Nicole J. Jenni Braun is a passionate gemstone expert, jewelry designer and trained gemologist G.G. from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) in New York. Her company Braun & Stone in Zug stands for individual jewelry creations and expert craftsmanship and helps in the search and evaluation of rare and high quality gemstones and pearls.
Left: Nicole J. Jenni Braun – here in her second home and her “power place” Costa Rica – worked as a successful lawyer before she followed her passion for gemstones and jewelry and founded Braun & Stone. Right: The turtle is the key visual of Braun & Stone. Inspired by the beach where Nicole J. Jenni Braun and her family live in Costa Rica, the turtle symbolizes for Braun & Stone the elemental force of nature, change and renewal, the closeness of life and death.
Ms. Braun, you are a lawyer admitted to the bar and have worked successfully in the financial sector. How did you get from law to jewelry?
Actually, it was the other way around. The passion for precious stones and beautiful jewelry has accompanied me since my earliest youth. Already at the age of about 10 years I made jewelry from different coloured foils and exhibited it on aubergine coloured velvet from my grandmother. My family was my “clientele”.
the joy of jewelry and stones, but also the fun of “trading” has fascinated you ever since?
Yes, in any case it is both! On my numerous journeys – I was already in Asia alone at the age of 17 – I have always bought gemstones or pieces of jewelry. I found pleasure in negotiating with people, selecting beautiful stone qualities and imagining what I could create from them.
So you have also taken risks in the search for the best pieces?
My first expensive stone was an over 3 ct. large emerald, which I bought when I was just under 20 years old. I love the lush green and the “jardin”, as they call the inside of the stone. Ten years later – I had just passed my bar exam – I bought particularly beautiful pearls on a trip to Asia. When I had them appraised at home, it turned out that I had selected exceptionally beautiful pieces at a very good price.
Which confirmed your penchant for stones and spurred your creativity. Despite that, you stuck to the law for now?
For the next 10 years I worked successfully in the financial sector in Zurich. In a way, however, I lacked the aesthetic and creativity in my daily work. I missed immediate feedback from customers in the sense that I could experience their satisfaction in a tangible way when they held a product in their hands that they liked.
Today you can! how did it come about?
While still working in the world of finance, in 2006 I started studying gemmology at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the world-renowned gem valuation company, in New York. I spent almost all my holidays in Manhattan and completed many subjects via distance learning under the supervision of a Bernese notary public. In 2010, I was the only non-precious gemstone student to graduate at the first attempt and was the second best of the year in the diamond certification. At that time I was already mother of a three-month-old son. Two years later, when my daughter was also born, I decided to leave the financial world for good to start my own business in gemstone trading and jewelry design.
Was it difficult for you to gain a foothold in that business?
The competition in the jewelry world is fierce. The feeling that nobody was waiting for me and my ideas came up every now and then. But always my conviction to do the right thing won out. I did not want to have to say in the future that I had not lived my dreams. The very positive feedback from my customers also ultimately served as motivation to go further and further.
You have chosen a small turtle as the key visual for your company. What does it symbolise for you?
The turtle is inspired by the beach in the immediate vicinity of which we live in our second home and “my power place” Costa Rica. For me it symbolizes the elemental force of nature, change and renewal, the closeness of life and death. For generations, hundreds of thousands of these primeval animals have been coming to this beach according to a rhythm dictated by the moon and the seasons, laying their eggs, from which a few weeks later new life struggles its way through the inhospitable dark sand, only to partly die again just minutes later. This spectacle of nature puts many things from daily life back into their proper position. We are all here only for a certain time and should leave as many positive traces as possible. I would like to make the customers happy with my creations. So I am always excited at the moment when the packaging is opened and the piece of jewelry is looked at. If I see the enthusiasm in the eyes of the customer, then everything is fine.
What would you say distinguishes your collection?
It’s clear that I embody a certain style. My pieces of jewelry, whether purchased or designed and produced by myself, are often relatively simple but with a certain refinement. They are always characterized by the high quality and/or rarity of the materials used as well as by the special color-material combination. The pieces of jewelry must always be wearable, they should not only wait in the safe for their rare big appearances. My collection also includes design classics from times gone by. My favourite Art Deco jewelry pieces – I wear my platinum ring with an old-cut diamond from this period almost every day – which I also find at international trade fairs, can be combined in a very modern way. Then there are the gemstones and pearls that continue to magically attract me at trade fairs or when I visit a dealer! Some of them are real rarities due to their quality and individuality.
So you collect pieces that you include in your collection, but also create and produce individual jewelry?
Yes, this gives me the opportunity to really respond to the wishes of my customers. Often I get inspiration for colour combinations or even design in nature. It’s amazing what’s practically ready for collection right in front of my eyes.
What do you pay particular attention to during production of Your jewelry?
I always give guarantees for my gemstones and jewelry, and I also select my suppliers accordingly: my long-standing business relationships with international stone and jewelry dealers, who all supply long-established, renowned jewelry houses, are very valuable to me. These partners are also available to me at any time for extensive selections or exhibitions.
For the sale of your beautiful jewelry you have chosen your own special way..
I do not run a traditional sales outlet with security personnel for my jewelry in an expensive city location. Instead, I organize culinary appealing jewelry cocktails at the different locations, and then arrange personal appointments with customers. Over the years, this approach has proven to be ideal, as the trend is increasingly moving in the direction of avoiding expensive business locations in favour of competitive prices, but still being close to the customer. I can thus guarantee very attractive conditions even for jewelry creations that are manufactured entirely in Switzerland.
Gallery: © Braun & Stone
Braun & Stone’s own creations made of high-quali-ty gemstones as well as unique, often antique pieces of jewelry can be found in the Braun & Stone collection.
The personal contact with the people who adorn themselves with the trouvailles and creations to emphasize their personality is very important to Nicole J. Jenni Braun. With her work she creates positive emotions, which are a source of strength for her.
“With the help of sketches and models, we develop a project together within the set budget or search for the right piece
of jewelry until I feel the true enthusiasm of the customer.”