $1575

14k yellow gold black enamel and pearl locket, from Metier SF, Price: $950

14k yellow gold with rendering of a female circa 1910, from The Three Graces, Price: $2650

14k yellow gold Etruscan Revival locket with hand granulation and bloomed finish, from Metier SF, Price: $2100


This post was brought to you in collaboration with LoveGold



Private Viewing of Kavant & Sharart Jewelry

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I've been eager to see the limited unveiling of Kavant & Sharart since I first learned that the design duo decided to merge their jewelry skills into one. What is amusing about this team is that they are husband and wife who compliment one another very well.  Each has their own aesthetic and their own vision, and when they come together it makes for some beautiful jewelry designs.  

I have been following Sharlinn's designs since 2012, when we worked on a Designer Spotlight feature for Gem Gossip.  Since then, her jewelry design skills have been honed and perfected--she loves taking inspiration from Art Deco design and Oriental Arts. Her aesthetic juxtaposes Kenny's avant-garde style, so it was only right to combine their forces into one, Kavant & Sharart! The will surely make a phenomenal debut later this summer! More on that later!

Seeing the pieces at my very own private viewing was something quite special and I was extremely impressed with both the dynamic uniqueness of the designs and the wearability of the pieces.  I think those two concepts are huge for both clients and store owners when choosing jewelry to buy and stock their stores with.  These pieces could be worn to a dinner party and steal the show, and they could also be casually worn everyday and become a staple piece within one's wardrobe.  I felt honored to get to play with the jewelry and get a feel for them up close and personal.

All of the pieces are done is 18k yellow, rose or white gold, with all genuine gemstones and pearls.  The diamond slice pieces were show-stopping, with the earrings being one of the first pieces I wanted to try on. Surrounding the diamond slices are round champagne and white diamonds, all set in 18k gold.  I paired those with the diamond two-finger ring that comfortably swirls around your fingers.

My favorite earrings were the Bird-of-paradise or also known as crane flower abalone shell earrings, done in 18k yellow gold with champagne diamonds.  I thought the shape of the earrings was really futuristic and wore a pair on one ear--the look was so inspiring!  I could see it being done on the red carpet and making waves in the fashion trend category.  

I always love seeing pearls done in new, organic ways--and these freshwater Baroque pearl rings look amazing in these Kavant & Sharart designs.  Each pearl is surrounded by diamonds, with the one flanked by abalone shell, all in such an avant-garde style.  They felt amazing on and I didn't want to take them off!  

The geode slice necklace pendants are really cool too!  They have a very marine-like, under the sea, look to them...perfect for summer!  I could picture them being worn on a long chain or layered on multiple length chains. So many possibilities!  

I enjoyed my time with Sharlinn and Kenny, seeing their designs in person was so much fun!  This married couple can create some gorgeous jewelry and are so incredibly nice and adorable!  Thanks for such an inspiring day! 

Gem Gossip Visits Wright & Teague in London! #LoveGold

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The Burlington Arcade in London is such a magical place.  If you love jewelry, it is a must-see--both artisan and designer jewelry, as well as some of the most incredible antique jewelry you've ever seen, all in one place. Each shop is set up with a storefront with a large window, and all the best eye-candy displayed beautifully, it is hard to NOT draw you in. To make matters worse, the main center aisle of the Burlington Arcade is lined with red carpet, making you feel as if you are a celebrity in your own movie, arranged to choose any piece of jewelry you want to take home.  If you wake yourself up from this fantasy like I did, I was eagerly at the doorstep of Wright & Teague--an ingenious duo who craft some exquisite jewelry.  

These two, better known as Gary Wright and Sheila Teague (hence Wright & Teague), have a gallery that glitters with gold and fine gemstones. I was intrigued by the long Mneme drop earrings right away, and had to try them on! They are created with concave forms of 18k yellow gold and are named after the Greek muse of memory. The earrings are designed to subtly light the face and create full-on glamour--I was fulfilling so many wishes all within the first few minutes of being there!  Next up--rings!  The earrings that graciously lit-up my face had their own ring counterpart, but very much larger and statement making.  The Phoenix Sun ring glowed on my hand, and the rubies added to the warmth of this aptly titled ring.  I paired it with the Daedalus ring and then also with their iconic Naga ring which features a serpent as a symbol of wisdom and rebirth.  

