Kimberly Berry Haisch
KIMBERLY BERRY HAISCH, KBH JEWELS
CATEGORY: CLEAN LUXURY
TITLE: FOUNDER, KBH JEWELS
While the sustainability conversation has been moving forward in fashion, the jewelry industry has been slower to catch on with the same momentum. Kimberly Berry Haisch, the founder of the new jewelry brand, KBH Jewels, saw an opportunity to create a new era of sustainable fine jewelry - that fused modern luxury with environmentally safe practices. Today, using lab grown diamonds instead of mined diamonds, as well as 100% recycled gold, KBH Jewels is setting a new standard for the jewelry industry and beyond.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND. HOW HAS YOUR PREVIOUS CAREER EXPERIENCE SHAPED WHAT YOU’RE DOING TODAY WITH KBH JEWELS?
I often think about all the different facets of my life that brought me to this spot. My mother has had a long term love affair with diamonds and the industry and my father had a career in finance but was a buyer in a fashion store while he was putting himself through school. After college, I followed in my father’s footsteps and went into finance but it was short-lived because it wasn’t where my heart was. I eventually made my way to Bobbi Brown Cosmetics to help oversee the international markets and launch the brand in various countries. It gave me great exposure, while working under strong and influential business women. These women were supporting each other and doing what they loved, all while building businesses, brands, and raising families.
After I had my own family, I started to think about what my legacy would be. I was spending time with my mom resetting jewelry on 46th and 47th streets in Manhattan and going to shows, when I was reintroduced to lab diamonds. I didn’t understand why this sustainable option for real diamonds wasn’t more widely known or available, especially in the pieces that I wanted to wear everyday and eventually pass onto my kids. That is when KBH Jewels was born.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO LAUNCH A JEWELRY COMPANY, FROM BOTH AN EMOTIONAL, AND BUSINESS STANDPOINT?
Being home with my three kids (ages 4, 6 and 8) and around my mom more often, I really started to remember all the lessons she taught me when I was young. In our campaign, I mention the story of wanting to be a cheerleader. When I asked my mom at the age of 5, she said, “No.” I didn’t understand but then she continued, “You’re going to be on the field and they are going to cheer for you.” This wasn’t about cheerleading; it was about traditional gender roles and getting in the game. She didn’t want me sitting on the sidelines of an opportunity, she wanted me to be in it because she wasn’t always given that chance. I was young but I understood that. This made me think about what I was saying that my kids were going to remember. What lessons was I teaching them? What was going to be my legacy?
Lab diamonds are physically, chemically, and optically identical to mined diamonds; the only difference is the point of origin. This means that you don’t have to irreversibly damage the earth and I didn’t understand why this option wasn’t more readily available. We also wanted to take it further. We didn’t just want a company with lab diamonds and call that sustainable because the only clean gold out there is recycled gold. Everything we do from product to packaging is sourced from ethical, sustainable, and reclaimed methods. Every choice is a conscious choice. There was a hole in the market for our consumer who believes that sustainable materials and modern luxury are one in the same.
“Lab diamonds are physically, chemically, and optically identical to mined diamonds; the only difference is the point of origin. This means that you don’t have to irreversibly damage the earth and I didn’t understand why this option wasn’t more readily available.”
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CULTIVATED, ‘LAB GROWN’ DIAMONDS VS. THE HISTORICALLY USED MINED DIAMONDS?
Point of origin. Mining for diamonds creates irreversible environmental damage. A recent Forbes article wrote about the changes the FTC made to their jewelry guides, in regards to defining lab diamonds. They stated, “A diamond is a diamond no matter whether it is grown in a lab or comes out of the ground.” The FTC based this decision solely on scientific facts, not the mined diamond industry lobby. It is now possible to create products that have the same chemical, optical, and physical properties as mined diamonds.
YOU HOPE TO PASS THIS NEW STANDARD OF LUXURY ON TO THE NEXT GENERATION AND BEYOND. HOW HAS FAMILY PLAYED A ROLE IN THE CREATION OF KBH JEWELS? AND DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR KEEPING FAMILY AT THE CENTER OF WHAT YOU DO?
Family and tradition are at the heart of everything we do. Two key ideas that we founded the brand on were the Latin roots for tradition and sustainability. “Traditio” means to “pass on for safekeeping” and “sustinere” means “to endure.” To us, those two things mean the same thing. The women that we know are always doing their best today to give the people they love a better tomorrow - and that’s what we are trying to do here.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE A WOMAN WILL FEEL WHEN SHE WEARS A KBH JEWELS PIECE?
I want everyone to feel like a badass; that they can do anything. We designed these pieces for the women in our life that are all things - strong and powerful, gentle and pretty. Dangerous, yet forgiving. Women are moms, daughters, sisters, wives, professionals, friends, protectors - we do it all. We want our jewelry to make these women feel even more empowered than they already are.
YOU TALK A LOT ABOUT WOMEN GETTING ‘IN THE GAME’. WHO INSPIRES YOU TO STAY ON THE PLAYING FIELD? WOMEN (AND MEN!)
Clearly my mother and father, husband and kids have always inspired me to want to give more today to make a better tomorrow. Being surrounded by a tribe of very strong women that always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself, gave me the courage to get in the game. I’ll never forget when I had a conversation about the line with my best friend from college, Katie, she said to me, “You better do this and you need to do it now!”
There are also brands out there that have inspired us. We do a lot of work with Stuller, who started doing in-house recycling of gold because it was the right thing to do. I liken that to Eileen Fisher, who was always looking for sustainable options in materials and fabrics because it mattered to her. These brands started to change the industry.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS THAT YOU COMMIT TO LIVE SUSTAINABLY IN YOUR EVERYDAY?
Something we say all the time is, “It’s not about being perfect, it’s about trying to do better.” Everything about this process has made me try harder and think more. The more you look, the more you see. It’s all about being conscious.
Personally, our family tries to eliminate all single-use plastics which isn’t easy and doesn’t always work. In addition to always using reusable shopping bags and water bottles, we also have tried to eliminate use of all ziploc bags and plastic straws. It’s about starting somewhere. I’ve been making one easy change and getting used to that and then trying another. I hope people will remember the impact one small change can make.
AND FINALLY, WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS TO PUTTING TOGETHER THE PERFECT JEWELRY “UNIFORM”? WHAT ARE YOUR MUST HAVE PIECES FOR DAILY WEAR?
You can typically find me from head-to-toe in the Short Bar earrings, a lariat necklace, at least one of our tennis bracelets, and a variety of our stackable rings - from the Traditio and Wonder Women, to the Reclaimed Classics and Wave Ring.
In general, I have a daily “uniform” that takes me from drop off to meetings and beyond. It’s about putting together the pieces that make you feel comfortable, beautiful, and strong. I’m also big on layering - life is short, wear your jewelry.
All images courtesy KBH Jewels