Jess Hannah Révész, founder of J.Hannah took her love for understated jewellery and created an entirely unique vision of subtlety through the notion of personal luxury. Pieces that contextualize the timeless familiarity of heirloom jewels reinterpreted with contemporary forms and kinetic functionality – the idea of jewellery as a marker of identity. The brand pays homage to history and the jewellers that have pioneered new techniques and informed the endless possibilities of how we use and understand stones today. 
After honing her craft and forming a place within the industry, Jess Hannah wanted to broaden her œuvre. She set out to create a line of sustainable nail polishes that reflected the palettes, natural elements and muses of the artists that came before – unique shades that are considerate of skin and wardrobe. And with the release of her limited-edition polishes in collaboration with The MET Costume Institute, the line has veered away from her usual stripped-back hues and has reimagined a world of texture and tones that evoke a sophisticated version of glamour within the realm of J. Hannah.
J Hannah Metalmagazine 14.jpg
First of all, tell us about J. Hannah, how did it start?
I think it all started because the materials – gemstones and precious metals –, the techniques of how to shape them and introduce them to one another, seduced me. There is such a rich history in fine jewellery, and that is the wellspring for me. I try to share that original point of origin with our customers through infusing the content we produce with historical insights.
Design has had a huge influence on your life. You have previously mentioned your desire to be a graphic designer during your college years. What got you interested in jewellery as a different realm of design?
I went to school for Graphic Communication, which is sort of an ambiguous title that meant print and digital media studies. I had classes on different types of printing processes as well as light design courses, and even web development. My most memorable class was called Inks and substrates – we had a whole lab dedicated to making paper out of toilet paper, which seemed counterintuitive to me, but I didn’t question the opportunity to participate in crafts instead of a lecture.
The pivot into jewellery started off very tactile as a hobby. I was bored with school and dove deep into the world of metalsmithing. As a college student, I couldn’t afford the jewellery I was lusting after, so I figured I would try my hand at making it myself. A bouquet of apprenticeship, self-teaching, and formal training became the substrata for J. Hannah. I’m fascinated by jewellery construction, and I’m very detail oriented and love making things with my hands. Jewellery as tiny sculpture felt right.
It wasn’t until later on that I really put thought into any sort of ‘design’ process. I started fabricating by hand. Now we mostly use CAD, which is a wholly different process. I really value what I gleaned from the experience I had as a craftsperson – from a design perspective, I understand the construction and can think in millimeters, which helps in understanding scale and proportion.
You started designing jewellery as a hobby during college while studying graphic communication. How did you get into jewellery design? And at what point did you realize that this was something you wanted to pursue full time as a career? Was this a conscious decision, or did opportunities and connections naturally snowball into the brand it is today?
In my apprenticeship after college, I got a taste of what a career in jewellery would look like. During this time, I was also making pieces on my own and selling to friends. There was no ‘Aha moment’ when I realized this is what I want to do, but there was a point where I stopped telling myself that it could only be a hobby. The fun thing became my path and everything clicked.
Until 2016 I was still doing other freelance work, but at this point, I really started devoting my full attention to J. Hannah. It became full time. I introduced the nail polish collection and hired my first employee. These decisions were a reflection that I wanted to be taken seriously, and I wanted J. Hannah to thrive.
The word ‘snowball’ resonates with me! I went in with high hopes and a rough plan, but I think each unexpected opportunity we've been afforded along the way proliferates the directions that the company can grow into. We’ve got a few collaborations coming, not to mention our recently released Mini Polish Set for the MET. We’re also expanding into new product categories, which will unveil themselves in due time.
J Hannah Metalmagazine 13.jpg
A lot of your stones, metals and overall materials are ethically sourced, what to you feels important about growing your brand from an ethically conscious standpoint? Was this always a conscious decision even at the beginning of your metalsmith days?
The metalsmithing days truly informed this conscious decision. It comes from an awareness of the materials you’re working with and where they come from. A lot of it came from just me being a jewellery nerd and wanting to understand more about the materials and their source. The more you learn, the more you know – the jewellery industry makes detrimental environmental and social impacts. I think knowing that these abuses were regular to jewellery became the motivation for swimming upstream and proving there’s an ethical way to participate as a consumer or as a jeweler.
It doesn’t mean we do it perfectly, and it’s been a long road to get to where we are. Every piece in the J. Hannah collection is cast from 100% post-consumer recycled 14k gold or sterling silver. Our diamonds are all recycled, and our gemstones, when not recycled, are mindfully sourced and traceable to origin. Every JH piece is individually hand-fabricated in Los Angeles; creating our collections one by one allows us to carefully oversee the craft, quality, and detail that goes into every piece of jewellery while avoiding wasteful mass-production techniques.
