DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT
JEAN PROUNIS 

The Greek American 
jeweler preserves her 
unique heritage through 
captivatingly simple design.

By Tatiana Hambro 

DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT
JEAN PROUNIS 

The Greek American 
jeweler preserves her 
unique heritage through 
captivatingly simple design.

By Tatiana Hambro 

“Whether you are sixteen or over sixty, remember, understatement is the rule of a fine makeup artist.” Helena Rubinstein may have been talking about beauty, but the same applies to style. As skirts get shorter, shoulders bigger and jewelry more sparkly (haven’t you heard, the ‘80s are back?) a new voice is rising above the noise: meet Jean Prounis.

Counting Emily Bode (behind buzzy menswear brand Bode) and Lorod’s Lauren Rodriguez as close friends, Jean—who goes by “Jeanie”—belongs to a group of artistic New York designers adopting bygone techniques in order to create something with true lasting power. In the case of Prounis, it’s understated fine jewelry inspired by her Greek heritage, the hallmarks of which are facet-free cabochon stones and an ancient alloy of gold. “I think about how things were made back then and use those practices today,” she says, adding, “but on pieces that are very wearable.” It’s an aesthetic Vogue praised as “refreshingly down to earth” and one that’s all the more impressive when you learn she’s only 25 and her jewelry line is just a year old.

“Whether you are sixteen or over sixty, remember, understatement is the rule of a fine makeup artist.” Helena Rubinstein may have been talking about beauty, but the same applies to style. As skirts get shorter, shoulders bigger and jewelry more sparkly (haven’t you heard, the ‘80s are back?) a new voice is rising above the noise: meet Jean Prounis.

Counting Emily Bode (behind buzzy menswear brand Bode) and Lorod’s Lauren Rodriguez as close friends, Jean—who goes by “Jeanie”—belongs to a group of artistic New York designers adopting bygone techniques in order to create something with true lasting power. In the case of Prounis, it’s understated fine jewelry inspired by her Greek heritage, the hallmarks of which are facet-free cabochon stones and an ancient alloy of gold. “I think about how things were made back then and use those practices today,” she says, adding, “but on pieces that are very wearable.” It’s an aesthetic Vogue praised as “refreshingly down to earth” and one that’s all the more impressive when you learn she’s only 25 and her jewelry line is just a year old.

Speaking of impressive, Prounis is an actual goldsmith who works in her studio on 47th street. She makes everything meticulously by hand, from tiny granulated clasps to intricate chain links, and even alloys the metal herself. Recognizable by its butter-rich hue and matte finish, her 22-karat gold (a blend of pure silver, copper and recycled gold) replicates the composition of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts, such as those currently sitting inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Far softer than the 18-karat gold commonly used today, it gradually picks up marks and increased shine from oils in the skin. Prounis likens it to a wearable diary: “You can always tell when someone wears it every day” she says, pointing out gentle dents on her rings which reveal her “heavy-handed” nature.

Speaking of impressive, Prounis is an actual goldsmith who works in her studio on 47th street. She makes everything meticulously by hand, from tiny granulated clasps to intricate chain links, and even alloys the metal herself. Recognizable by its butter-rich hue and matte finish, her 22-karat gold (a blend of pure silver, copper and recycled gold) replicates the composition of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts, such as those currently sitting inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Far softer than the 18-karat gold commonly used today, it gradually picks up marks and increased shine from oils in the skin. Prounis likens it to a wearable diary: “You can always tell when someone wears it every day” she says, pointing out gentle dents on her rings which reveal her “heavy-handed” nature.

“The trained goldsmith makes everything meticulously by hand. She even alloys the metal herself.”

“The trained goldsmith makes everything meticulously by hand. She even alloys the metal herself.”

Such a personal and poetic approach to jewelry appeals to anyone who, like her, is obsessed with preserving the past. Her top floor West Village apartment is bursting with family memorabilia handed down over generations: bookshelves groan under the weight of hardbacks on ancient Greece and old photographs of her ancestors line the walls. Every object has a story. Around the ‘20s, Prounis’ great-grandparents emigrated to New York from Northern Greece and opened “The Versailles”, a glamorous cabaret club in midtown which played host to the city’s glitterati throughout the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. After it closed, her grandfather saved everything, from the china to the napkins and even the tiny matchbooks (which Prounis has since had replicated). 


