Designers to Watch in 2023: Mason and Books

EditorsJan 05, 2023

Designers to Watch in 2023: Mason and Books

The colorful brand with a sweet sensibility is resonating with retailers, writes Senior Editor Ashley Davis.

Jamie Books founded Mason and Books in 2021 after more than a decade of designing for different jewelry and accessory brands.
Designer Jamie Books of Mason and Books was the first to point it out. 
Though not intentionally, the stores she is most excited to work with—June Simmons Jewelry, Pendleton Jewelry, Commonwealth Marin—are mainly helmed by women, and mothers of young children at that. 
For Books, a mom of two whose line is a nod to her daughter’s middle name, this lends a sense of camaraderie. 
“It’s super-cool to see my generation of women who are now coming into their own,” she said. “We’re all sort of doing it together and holding each other’s hands as we’re doing it.”
Likewise, the five designers I’ve chosen as designers to watch in 2023 happen to be women who are mothers. 
Stylistically, their collections align and diverge at points, as their interpretations of nostalgia and futurism, elegance and camp, differ. 
But there’s a similarity to their collective creating blooming, achieved after years in the workforce and in the midst of the most hands-on early childhood parenting years, in what can only be described as a period of both professional and personal maturation. 
“I think where I am in my life, my work is my third child,” Books explained. “If I’m working, I have to love it and I have to love who I’m doing it with because if I’m doing this I’m not with my family.”
The influences of this life stage, as with many of her contemporaries, are tied to Books’ artistic inspiration for Mason and Books, with the collection comprised of unabashedly sweet and childlike motifs such as hearts, bows and what Books has dubbed her “Love Bugs,” which are vaguely ladybug shaped.
Designer Jamie Books
Designer Jamie Books
Pastel-hued gems like pink and purple opal, chalcedony, and chrysoprase pop up again and again in Mason and Books signature pieces.
Books’ love for jewelry started in her own childhood. 
In our conversation, the designer recalled interviewing for a Bulgari internship at age 16 wearing wire-wrapped beaded jewelry she crafted and announcing herself as a budding jewelry design talent. 
The New York City native pursued finance in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison—with visions of being “the girl with the shortest skirt on Wall Street, kicking ass”—but still found time to sell her work at local stores. 
After her first New York City investment firm internship, she realized the finance world wasn’t for her, and went on to work for jewelry and accessories brands Julie Baker, Kara Ross, and Hayward in jewelry and handbag design. 
After the birth of her second child, she launched her own design consulting firm before finally creating her brand. 
I talked to Books about designing for herself, her passion for gemstones, and the community she feels among women in jewelry.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Ashley Davis: What has it been like to work for yourself after designing for other people?
Jamie Books: It’s terrifying (laughs). I always said I never would have my own brand and here I am. It’s been my greatest joy. 
I’m so proud that, finally, I never have to ask if I can make something. I never have to tweak a design or change it to someone else’s aesthetic or someone else’s brand.
I really just do exactly what I want, whether it be a weird color way or a very simplistic mixed-media piece.  
It’s been a whirlwind year and a half with 15 years of experience behind it.
AD: Tell me about the retailers you work with.
JB: I consider them all my friends. Now, I talk to them more than I talk to some of my actual friends, which is so lovely. 
Nicole (Ward) of CNW Group who I work with is really so incredible in terms of being a leader in the sales world, which isn’t my core competency. We launched the brand at Net-a-Porter this fall.
One of the first retailers I worked with was Liebe Gamble of June Simmons Jewelry. We’re in the same age range, we both have kids. Her daughter is the exact same age as mine. Her son is a little bit younger than mine.  
“It’s been a whirlwind year and a half with 15 years of experience behind it.” — Jamie Books
From there, Michelle Pendleton of Pendleton Jewelry reached out. She wanted a Love Bug for herself and bought one and ended up bringing the line into her store. She has children. 
I also started working with Alexis Nordby of Commonwealth and she’s another fabulous, incredible woman. 
We’re all working mamas who have this crazy passion. These are all women who I would just want to go to dinner with and actually spend time with. 
It feels like working with friends again and that’s sort of what we had as a team when I worked at Kara Ross. It’s such a nice community.
It’s good vibes. If it isn’t good vibes then it’s not for me. The money and the sales are great and incredibly important for me and my family but if the energy isn’t good and it’s not bringing positive feelings the cost is not worth it to me.
We recently launched with Marissa Collections—Jay Hartington is an old friend—and an incredible store in the West Village that just opened called The Seven. 

