Please join us in giving a warm welcome to the class of 2021! Over the next few weeks, we’re so excited to introduce you to a new class of designers–and their stunning jewelry. Whether you’re back in the office or looking for a fresh look for fall Zooms, we’ll be dropping brand new pieces for your back-to-school [er, work?] wardrobe, and taking you behind the scenes. First up: meet Ashley Thorne, a DC-born 80s baby whose superpower is creating delicate pieces that pack a quiet punch.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ashley Thorne describes her jewelry company as “very much me.” A.M. Thorne is, after all, named after her, as well as her mother: “The ‘M’ is for my mother’s name, Moultrie,” she explains. “I guess I’ve never explained that before.
“I did not set out to do jewelry,” Thorne continues–which seems to be a common thread among many of the designers we carry At Present. “It was a creative outlet. It was therapeutic for me when my dad passed away when I was in college,” she continues. “I really enjoyed the process of putting it together, and creating things to wear. And it was really validating and cool when people started to notice–when they wanted to have a piece of my jewelry.”
Born in 1987 in Washington, DC, Thorne credits her great uncle, as well as Tiffany catalogs, with much of her early inspiration and interest in jewelry and design.
“I remember when I was younger, maybe four, while it didn’t really register to me at the time, I noticed [the design of things], like a table, the style, the smoothness or the shapes, the materials,” she recalls, her hands implying the shapes in the air instinctively. “I naturally paid attention, I noticed how it was different.
“I always liked art as a kid,” she continues. “I remember going into [my great uncle’s office]. He had a drafting table, and drew everything by hand. I was fascinated even by his handwriting, how perfect it was, and I also remember looking at his amazing drawings on the wall; he liked to sketch nature and birds.
“On his table, everything was very linear and structured,” Thorne remembers. “It opened me up to the idea that this could be a career.”
While at some point early on Thorne wanted to be an architect, she ultimately landed on graphic design. It was creative, but also involved a computer, and seemed like a natural fit as she entered college.
Growing up in the ‘90s and early 2000s, Thorne remembers Tiffany & Co. being all the rage for Bat Mitzvahs, birthdays and graduations. She recalls getting the catalogs in the mail; not only did she love the jewelry–Elsa Peretti’s designs in particular–but also the typography, the branding, and the photography.
“I wanted to do graphic design because I was looking at branding, the Americana aesthetic [of Tiffany]. Tiffany’s branding is very simple, but the typography, color–it’s all done so well.”
Thorne took a pre-college program at Parson’s, and knew immediately that she had to be in New York. She then attended Pratt and studied graphic design.
But when she graduated soon after the financial crisis in 2008, it was tough to get a job–and that’s when she also started to pick up jewelry-making.
“[My jewelry] encompasses all the data I’ve gathered since I was a child,” she explains. Referencing a particular Tiffany & Co. design as well as one of her own, “It makes sense that I love a solitaire diamond necklace,” she says. “It’s timeless; I like creating something that’s not going out of style.”
The challenge, then, was how she could make simple designs unique. And she’s accomplished just that: her clean lines and delicate designs allow for the metals and gemstones to truly sing.
“I took a silversmithing course because I wanted to learn how to manipulate metal,” Thorne says. It had been hard for her to understand how jewelry was created, and she felt that it required her to learn that skill.
“It was intimidating walking in the door and learning how to use a torch,” she remembers. “But it was super magical.”
Following her course, Thorne worked for a jewelry designer for a bit to learn the tricks of the trade. She visited all the different sides of the business in the jewelry district–the casters, gem dealers–and managed production.
After six months, she decided she had all the information she needed, and launched a collection on her own.
“It felt like a big gamble, but I really believed in my work. I started creating pieces that were referencing and modernizing ancient techniques.”
Soon, she began branching into gold, salt-and-pepper diamonds, and ultimately other gemstones. With an emphasis on the materials themselves, each time she has begun working with a new metal or gemstone marked a significant moment in her growth as a designer–especially when she began working with gold.
“I believe in quality and having something that feels special. I think that’s part of why it meant so much to get into working with gold. There’s something so alluring about that metal that I really love.
“My standard is to keep things consistent, but also have something that’s distinct, with a little bit of an edge,” she continues. “I’ve identified my brand by using gem stones with character,” she adds. “[Salt and pepper diamonds] were also something I could afford. A lot of what I make is dainty and minimal because I like the idea of working with fine materials but also keeping it at a reachable price point.”
“Moonstone was the perfect gemstone for me [after diamonds],” she explains. “Because each one is different; I like the uniqueness, I just was fascinated by that.
“I’m finally opening up to other stones,” she continues. “But there is something about that that’s very calming and feminine and it made a lot of sense for me to be working with that stone.
“Maybe because I’m more of a subtle person, I’m more into soft or muted colors,” she explains. “But it will be really cool to expand and see how I can play with color in my work, but have it still feel very much like A.M. Thorne.”