It also doesn’t mean all industries are somewhat afflicted by non-sustainable thinking. We believe having a platform comes with a responsibility to speak out for what we believe in, to communicate with total transparency, and to educate on conscious consumption. The fashion and jewellery industries often rely on vague terms and cloudy values to bury inconvenient or imperfect processes; we believe in challenging this broken system by asking hard questions, articulating our thought process, openly communicating where we need to improve, and giving our community the tools to decide if our values align. In the process, we aim to raise the collective standard and inspire accountability within and outside of our industry.
Keeping on the minimalist route of your designs, I think your pieces epitomize the perfect everyday jewellery. It’s timeless, elegant and extremely well crafted. What initially inspired you to focus on everyday and timeless pieces rather than something more trendy and opulent?
Paying homage to history and our references is in our brand DNA as I strive to contextualize the timelessly familiar with the contemporary, especially in our jewellery design, the substantiality and simplicity of heirloom pieces reinterpreted with cleaner lines and modern details. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it minimalistic; I think some of our pieces are arguably more maximalist when you consider their intricacies or kinetic functionality.
We envision our pieces as part of ever-evolving design families, intended to wear together and slowly collect. These signature styles are created alongside more a-la-carte experimental pieces that are often limited editions or special collaborations.
I’m very inspired by the symbolism that jewellery has historically held and the role that it can play as a meaningful talisman or marker of identity. I think where it really diverges from fashion is that because of the small scale, it feels more personal. The materials are literally timeless. They will last for generations, and because of this should not be tied to design trends. In my designs lately, I’ve been interested in exploring the concept of subtlety and personal luxury, thinking about how jewellery can exist solely for the benefit and appreciation of the wearer. I think subtlety is less about hiding something and more about the power of engaging with something for you and not others; it’s very intimate.
I think it’s important to know something's origin in order to reinterpret it. They say in art that nothing is truly original, and I think it’s an important perspective and allows for competition and ego to subside and focus on the extra special things that make it your own.
Both in jewellery and otherwise (graphic design, art, music, cinema, etc.), who are your biggest inspirations?
Mainly Craigslist, but that’s my short answer. I’m very interested in the women behind huge design contributions that, at the time, were attributed to the men they worked with – for example, Charlotte Perriand and Jeanne Toussaint.
Within the jewellery industry, Suzanne Belperron is a personal hero. She was an excellent jewellery designer, but those accomplishments are made sweeter by the fact that she pioneered so many techniques that physically revolutionized what was possible to do with stones.
Truthfully, I’m not ‘inspired’ by one or a select handful of artists. The art I like to consume is not what informs my work. I think it’s more about paying as much attention as you can to your mind. Being open to new art forms, new experiences and new ideas, just the experience alone. Allowing yourself to be enriched is part of it, but the absence of a direct traceable line to a resulting idea is important – I think that is what creates space in your brain for original ideas to form.
“We believe there’s no right way to be inspired. The polished can also be irreverent; the beautiful can also be strange and unexpected; the stripped-back can also be a blank canvas.”
You also sell nail polish, how did this come about? I find it interesting that a jewellery brand would venture into that, but when you think about it, they are the perfect pairing – rings and a good manicure. How did you get this idea, and what inspired you to create a whole line of nail polish?
Fine jewellery is not ‘affordable,’ and it feels important to acknowledge this. It’s something people should deeply consider, save for, and cherish forever. Money well spent I say, but it’s not something you just shop for like clothing. I wanted to add something to the JH oeuvre that was priced more accessible and could be offered to a wider audience.
I thought of nail polish because I’m a former nail biter, and a coat of polish helped so much to curb that impulse. Only problem for me was that the colours on the market did not feel like the nuanced shades I was looking for. I wanted to bring those colours to others who felt the same way. Nail polish became the choice because it felt holistically related to jewellery. Adorning the whole hand.
Your nail polishes are non-toxic, cruelty-free and made in the USA. We have seen a huge shift in the world right now, focusing on sustainability and ethically conscious lines of fashion and beauty. It’s nice to see another brand in the industry leading the way for a more sustainable future. Was this always the plan for you? How do you see the future of the jewellery and beauty industries in the years to come?
