Mona Assemi has experienced a recent surge of interest in her brand thanks to many high-profile celebrities — including Beyoncé and Serena Williams — wearing her sculptural jewelry pieces. But she’s been a fixture in the industry for the last 15 years.
The Iranian American jewelry designer started her design career in Washington, D.C., after leaving her job at Morgan Stanley as a financial adviser. Wanting a more creative outlet, Assemi joined boutique chain Urban Chic as an assistant buyer and personal shopper where she met with various designers and got interested in jewelry design. She started making jewelry as gifts for her clients and friends.
“I have always loved the art of design and tangibly making something with your own hands,” she said. “Being able to see the finished product worn by someone and seeing firsthand the joy that it brought them.”
It was after Assemi ran into one of her clients, an ambassador’s wife, on the street wearing a necklace she had previously gifted her that she felt the confidence to push ahead with her own jewelry brand. Assemi started selling her pieces at the boutique she worked at in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, and because of the pieces’ popularity, her namesake jewelry line expanded to other boutiques nationwide, ultimately entering 350 locations. Her pieces have been available at Henri Bendel and Harrods and her flagship boutique is located at the James Hotel in NoMad. She is also currently working with the Gansevoort Hotels.
Assemi’s design aesthetic combines her love of art and architecture with her Persian heritage. Her gold, sculptural pieces have taken inspiration from buildings in New York City — where she is currently based — sculptor Alexander Calder’s terrazzo sidewalks on Madison Avenue and artist Joey Nicotera’s lighting designs. She’s also found inspiration in her many trips to Iran.
“I saw all different jewels from the Shah Era and there’s beautiful museums that display it all,” she said. “Even the scents and smells and the things you walk by and older women who are wearing antique jewels. Some of the jewelry my mom’s family wears is super old and it’s always given me ideas.”
Assemi’s designs have slowly caught the eyes of major celebrities, including Solange Knowles, Jessica Alba, Katie Holmes, Rita Ora and others who have worn her pieces over the years. One of her most prominent celebrity fans is Beyoncé, whose styling team chose a pair of the designer’s sculptural gold earrings for the singer to wear during her “Brown Skin Girl” music video, which debuted in the her visual album, “Black Is King” last August.
“It’s given me, more than anything, a sense of validation,” Assemi said. “I think a lot of creatives seek that kind of thing because we’re always questioning our work. To have someone like her, who is the queen, to wear it was a big deal for me. I was utterly shocked and I think I called everyone crying.”
Beyoncé has also worn Assemi’s pieces in several of her Ivy Park campaigns, including her recent Ivy Park Rodeo collection. Tennis champion Serena Williams also wore a pair of Assemi’s gold earrings in the Stuart Weitzman spring 2021 campaign.
Assemi is working on her next two collections, one inspired by a building on East 22nd Street designed by architectural firm OMA and another inspired by her own high school doodles, which she recently rediscovered on a visit home.
“I tend to see the world in jewelry,” she said. “You never know when you’re going to catch a bit of inspiration. It’s so fleeting, so you have to really keep your eyes open and live in the moment.”
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