Newcomer Jen Insardi uses wax carving to produce the undulating gold forms of her award-winning JV Insardi collection.
She only debuted her JV Insardi jewelry line earlier this year, but Jen Insardi has already earned one of the industry’s most distinguished emerging-design awards. Insardi was named the recipient of the 2022 Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year Award at the summer JA New York show, an honor she still savors.
“Winning the award was validation that I am headed in the right direction,” says the designer, who splits her time between New York and Nashville, Tennessee. It’s also been a plus for her fledgling business, garnering much-needed exposure to buyers and press, as well as to other makers. “Prestigious manufacturers and vendors have reached out wanting to partner and help in bringing my company to the next level.”
Her signature style is all about undulating forms in bold silhouettes of 18-karat gold with minimal gemstones. Common motifs are yin-yang and guitar-pick shapes that make use of negative space. To her, the patterns represent balance. “Many of my jewels exude an organic, sculptural visual experience,” she explains. “I design by hand-carving the pieces out of wax myself, which offers the ability to design at a more intimate level.”
In her genes
Insardi studied media communications at New York’s Fordham University as an undergraduate, thinking she would go into advertising. Her passion was design, but her dad urged her to pursue a more secure path, fearing she would fall into the “starving artist” category. Even so, she couldn’t resist returning to school, this time earning an associate’s degree from the city’s Parson’s School of Design. Afterward, she nabbed a designer spot at a prestigious shoe firm, honing her skills further. She also explored interior design a bit through a side hustle as a house flipper.
Eventually, she shifted gears to fine jewelry, where she was drawn to “the ability to keep building onto your collection rather than introducing an entirely new one each season,” she says.
But there was another reason Insardi yearned to pursue design, and it was baked into her DNA: the carving skills she’d inherited from her father. He was a dentist by profession, but that was not his first choice; he, too, had wanted to pursue an artistic path and been deterred by his parents. Still, he couldn’t suppress his skills and talent, and would even carve his patients’ teeth on request.
“He once carved an owl into someone’s tooth,” relates Insardi. “People came from abroad to see him.”
So Insardi took wax carving classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology to strengthen her genetic gifts. Today, she sketches and sometimes paints new styles before fleshing out ideas completely in wax. “The wax brings the design to life in a way the paper does not offer, and often when I begin carving, I make several adjustments to the design from when I originally began sketching,” she says. Fittingly, she uses some dental tools in the process.
The judges agree
Insardi will continue to refine her line, though she already has fans. Pieces are for sale at online marketplace 1stdibs, and she’s also exhibiting at the February 2023 edition of the Metal + Smith
“Her bold designs are hard to forget,” says her brand manager, Olivia Lucas, remarking that Insardi’s passion for architecture and movement is easy to see.
Early feedback from consumers indicates the collection’s promising future. As Lucas and her team prepare for a series of consumer-focused holiday pop-up shops in New York, images of JV Insardi pieces in promotions are already sparking interest.
“Our social media manager has received inquiries for more background on the collection,” Lucas adds. “I think it’s a line people notice as smart and well-appointed.”
One of the Mort Abelson judges was Benjamin Guttery of Instagram account @thirdcoastgems. He found her offerings cohesive, with a clear sculptural feel and heirloom quality.
“Every angle was thought of, and there was a heft to the jewelry,” he observes.
Guttery also admired Insardi’s finishes — somewhere between brushed and sandblasted — and saw potential for custom chain links featuring her repeating motifs. “There is a lot of room for growth,” he says.
Meanwhile, Insardi aims to add colored gemstones to her currently muted color palette, but in a way that still lets the setting dominate. She often sees designers setting gemstones as focal points of pieces, paying little attention to the metalwork. For JV Insardi, the stones are secondary, and the sculptural essence of the gold “is the star of the show,” she says.
Image: JV Insardi