Nicole Then & Now: A Conversation With Our Founder, Nicole
Nicole Dersovitz has been in the jewelry industry her entire life. Over the past 3 decades, she’s become an icon in the world of everyday fine jewelry. We get questions constantly at NicoleHD about the woman behind the brand. So, we recently sat down with Nicole herself to talk a bit about where she came from, what inspires her, and how she’s created such a devoted following in the jewelry world. Presented below is the first portion of our conversation.
The Early Years
Let's start at the beginning. Tell us the NicoleHD story. What was your background and how did you get started with NicoleHD?
I’m a third generation jeweler, so you could say I was born into the jewelry business. My mother, my aunts and uncles, basically my entire family is in the business. We were even featured in the New York Times when I was younger. We all have our specialties, and I was exposed to every facet of the business growing up. But I knew I wanted to go my own way, so after high school, I found myself at Syracuse University studying metal smithing, which is actually a branch of visual and performing arts.
So, metal smithing. Tell us more about that. At that time, did you know you wanted to go into jewelry?
Well, the discipline isn’t just about working with metal and making jewelry. It was also an opportunity to work with my hands, which I love. It was sculpture, resin, plastic, and painting. As an artist, I loved working with all those different mediums. It was a lot of hard work and it was time consuming, being in a studio 5 hours at a time was a lot, but it helped me understand how form and function interact with one another, and that knowledge has helped me become a better artist and a better jeweler.
Does your background in art set you apart from other jewelers?
Yes, so many of us can recognize beauty, but my experience has taught me the process that goes into crafting a beautiful piece of jewelry. In my business, there is a difference between beauty and quality, and NicoleHD only sells pieces that are beautiful and well made. People trust us because they know that when they buy from us they’re not just getting something pretty, they’re getting something that will stand the test of time.
How did you make the decision to start a business on your own instead of working for your family?
Everyone in my family had their own specialty. My mom has been in the business for forty-five years, and has been a role model to me for as long as I can remember. I was surrounded by jewelers everywhere I turned. It was a tremendous help that I was immersed in the business from a young age. I learned every angle, but what I loved was designing.
So, right out of college, my first job was working for a large jewelry company in New York. When I wasn’t working, I was freelancing and making jewelry out of my apartment. I worked at the first company for 2 years, learning everything I could about the business. Then I went to a new company. The entire time I was working on my own pieces in my spare time. At first, I was doing it just to make a little extra money, but it started to take off, and eventually I was able to leave the company I was working for and start my own.
I will never forget my first show. It was 1996, and I took all these pieces that I’d been working on in my apartment and went down to the “see it” day at Henri Bendel on 5th Avenue. Designers would come with their products and wait in a line around the block for their turn to meet the store’s buyers. I was nervous, but I said “what the hell, if they reject me, they reject me”. That’s always been my way of looking at things, you’ve got to try if you ever want to make anything happen.
It ended up that the buyer was excited about my pieces! That was my first huge break, and it just grew from there. It was amazing. When my daughter was starting kindergarten, we moved to New Jersey and I decided to change my business model.
Is that when you shifted to more custom pieces?
Yes, I spent the next several years working solely designing custom jewelry.
So, how did you go from narrowing your focus to re-expanding to the business we know today as NicoleHD?
It's interesting really, my mom and I decided to take a trip to Las Vegas for the JCK jewelry show. JCK is a show where jewelry manufacturers and vendors come to show their products to the trade. It was at that show that I realized I wanted to pivot again, and change my business model a bit. I still wanted to design custom jewelry, but I didn't want that to be the sole focus of my business anymore. I decided I also wanted to sell fine everyday jewelry at an affordable price point. I connected with several vendors at that first JCK show, and over the years I've developed relationships with many other vendors. That's really how NicoleHD Jewelry was born. I am so lucky because I get to do what I love everyday, and work in an industry where I can be creative and bring others joy.
Stay tuned as we discuss more about Nicole's life in jewels. We’ll talk about the pieces she loves, where she finds inspiration, how she gives back to the community, what the future holds for NicoleHD, and much more!