“I design all of my jewelry with the intention of it being passed on from generation to generation."



His collection has provided a wealth of inspiration for his granddaughter. “I find the culture and history so rich,” she says, explaining how she incorporated the sage green color from the Versailles’ tablecloths into her branding. “I have to give my grandfather so many compliments for keeping the archive.” I ask her what he’d think of her pieces. “I think he would be really proud to know that his hard work has come to fruition.” It’s impossible not to agree.

Such a personal and poetic approach to jewelry appeals to anyone who, like her, is obsessed with preserving the past. Her top floor West Village apartment is bursting with family memorabilia handed down over generations: bookshelves groan under the weight of hardbacks on ancient Greece and old photographs of her ancestors line the walls. Every object has a story. Around the ‘20s, Prounis’ great-grandparents emigrated to New York from Northern Greece and opened “The Versailles”, a glamorous cabaret club in midtown which played host to the city’s glitterati throughout the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. After it closed, her grandfather saved everything, from the china to the napkins and even the tiny matchbooks (which Prounis has since had replicated). 


“I design all of my jewelry with the intention of it being passed on from generation to generation."



His collection has provided a wealth of inspiration for his granddaughter. “I find the culture and history so rich,” she says, explaining how she incorporated the sage green color from the Versailles’ tablecloths into her branding. “I have to give my grandfather so many compliments for keeping the archive.” I ask her what he’d think of her pieces. “I think he would be really proud to know that his hard work has come to fruition.” It’s impossible not to agree.

“You’d get all dressed up to go to The Versailles: gowns, hats, jewels… it was absolute glamour. I still have all the plates, menus and napkins—everything was so well made back then. I use the Versailles' sage green palette for my branding and packaging in homage to my great-grandparents.”

“You’d get all dressed up to go to The Versailles: gowns, hats, jewels… it was absolute glamour. I still have all the plates, menus and napkins—everything was so well made back then. I use the Versailles' sage green palette for my branding and packaging in homage to my great-grandparents.”

“I see a lot of brides-to-be in search of something understated. One man came in last week after his girlfriend sent him a link saying “she doesn’t want anything sparkly.” Right now, we’re working on incorporating a small diamond into a gold piece.”

“I see a lot of brides-to-be in search of something understated. One man came in last week after his girlfriend sent him a link saying “she doesn’t want anything sparkly.” Right now, we’re working on incorporating a small diamond into a gold piece.”

“Ancient goldsmithing is very meditative, especially the repetitive process of making a chain. Each individual link is made by hand, woven together, and fit into hand fabricated end-caps ornamented with fine granulation. What I love about handmade chains are the little irregularities… each link twinkles a little differently.”

“Ancient goldsmithing is very meditative, especially the repetitive process of making a chain. Each individual link is made by hand, woven together, and fit into hand fabricated end-caps ornamented with fine granulation. What I love about handmade chains are the little irregularities… each link twinkles a little differently.”

“I work with natural, untreated, unheated stones. These South Sea pearls have a really beautiful, milky luster. Star sapphires (pictured here) are very durable and therefore safe to wear on a daily basis.”

“I work with natural, untreated, unheated stones. These South Sea pearls have a really beautiful, milky luster. Star sapphires (pictured here) are very durable and therefore safe to wear on a daily basis.”

“I love the smooth quietness of cabochons. Even if they’re huge, they’re very wearable. I rarely use a faceted stone. It all ties back to what artisans used during ancient Greco-Roman times—faceting came much later since it is a more technical process.”

“I love the smooth quietness of cabochons. Even if they’re huge, they’re very wearable. I rarely use a faceted stone. It all ties back to what artisans used during ancient Greco-Roman times—faceting came much later since it is a more technical process.”

“I buy responsibly-sourced stones from all over the world. These are Garnets from Germany, hand cut and polished there. They’re really exquisite. When I do use precious stones I do tend to go very high end. I designed this bracelet to bring out the individuality of each stone, even though they are alike in shape and tone.” 

“I buy responsibly-sourced stones from all over the world. These are Garnets from Germany, hand cut and polished there. They’re really exquisite. When I do use precious stones I do tend to go very high end. I designed this bracelet to bring out the individuality of each stone, even though they are alike in shape and tone.” 

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