Best known for its innovative, clean-lined furniture, the Brooklyn design firm Uhuru recently introduced an equally modern yet imperfectly earthy jewelry line. “I wanted to create timeless, thoughtful items that bring out the beauty in the materials and the process,” explains Uhuru designer Borah Betts, who worked alongside the brand’s creative director, MC Reuda, to create the jewelry collection. “I want people to know that they’re getting a meticulously handcrafted, one-of-a-kind piece that’s just as unique as they are.”
Designs include bold collar necklaces and carefully curved, statement-making “ear shield” earrings, as well as geometric rings, bracelets, and cuffs that provide a more subtle narrative. Each piece is handcrafted in the company’s Red Hook studio using 10-karat recycled gold, sometimes black diamonds, and the occasional tiny pebble sourced from the nearby waterfront. To achieve the prominent rough, natural texture for the pieces in the Boulder line, Betts placed thin sheets of gold on the surface of waterfront rocks and took a hammer to them. “I was working on these pieces in February when it was absolutely freezing,” she recalls. “I was down by the water with little pieces of metal just hammering away and slowly losing feeling in my extremities.” Eventually, she brought a few rocks back inside the heated studio to finish the project.
Inspiration for the collection’s finely striated Shard designs also came from a nearby source: the company’s own wood shop. Uhuru’s crafters use an ancient Japanese wood-preserving method called shou-sugi-ban, wherein the wood is charred, cleaned with a steel brush, and finished with a natural oil—a process that helps bring out the wood’s natural texture by burning away softer parts and leaving the harder grain. “I used this technique on a few pieces of scrap wood I found around the studio and made molds of those pieces, which I then got cast into precious metals,” says Betts, who used the metal castings to create pieces like the Shard Cuff (from $2,000) and Stacked Shard Ring (from $500). Each piece can take up to several weeks to complete, based on its complexity, but blunders are welcome. “Making mistakes during the design process is probably one of the most rewarding things about being a designer,” Betts says. “That moment when you realize that the mistake is more interesting than the rest of the piece you’ve spent so much time detailing and planning out is a pretty great and humbling feeling.” Uhuru jewelry ranges in price from $200 to $20,000.