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James Banks Builds its Jewelry Niche

The fine jewelry label is a 50-50 collaboration between actor-designer Adam Shulman and goldsmith Heidi Nahser Fink.

The fine jewelry label James Banks is a 50-50 collaboration between actor-designer Adam Shulman and goldsmith Heidi Nahser Fink, but Shulman attributes almost all of the inspiration to his wife, Anne Hathaway.

“You give me too much credit,” the actress demurred gently during a recent visit to Forty Five Ten in Dallas.

But she couldn’t stop Shulman from describing how she introduced him to his business partner, persuaded him to start the label about three years ago and suggested he name it for his grandfather, who also created custom jewelry for his wife.

“She designed a piece for me with Heidi for our first Christmas together, which was amazing, and then I wanted to design something for her,” Shulman explained. “So I collaborated with Heidi, and then people were saying to Annie, ‘You should sell these; I want to buy them,’ so she convinced me to start a line.”

Hathaway met Nahser Fink on the set of “Alice in Wonderland.”

“She designed a lot of the pieces for Helena [Bonham Carter’s] character, like the crowns that we would wear,” she explained.

Hathaway also kindled the idea for the line’s signature piece, the Lightkeeper, a borosilicate glass and 18-karat gold bulb pendant that encapsulates tiny diamonds, rubies and charms. It sparked when Hathaway was headed off to a movie set after a period of vacation and nesting with Shulman.

“I said, ‘I’m just scared to go because I feel like I found my light, and I’m afraid that if I’m away from all this, I’m going to lose it,’” Hathaway said.

Shulman became obsessed with Edison bulbs, studying them in every place he saw them before designing the elongated lamp with a removable cap. Some feature pavé diamond or thin gold filaments.

“The idea is you add stones or charms, and each stone is meant to represent a light in your life — a moment or a person, so you can look at it and it’s close to your heart,” he explained. “I like building narratives around it and for the person who wears it to be able to build their own narrative.”

The tender tale and Shulman’s unassuming persona have spurred sales of the necklace at Forty Five Ten, where the designer met clients over lunch in September, noted Brian Bolke, co-owner of Forty Five Ten.

“He is the cutest, nicest person, and the women loved him, and they loved that [the Lightkeeper] could be customized,” Bolke said. “We’ve been selling it consistently since then. It has a very artisan-craft feeling to it that people really respond to. Whenever people are wearing it, they tell the story and that person says, ‘I want to get one for my daughter’ or whomever, so it’s been great word of mouth.”

James Banks also features monocles that encase tiny faceted jewels and charms, one of which Hathaway wore to the party at Forty Five Ten, plus star motifs and articulated butterflies based on real insects.

Most James Banks pieces retail for $1,500 to $3,000, but the range is $300 to $6,000, depending on the materials.

“My partner Heidi makes everything,” Shulman noted. “The butterflies are mixed metals, and each is cut out and inlaid, so it takes a long time to make. We use a 15th-century technique that they use in Japanese sword making where they use alloys and different chemicals to change the color. We’re working on blue.”