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A Very Long Engagement: An Interview With Jewelry Designer Rony Tennenbaum

Speaking of the designs, as someone who's worked with big name retailers, how do you approach this particular niche market differently? How do you come to it? What inspires you to make it different, and what makes it special?
One of the first thoughts that came to mind when I started this, was: I don't want to create a line of jewelry that, as I think of it, is a straight man designing what he thinks a gay man wants to wear. Go online and Google "gay jewelry," -- you get all the rainbows and triangles and purple and lavender and symbols, and that's so far away from what me or my friends would ever want to wear. I want a high-end, classy, sophisticated piece of jewelry. I want a nice diamond. I want a nice band that really speaks to my taste, not to mention that the gay and lesbian community are people with high tastes and are very trend-setting. You're getting rings that symbolize your love for one another but they have to be very classy, timeless, and I definitely call them contemporary. For example, black diamonds are very popular right now. A lot of my jewelry has black diamonds in it. Men love them. There's two philosophies: you either want very flashy or you don't. Black diamonds are a great solution for that. I also offer variety. You, as a couple, can get two rings that match, but one of you get a black diamond and one of you get a white diamond. So you keep your individuality and yet you've got the same ring as a committed couple. What's wrong with getting a beautiful rose gold ring for one person and a white gold ring for another? Again, you can definitely create individual pieces without necessarily having them wear the exact thing. And it's OK to wear the exact ring, too, but I find that most people like to wear their own taste.
(Above, right, a picture of Rony's work as featured in Out's February 2011 issue)

And do you do custom work for people?
I do a lot of custom work. The more custom work I do is when they see a piece here and they would like a larger diamond, they would like it wider, they would like it in a different color -- that kind of stuff.

So do you basically create a base for them to kind of expand
Correct. And I usually design by collections. So even though collections don't's very difficult to market and have recognition for a collection, yet I do design by collection because a look has to stay within its own little story. And each one has a little bit of know, this one is a little bit more engagement-ish; this one is a bit more band-ish. There are different areas that I like to focus on. Obviously, each ring can be custom, either by ordering it in a different color, and I do many finishes. Today, it's really modern to have things that aren't shiny and polished -- to have a matte polish. People like that organic look. It's much more natural. It's much more aesthetic. So you can get the exact same ring in a polished, yellow, shiny look and then a white, matte finish with black diamonds -- you have two entirely different looks but it's actually exactly the same ring.

Do you find that men and women, there's big differences between the preferences?
It's interesting. I've actually had -- and this is one of the things I enjoy most about my line -- a lot of jewelry appealing to men and women. So I have a lot of women that love the men's designs and I have a lot of designs that are very unisex. Lesbians love the more classic bands because I don't do things with the high heads or prongs; they're practical. They like things that are a little more contemporary. My designs aren't too frilly.

But would you say, in general, that's a trend that's going away across the board, gay and straight?
Yes. With the walk-by traffic that I get in here (and I do get a lot of straight couples) the cross-over is incredible of how many women love the designs that I actually offer because it's not the norm. It's not that....

Yes, there is definitely a moving away from that ornate prong idea.

For more on Rony Tennenbaum and his designs, visit his website here.

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