Claudia Kronfeld – Maker Of Meaningful Designs

Philadelphia-based designer Claudia Kronfeld had a robust corporate career working for fragrance houses, before building her own brand Claudia Mae Jewelry. She has already made a mark for herself as a reputable designer.

Claudia Kronfeld’s fine jewellery line, launched in 2020, is inspired by art, life, travel, animals and coloured gemstones. At 27, she is busy rediscovering herself. “This is the first time that I have dedicated myself to any creative pursuit and with minimal formal training in art and design,” says Claudia. “It has been an exciting but challenging chapter for me.”

Claudia Kronfeld

After graduating from New York University, she found herself working in sales for a fragrance house. Although the job had creative aspects, she craved for colour and design. “I sensed a void, as I spent my days behind a computer screen.” Not quite ready to switch careers, she was keen to find a creative outlet. Lunch hour escapes, meanwhile, often led to “window shopping the high-jewellery houses on Madison Avenue,” in New York City.

“It so happened that I was on a hunt for the perfect gold band to add to my ring stack.” Claudia sought to make it herself; in order to do that, she needed to find someone who could teach her the craft of jewellery. Mentorship came from David Benlolo, former Tiffany master jeweller. He took in a few students each year and held open studio sessions at his studio. “I am not sure that I would be where I am now if not for David – he gave us all the creative freedom to explore.”

The first piece that Claudia made would later become her signature Nomad ring: it took her nearly six months to make the piece, carving it out of wax before casting it into silver and finishing it in gold. “I learned my bench jewellery skills from David as well as Studio Jewelers Ltd., a licensed NYC trade school,” she adds.

Turquoise Nomad hoops. By Claudia Mae Jewelry

When she received a bonus cheque of $8,000, she put it to good use: she made a few jewels. Five Nomad rings – one skinny, three classics and one chunky – all set with varied gems. She posted the photos on her Instagram account and her business took off.

Claudia spent the next two years growing her brand and juggling her day job. “I kept it a secret from my bosses and coworkers, running to the diamond district before and after work to manage my production,” she recalls.

During one such lunch break, she took an appointment on 47th street and ended up selling a $30,000 custom ring. She realised her designs had potential. “I set a sales goal and invested my energy into the business,” says Claudia, who quit her corporate job at the end of 2021.

She manages her production, while learning new techniques and ways of manufacturing. “I have weekly meetings with my jewellers where we tackle new issues together. The workshops I work with in Philadelphia and NYC source recycled gold for me.” Various pieces are made in different workshops with each having its own specialties. “Both workshops have great respect for small scale, ethically made fine jewellery,” Claudia adds.

The Nomad skinny ring is set with princess cut and round diamonds. By Claudia Mae Jewelry

All her pieces are made using metal casting, an ancient technique. The moulds of the original studio versions ensure that each time a piece is made, it translates into a replica of the original hand-carved or metal cut designs for her Fauna collection.

A big part of Claudia’s work involves custom resetting, where she reimagines heirloom pieces into modern and wearable styles. “I am constantly inspired by the idea of jewellery as something that tells a story. Meaningful designs surpass jewellery trends – personal stories never go out of fashion,” she explains. Birthstone beads and custom beads with hand engraved dates and messages make that possible, as seen in her newest drop, Story Beads, centering on sentimental pieces. She uses burnishing setting, an antique gem setting style, in her creations. “It keeps the designs timeless.”

The small Story Beads range from $800-$1,280, and the medium and large pieces are $2,400 and upwards.

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