Ciara McKenna and Kim Knowles Launch Cold Lilies
Looking for an online destination to shop precious jewelry? Let us introduce you to Cold Lilies, a coterie of the finest jewelry designers from across Europe who create limited edition collections for the platform. To get the lowdown on the company, we chatted with Cold Lilies’ founders Ciara McKenna and Kim Knowles.
How did the two of you meet?
Ciara McKenna: Kim and I met studying international commerce and languages in Dublin. After graduation, I went on to travel the world as a human rights advocate and then attorney. In the meantime, Kim went into finance in London; however, a similar love for travel and outdoor pursuits beckoned her to Far East and Australia, before finally settling back in Dublin as a management consultant. Although we had not lived in the same country for 10 years, we remained close friends. My dad is in retail and I had always harbored ambitions to start my own company but had been putting it off until the right time. That time was 2012 and, fortunately, Kim was also up for the challenge!
How did Cold Lilies get started?
Kim Knowles: The inspiration came from our years of traveling, browsing marketplaces and boutiques, and collecting eclectic and unique pieces of jewelry. We just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could open a window into the ateliers of the Marais, Paris or the studios of Hatton Gardens, London, and shop your discoveries from home?’ We’ve designed the site for women who want to do exactly that. We have video content on every page so you have an intimate experience of the jewelry design process even if you’re sitting at your laptop in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.
What types of jewelry does your website sell?
Ciara: Our focus is fine jewelry, which contains a combination of precious metals, precious or semi-precious gemstones, and high-fashion jewelry, which contains innovation in design, material or technique. The jewelry industry is dominated by mass luxury jewelry at one end and mass manufactured jewelry at the other, however, we’re pioneering a return to real luxury—limited edition, high quality, beautifully designed and made pieces— for women who want something different.
How many designers do you feature, and where did you discover them?
Kim: We currently have 40 of the finest independent jewelry designers from across the UK and Ireland. All of our designers combine true craftsmanship—with degrees from prestigious colleges like Central Saint Martins or Goldsmiths, London—and a contemporary eye. We only take on additional designers if they bring a unique aesthetic with them. Once on board, we work with them to curate a final collection for our Cold Lilies customers, and I think the result is really special.
What’s the price point of the jewels?
Kim: Our price points range from $55 for a Loulou Grenelle Stacking Bracelet to just over $3,700 for a pair of Oriental Statement Earrings in White Diamonds by Assya London. For us, the value lies in the exclusivity of each piece. As they are all bench made, no two pieces are the same.
What are your most popular items?
Ciara: We’ve already had some amazing traction among influencers in Europe, and it seems the alternative pearl earring is in! Londoner Louisa Lau loves the modern simplicity of Ayako Kanari’s Borrowing Her Pearls earrings, and Laura Lee’s Freshwater Pearl Thread-Through Earrings flew off the site after Jessie Bush of We the People featured them in her Parisian jewelry edit.
How did you come up with the name of your company?
Kim: The name Cold Lilies derives from a poem by the Irish romantic poet W.B. Yeats titled ‘He Remembers Forgotten Beauty,’ and in particular, the line, “The dew-cold lilies ladies bore.” These verses really evoke what Cold Lilies, the brand, is about: personal expression and uniqueness, as well as a return to high craftsmanship. Poetry and the spoken word is now integral to the content on coldlilies.com.
Ciara, what are you loving most about the jewelry industry right now?
Ciara: I love a modern twist on the traditional, like the signet ring, which dates back to ancient Egypt and, until recently, was more likely to be adorned by schoolboys than style mavens. Fast forward to today, Myia Bonner has turned her precise eye to the facet signet, initialed in her signature geometric style, while Jessica De Lotz’s personalized seals hide the the artifacts of a 1940s love affair. Not forgetting Kirsten Goss’ lucky stackable signet for pinky finger perfection.
What’s next for Cold Lilies?
Kim: The number of designers listed on the site is set to double by the beginning of next year and will include new designers from France, Denmark, and Italy. From our New York base, we plan to be the number one online destination for fine and high fashion jewelry globally!