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With a Roster of Famous Clients, Jeweler Kimberly McDonald Is a Real Rock Star

Michelle Obama’s preferred jewelry designer, Kimberly McDonald, talks gift-giving and the jewelry she wears nonstop…

The Artist: Kimberly McDonald’s jewelry is born from her long-standing love of natural wonders, the environment, and (of course) rocks. The North Carolina native grew up collecting agate and geodes, and now uses those types of organic shapes and minerals in her eponymous jewelry collection. Fans of her bold, earthy jewelry include First Lady Michelle Obama, who counts McDonald as one of her go-to accessory designers. Among her latest design projects is a home-decor and accessories collection, which debuted at Bergdorf Goodman in New York this spring.

One of my favorite pieces of jewelry … my charm necklace. It has a big geode, an agate, a vintage cross, and a little diamond Scorpio zodiac. I went through a phase where I wore it every day, sometimes adding things to it. One of my other favorite items is a pair of blue-gray geode stud earrings. They go with almost anything, so I wear them day in and day out.

My most sentimental piece of jewelry … a ring I inherited from my great-grandmother. She collected a bunch of super-sparkly, very-white diamonds, and apparently one day she went to her jeweler and poured them out and said, “I want them to look like Champagne bubbles.” I wear that ring from time to time, and I realize it is the first piece that I ever saw with random and irregularly set stones. They really do look like bubbles! I consider that piece the genesis of my design aesthetic.

I love to see women wearing my jewelry … when they’re connected to it and when they respond to the design. For example, Cameron Diaz rocks the natural stones well because she seems like a very authentic, natural girl. Melissa McCarthy is always fun because she’s so cool and genuine, and she likes the materials.

Every time First Lady Michelle Obama wears my jewelry … I am filled with pride. I know she has the ability to select anything in the world she wants. And I really respect and appreciate that she has chosen my work on several occasions. And it was wonderful meeting Mrs. Obama! She was very warm and very beautiful. She has a unique ability to make each person in the room feel very special.

My advice for someone looking to build his or her personal jewelry collection … First and foremost, I’d say buy what you love and what you’re going to wear. I’m not a fan of buying things that you’re afraid to wear and sticking them in a drawer. I think with fine jewelry in particular, it’s not just jewelry. In many cases, this is an heirloom, a piece of art.

The best piece of jewelry a man can give his partner … When I speak with my male clients there are a few prevailing sentiments: They love the one-of-a-kind natural materials, quality craftsmanship, and the highest grade of whatever material is being used in a piece. I think it’s very important to them that they are giving the person they love a one-of-a-kind piece that no one else has.

Materials inspiring me right now … Geode, opal, emerald, and agate are my top four materials. For me, the material has to be interesting and it has to be pretty. I don’t know that I’ll start working with other stones—unless something new is discovered on a moon expedition or a trip to Mars. (kimberlymcdonald.com)

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