At first, Rick Van Streain Low thought it was a spam email. Low, who with Malu Byrne is the founder of the jewelry line En Studio, says that he was stunned but thrilled when Saks Fifth Avenue asked the pair to send over their creations. “It was very Dickensian,” Low explains. “Somebody saw our Instagram and showed it to someone else… we still don’t know who!”
It’s the kind of serendipity that young designers dream of. Low and Byrne, who work from an atelier in Catskill, New York, design things like necklaces that balance a rock crystal and a silver knot, and zebra stone earrings that close with the company’s trademark spear. “This is the largest order we have ever produced,” Byrne says. “We were overwhelmed and excited, but it was a nice challenge.”
Their jewelry is wearable and modern (but what contemporary jewelry does not claim that these days?) and features only conflict-free diamonds and fair-mined gold. The work is distinguished by distinct, sometimes borderline-whimsical touches: an artfully carved rock quartz pinkie ring is enhanced with tiny starry diamonds. (Full disclosure: I own this. It is magical.)
For Saks, they have made special pieces, among them a diamond ear-cuff, an ambitious piece that employs gold and Carrera marble, and an earring with hidden diamonds and Tahitian pearls.
Saks wanted the collection in time for the holidays, which meant Low and Byrne had to work night and day, seven days a week, since they make everything themselves (except for a diamond setter in Manhattan responsible for those secret diamonds the two love.)
The pair met as students at Pratt and began collaborating; they founded En Studio in 2019. Low describes their aesthetic trajectory as “a slow burn…We just started making things and kept them close.” But when close friends wore the jewelry, other people began admiring the pieces, and eventually a personal passion became a full-blown business.
Saks if their first major account, and the order was timed for a season that Low believes is “more optimistic and brighter—everyone wants to celebrate! Last year was more of a leap year.” And if he is right, and we are leaping into a hopeful new future, why not mark the jump with a lapis lariat or an earbob whose diamond is known only to you?