It’s interesting you bring up this ‘huge shift’ because it’s absolutely true that most companies have caught on to how much consumers care about sustainability. Unfortunately, we’re living in late-stage capitalism, and for-profit businesses really take advantage of this as a marketing technique. Fashion, let’s remember, is inherently unsustainable.
Sustainability is not something you can achieve, it’s a process that requires continual assessments, revisions, and the willingness to be completely transparent. We try very hard to combat the rampant green-washing of the fashion/design world with transparency as our main tool. The hope is that we can offer a small amount of education here by showing the deep thinking that goes into each J. Hannah business decision.
We want our customers and followers to walk away able to question the business practices of other companies and expand the scope of responsibility there. Hopefully, real accountability will effect change, but it all starts with the questioning consumer. Our customers will see through such hollow branding maneuvers that have become the new normal.
Actually, let’s discuss one of your most exciting projects: you’re launching a nail polish collection with the MET Costume institute. Can you elaborate on the collaboration? How did this come to fruition, and what is the concept and inspiration behind the line?
The colour range is a slight departure from J. Hannah’s usual tones. Your general palette veers towards neutral hues. What is it about this collection that influenced you to create something different – a bit more glitz and glamour? What do these shades represent?
When the Met reached out to ask us to create a polish set for their shop inspired by the theme of their exhibit, “About Time”. This theme felt close to home, as it’s also one very ingrained in our brand ethos. We created a blurred timeline of fashion history in response, exploring the prompt with a toolkit of palettes, textures, and symbols.
Timelessness as a concept is something I’m truly fascinated by. Whether it be in art, fashion or design, it's interesting to look back and identify markers that feel equally both past and present at the same time.
For this collaboration I looked back at jewellery as both variable and constant, paying attention to the elements that evoked particular moments in time, and the elements that have been continuous. The 5 colours were informed by this thought process, as well as the black and white theme. Of course, I wanted to re-envision them through the J. Hannah lens – an ever so slightly ‘off-black’ and a white softened with additional toning. The gold and silver both have a larger foil suspended in a clear base, they are a sophisticated version of a sparkle for grownups, and can be layered to create different more playful effects.
J Hannah Metalmagazine 7.jpg
For me personally, when I have found myself searching for the perfect shade of polish, I always felt unsatisfied, or I would stick to that same colour I felt suited me – I had an idea or shade in my head, but I could never seem to find these colours sold anywhere or at any nail salon. When I first discovered J. Hannah, I was super excited, it felt like I finally found the perfect range of pastels, neutrals and ‘ugly cool’ shades, and I think many other people can relate to this feeling! Can you tell us a bit more about your nail polish, and what makes J. Hannah’s nail line and colour palettes unique to the rest of the market?
I think you’ve pretty much summed it up! A fire engine red would probably sell very well, but that doesn’t mean we’re interested in bringing that to market. Someone already has. We’re offering fringe colours that you won’t find elsewhere. Colours that are actually considerate of skin and wardrobe. I walk through life differently now that I’m constantly imagining every colour as something to reinterpret.
When we pick out a new shade, we dive into the world of that colour. It’s a great design exercise. As all other things J. Hannah, the polish collection is steeped in the history and art that precedes it. We’re paying homage to the artists who have employed these hues before us. This culture around colours informs its meaning, and for us, that’s important to share as supporting material.
We find the deepest inspiration in critical thinking, from both challenging familiar paths and open-mindedly going down new ones. We believe there’s no right way to be inspired. The polished can also be irreverent; the beautiful can also be strange and unexpected; the stripped-back can also be a blank canvas. In the stories we create and share, we strive to always offer substance and value to our community.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
We’re stepping into new product categories in a way that feels like an organic extension of the J. Hannah brand. As a small line, we embrace a wide range of brand concepts and the freedom that comes from writing our own rulebook. Tossing aside a rigid or static approach allows us to expand the JH world in a way that feels totally true to us. You can expect the release of something that is neither jewellery nor polish from us soon.
Our latest release, the Pivot ring, is bringing full circle my efforts to incorporate more kinetic elements in our jewellery. We’ll continue to experiment with jewellery as an inventive trinket but also as a grounding tool.
J Hannah Metalmagazine 8.jpg
J Hannah Metalmagazine 9.jpg
J Hannah Metalmagazine 10.jpg
J Hannah Metalmagazine 12.jpg
J Hannah Metalmagazine 6.jpg
J Hannah Metalmagazine 3.jpg
J Hannah Metalmagazine 4.jpg
J Hannah Metalmagazine 5.jpg
J Hannah Metalmagazine 16.jpg
J Hannah Metalmagazine 15.jpg