We spoke to Reut Ringel, an innovative and modernist jewelry designer who’s use of black gold and Baroque pearls turned out to be just what the jewelry industry was missing. She talks us through the beginnings of her line Reut New York, what it means to be a small business owner, and her discovery of her now patent pending 18K black gold formula.
I was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and immigrated to the United States as a child. I knew it was New York or nowhere for university -- I was a musician all my life and began to pursue a music degree at The New School before finding out about the Strategic Design & Management program at Parsons. Transferring to Parsons was one of the best decisions of my life – the program was extremely eye opening and covered a variety of design thinking coursework from branding to UX design, sustainability to product lifecycle. Every semester I changed my mind about what I wanted to pursue as a career. I was interning in fashion during every semester, but my first job after graduation was at OXO, a housewares product design and manufacturing company that I was drawn to due to their focus on inclusive and ergonomic design.
The formation of the idea was made up of many small signs and steps. I told myself I would only pursue designing a collection if it truly was something never seen before, especially in the fashion industry, where there is an overwhelmingly saturated market. I began noticing the fine jewelry market was very limited in color variation; everything consisted of shades of white, rose, and yellow gold. And after being in New York for many years, to me black was obviously the missing color. Black is strong, mysterious, deep – it is a powerful color but the challenge was to balance its strength with designs of an organic nature to keep them feeling airy, so I began hand molding the pieces in wax for an imperfectly perfect look. I am influenced by duality, both in design and material composition. Even the balance of my own identity influences my work, my birthplace of Tel Aviv and my chosen home of New York City. My designs play with contrasting elements: nature made & human made, hard & soft, and light & dark.
Once I realized that black gold was missing from the market, I began researching what does exist; rhodium and ruthenium platings that darken metal to gunmetal shades and wear off very quickly. I wanted to amplify the pigmentation and the overall quality and longevity of the piece, so I began looking into what technologies existed outside of fashion/jewelry in spaces like aerospace and automotive. After three years of development, I have a patent-pending formula for the exclusive 18k Black Gold used today. My mission has always been to create not only something beautiful, but something innovative that is made to last and makes an impact. I focus on adopting and improving upon sustainable manufacturing and sourcing methods, and empowering the community around the brand – manufacturing locally, ensuring that the brand represents New York both in our client-facing side (model diversity) and our back-end (team diversity), and pushing the boundaries of one of the most historically traditional art forms the way a New York brand should.
To me, being a small business owner is incredibly empowering because I get to directly choose who I want to partner with across my supply chain for a mutually beneficial relationship. The large majority of our suppliers are small, family-owned businesses. When you invest in a piece of jewelry, you may not be aware of the life it has lived along its journey to you, and I do want to begin documenting more of this when it is safe to do so. I hope the collection and mission resonates with people, and that they would feel inspired to share the designs with a friend, follow the brand, or invest into their favorite piece.
Every single day is different, which is exactly the entrepreneurial challenge I always dreamed of. On a single day, I can be: managing production calls and visits between suppliers, calls with IP lawyers, emailing our lookbook to buyers, tweaking the website backend, posting on the brand’s Instagram, building applications for accelerator programs, packing up samples to send to photoshoots, and dedicating some time to continue designing the next collection.
Pre COVID-19, I would say “travel” since my favorite feeling in the world is getting “lost” somewhere new, where the surroundings, language, and flavors are all a new discovery. Travel is a way to step outside of yourself and your day-to-day life, experience how others live, and I always return feeling more energized and inspired than ever. I live in beautiful Queens, New York, so I am lucky in that I don’t need to go very far physically to feel completely immersed in a different culture. During quarantine, this can be similarly achieved indoors by playing an album that takes you elsewhere mentally or emotionally (Habib Koité, Césaria Evora, Idan Raichel), trying out a new recipe with a new spice you haven’t used before, awarding yourself the free time to learn a new craft or skill you have always kept in the back of your mind.
I sincerely wish I was a morning person, but I feel so much more creative and productive at night, but the business world runs differently! To help keep my mornings in check, I start by drinking water and washing my face, then a short mat workout or stretch, and then a coffee -- all the little tricks to get your mind and body going.
One of the toughest challenges for me as an entrepreneur is the commitment to stop working for the day, since there is always more to be done and you are essentially always “on”. I find that making a list at the end of the workday helps alleviate my mind from the “to-do’s” of tomorrow so I can better enjoy the present. Going for a long walk in my neighborhood, putting on a podcast (How I Built This, Business of Fashion, reruns of Another Round), cooking or baking are some of my favorite self care activities.
There is a lot in the works! I cannot say too much right now, but I can promise that black gold is just the beginning.
The Baroque Cocktail Ring was the very first piece I designed, it is so special to me as it set the tone for the entire collection thereafter. My thought process behind it was super simple -- to celebrate the natural, irregular shape of the baroque pearl. The pearl is truly the focal point, and since each Baroque pearl is unique, each ring is truly one of a kind.