As I was about to bid farewell, I learned a surprising fact that turned this shop into an enchanting space. Below us...below the showroom...lies a workshop that could rival Santa's secret workshop in the North Pole! Instead of toy-making, jewelry making, designing, brainstorming, hammering, casting...is done here.  Each piece that was beautifully displayed in the showroom was made from beginning to end beneath the customers and shoppers daily.  

The musings and creative genius behind Wright & Teague is captured beautifully in this video, produced by Bonnie Wright, daughter of the duo.  If you log onto LoveGold, you can enter their prize drawing daily, which gives away three pieces of Wright & Teague gold jewelry--Treasure Heart, Weeny Heart 18k gold necklace, OR Iliad 18k gold bangle OR Serengeti III 18k gold earrings!  


This post was brought to you in collaboration with LoveGold



Favorite Instagram Pictures: July 2014

claire_fivestory necessaryexcess liseannefrankfurt nakarmstrong deborahpagani erstwhilejewelry markatthemuseum jillnewman eriebasinby_couture/ylang23 hillarymacklowe bellandbird agelessheirloomsamedeonyc

claire_fivestory shows off an epic ring, a one-of-a-kind from Ara Vartanian

necessaryexcess has good taste in Rolex watches...and Cartier bracelets...and life

liseannefrankfurt captures a cool picture while visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium

nakarmstrong is such an incredibly talented jewelry designer, can't get enough of his designs 

deborahpagani recently spotted on Rita Ora, she's wearing the Geisha Fan ring

erstwhilejewelry knows how to pick them! gorgeous turquoise and diamond Victorian ring

markatthemuseum visited the Pier Antique Show and I just love this shot

jillnewman spotted this amazing necklace by Pasquale Bruni at Baselworld

eriebasin a hoard of new acquisitions is sometimes incredibly glamorous for this shop

by_couture was taken over by ylang23 and this picture of Joanne's personal stash is bananas

hillarymacklowe has some pretty rings on display

bellandbird enjoys collecting salvaged photos from bygone lockets, so cool

AgelessHeirlooms scoped out this Victorian serpent bracelet and necklace that recently sold at Sothebys

amedeonyc totally wanting a turquoise skull and diamond ring like this one


When In Scotland: James Ness & Son Antique Jewelry 

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There are so many incredible antique jewelry stores worldwide, not just in the United States, that sometimes I wish I were able to teleport and visit each one!  Newly discovered and already incredibly obsessed, a jewelry store located in Edinburgh, Scotland, is a new favorite of mine.  James Ness & Son has been in business since 1919 and they sell antique jewelry, each with a piece of history.  With rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings and brooches dating back to the early 1800s, their selection is ever-changing and fun to keep up with.  Right now, they have an aquamarine and diamond Art Deco ring that is to-die-for!  I was coveting a moonstone and diamond elongated ring, pictured above, but it has since sold.  

Located on Queensferry Street, the shop also does repair work, appraisals, pearl restringing and buys old/unwanted jewelry.  Their expertise allows them to buy some amazing pieces and their website allows them to sell globally!  They've also just launched their Instagram page, so check them out over there @james.ness

If you've ever visited the shop or better yet, purchased a piece of jewelry from James Ness & Son, send me a photo! Would love to see!

James Ness & Son
38 Queensferry Street
Edinburgh, EH2 4QY
Scotland, UK

A Quick Getaway to Rosemary Beach, Florida!

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Although it seems like I am constantly traveling or planning my next trip, I realized I haven't really been on a "relaxing" vacation in quite some time. Most trips are planned around someone's wedding we have to attend, or a trip for work, or a jewelry store on my must-see list. This time around, a trip with no plans except for to relax on the beach and eat good food was in order! We stayed at The Pearl resort in Rosemary Beach and had an amazing time. There were no distractions--no jewelry stores for miles and a horrible wifi connection (a blessing in disguise)! We spent an entire day at the beach, where we both conquered our fear of swimming in the ocean. Packing for a few days at the beach is incredibly easy--throw in some bikinis, a sunhat, sunglasses and a few outfits for dinner, and you're good to go! The jewelry side of packing was easy too. I left all my gemstones home, and went for an all yellow gold look.  Lots of stackable gold bands, with different textures and patterns. The more tan your skin gets on vacation, the better yellow gold looks! This is my ideal jewelry look for an active, fun-filled summer!