Barneys New York

A Chat With Jewelry Designer LINDA LEE JOHNSON

One look at Linda Lee Johnson‘s fine jewelry collection, and you’ll surely swoon. From platinum and diamond danglers to delicate gold rings and necklaces, her exquisite baubles have captured the eyes (and necks, ears and wrists) of many uptown and downtown dwellers.

Before Linda Lee began crafting the kind of jewelry you might find in a carefully culled treasure chest, she was working as an actor on stage. Yet her drive and passion for jewelry design couldn’t keep her away from her current labor of love. (And we’re happy it didn’t.)

Below, we chat with the actress-turned-jewelry designer about her favorite materials, the inspiration behind her exclusive collection and honeycombs. Yes, honeycombs.

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When did you start designing jewelry? 
It was 1985. I had worked 380 consecutive days and nights onstage as an actor. I was in a fever to make a chain for myself. When I had a moment, I went to the New York City Studio Jewelers to study. Within two years, many of my pieces were in the MoMA Design Store. For their catalogue, I designed and made their first annual Christmas ornament. Tiffany & Co. was concurrently selling my gold and platinum rings. My acting career was put aside. Two years after that, Barneys New York opened their doors to me!

How do you start your design process?
Post-its. Little jots of sketches, which I translate into wax. I am a sculptor, and revealing the third dimension through my carving gives a very personal and sometimes surprising character to the work. When fabricating, I work directly in the metal, first making a prototype to iron out problems, then keep refining it with each subsequent piece.

Who is the Linda Lee Johnson girl?
Every girl and every guy that might want one of my Athena rings. Or several.

You work with a lot of diamonds, gold, platinum, silver and bronze. What do you look for in a material?
I like my material to be as close to its pure state as possible. I feel that integrity brings 
chakra. They reflect light; they bring light.

What inspires you?
Celebration of life in all forms; the ancient world; my dream world.

What do you look for when it comes to jewelry?
I don’t look at other work with the same criteria as I do for my own. In my own, I strive for sensuality, imaginative interpretation, spiritual intention and wit.

What’s the one piece you can’t live without?
A handcarved, solid metal bangle bracelet.

What is your mantra when it comes to jewelry?
I never take it off.

Any favorite pieces?
Today, my favorites are the honeycomb pendant and earrings. The bee has been my registered trademark for twenty years, so a honeycomb is near and dear to my heart.

1. Platinum & diamond honeycomb pendant necklace; 2. Platinum & diamond Sybil ring; 3. Gold & diamond constellation earrings; 4. Diamond tear in the cloud necklace; 5. Diamond honeycomb earrings; 6. Diamond Isabel link necklace; 7. Diamond Casino ring

Shop the entire Linda Lee Johnson collection at Barneys.com.

Image courtesy of Linda Lee Johnson.

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