AD: What was the process like launching Mason and Books?
JB: It started with the “Bow Ring,” inspired by my daughter, who has worn bows all her life.
I had all the manufacturing contacts and relationships and knew the stone dealers I’ve been working with for 15 years, like my lapidary. 
These are all incredible artisans. I’m a factory girl at heart. When I said to them, ‘I think I’m going to do my own thing,’ they all pulled up a chair and said, ‘Sit here, it’s your time, we got you,’ and made space for me in their factories. 
They have been really loving and supportive. I owe it all to them and I would never pretend otherwise. Designers are nothing if they can’t get their designs made and made well and made with love and in a timely manner and with care. I’m so grateful to all of them. They are really like family to me. 
Creating Mason and Books has been very organic in terms of which designs come next and what pieces are launching and the evolution of the brand. There wasn’t a lot of conscious thought behind it. I made a piece and then somehow, I made a company. 
AD: Your unique gemstone combinations and the way you approach color is such a big part of your brand identity, in my opinion. How do you approach color in your designs?
JB: It’s an intuitive process. I just go with my gut truly. I sketch designs first and then I think the stones tell you what they want to be paired with. 
For example, we’re looking at three opal cocktail rings and each of these has a different side stone inlay, one with turquoise, one with purple opal and one with blue chalcedony. 
Frankly, I had no idea what side stones I was going to put into these rings until the opals were set and the side stones were strategically picked based on the colors of these opals. The opal tells me what it wants to be. 
In a way, every piece I make is one-of-a-kind. I can repeat the design, but the stones will never be the exact same. 
AD: On Instagram it feels like each new Love Bug you create is a new stone combination I haven’t seen from you before. You’re always experimenting. 
JB: It’s funny because I tell people, ‘Your bug picks you in a way.’ I’ve always been a jewelry weirdo like that.
AD: If you select your stones after you design, what would you say initially informs your design process the most?
JB: Family and feelings.
For me, everything becomes visual, so if you think of a calendar, for example, in my head I have a certain unique image for that.
In my head, feelings become visual and then I translate that into a design. 
A more specific inspiration for me is David Webb, who I think was the most iconic jeweler of all time for me in terms of his use of mixed media and different materials.
“I’m a factory girl at heart … Designers are nothing if they can’t get their designs made and made well.” – Jamie Books
While his work always felt a little grown up for me, I really want my collection to be more for everyday wear and more casual. But in terms of stone inlays and having faceted stones, cabochons and some pavé all in one piece, I definitely feel a kindred spirit to that line.
AD: I think there is a similar mid-century quality to Mason and Books. What have you found the most challenging since you started the line?
JB: Designing within price points. 
For me it’s very easy to design a magnificent piece with no budget. It’s designing things that are under a certain price point where it actually gets more difficult. 
There are aspirational pieces within the collection too, but I want to keep it at a price point that is accessible to jewelry collectors of all levels and also encourage them not to be afraid of it. 
There are big pendants but I want people to wear them and enjoy them. They look great with white T-shirts. Don’t put it away for the black-tie dress you only wear once. Throw it on, wear it, enjoy it. 
 Related stories will be right here … 
Ashley Davisis the senior editor, fashion at National Jeweler, covering all things related to design, style and trends.

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