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Creative Class 2020

Source: iOne Creative / other

Honoree: Founder, Johnny Nelson Jewelry

The Grind: Jeweler

Find Him: @johnnynelsonjewelry

Johnny Nelson has been designing fine jewelry in NYC since 2017, but his fascination with the craft started much earlier. Growing up in Brooklyn, he credits, “the iconic neighborhood jewelers that elevated Hip-Hop Culture in the 80s and 90s”, as in his inspiration. Nearly 20 years later, those same two constants, music and metals, would help him design his first piece.

By all accounts, it was 2014 and Johnny, born Johnel Jamison was on tour performing as an emcee. He had the energy, the crowd, the swag, but something was missing, so he knew he needed a switch. Still, it didn’t happen right away. After crafting a ring that his mom fashioned out of wire and stone, Johnny Nelson Jewelry was born. With a tagline of “Conversation Pieces That Catch The Eye”, Johnny creates coveted rings, earrings, chains and charms. Designers speak of statement pieces, but often, it’s unclear what they are actually saying. Not with Johnny’s designs.

With names like “Her Freedom” and “Forever Lit Matchstick” and pieces named after activists and hip-hop legends, the message is clear. Blackness is here, loud, queer, present in all of its forms, and most importantly, unextinguishable. As intentional as his naming system is, his client roster seems even more intentional. Counting Colin Kaepernick, Rapsody, and Halima as just a few of the people to be seen in his wares, his biggest push into the industry happened on fashion’s biggest stage, The Met Gala. In 2019, Johnny’s work adorned Lena Waithe—creating a a viral moment. Today, Johnny continues to make jewelry that keeps the world talking and inspired.

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