A Taste for Opu­lence


Vicki Kim ar­rives at the stu­dio for her RED shoot on the dot, dressed in a crisp white blouse and ta­pered slacks. There are two bands on her ring fin­ger, and dis­creetly sparkling on her ear­lobes are di­a­mond ear­rings. The sub­tly deca­dent dis­play doesn’t end there: from a bag, she takes out a se­lec­tion of neck­laces, rings, bracelets, and ear­rings, all from Tani by Mine­tani, the Swarovski line of her fam­ily’s fine jewelry busi­ness based in Korea. She lays out the trin­kets on a white ta­ble, where it’s eas­ier to ob­serve the re­flec­tion of the over­head lights on each bevel of ev­ery di­a­mond.

Of­ten, all that glint and sparkle can over­power a look. But as Kim has shown, there’s an art to wear­ing these pieces, each of which has been metic­u­lously hand-crafted into a one-of-a-kind state­ment.

From the dis­play, she chooses a gold ban­gle in­laid with di­a­mond studs and slips it onto her wrist. It’s an act that is ob­vi­ously sec­ond na­ture to her, be­ing born and raised in Korea by a jewelry de­signer and col­lec­tor. Mine­tani is run by this two-gen­er­a­tional team: Vicki, who helps with the cre­ative di­rec­tion and pub­lic re­la­tions out­side Korea, her sis­ter Sunny, the main de­signer who is cur­rently lead­ing the com­pany, and their mother Grace Ahn, the brand’s founder and first de­signer.

Run­ning a fine jewelry busi­ness with her fam­ily was ob­vi­ously a ma­jor fac­tor in cul­ti­vat­ing Kim’s taste and style. Yet while she lives by the “less is more” prin­ci­ple, ev­ery now and then she ex­per­i­ments with dif­fer­ent sizes such as large ear­rings and big neck­laces, but still with clas­sic de­signs.

Di­a­monds are a girl’s best friend

When she sits down to talk about the fam­ily busi­ness, Kim is grace­ful and com­posed, her an­swers thought­ful and pre­cise. She re­calls a clip brooch dec­o­rated with jade and onyx from her mother’s col­lec­tion, and the Art Deco piece per­fectly con­trasts with her per­sonal aes­thetic, which leans more on sim­ple and clean lines. She also draws her fa­vorite gem shape, an emer­ald-cut di­a­mond; her en­gage­ment ring is of the same cut, and de­spite be­ing an an­tique piece from the ’20s, it feels mod­ern.

“I grew up around jewelry,” Vicki af­firms. She says it’s a rar­ity for her these days to find women—even men—who don’t like jewelry. Per­haps for peo­ple like her, all that glit­ters is gold. Look­ing at her mother’s jewelry col­lec­tion alone puts Vicki in high spir­its. “As my mom says, her fa­vorite thing to do is to sit there, look at all her stones, and just de­sign. Just draw. She’s re­ally the most artis­tic out of the three of us.”

Grace Ahn, a de­signer and an avid col­lec­tor of fine jewelry, be­gan

Mine­tani over 20 years ago when she found her­self want­ing to see more unique de­signs in the Korean fine jewelry mar­ket. The brand launched in 1996, im­me­di­ately fill­ing a void in the in­dus­try with its lux­u­ri­ous and el­e­gant col­lec­tions made specif­i­cally to com­ple­ment haute cou­ture. The brand is her name­sake, a fu­sion of two words: “Mi” from the de­signer’s Korean name Young Mee Ahn and “tani” from an an­cient Korean word mean­ing “or­na­ments.”

Then in 2009, Tani by Mine­tani emerged from a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Swarovski. Sunny Kim headed this new line, as by then, Vicki had al­ready re­lo­cated to the Philip­pines. For the col­lab­o­ra­tion, crys­tals are fused with trendy metal fin­ishes to cre­ate elab­o­rately chic yet wear­able fine jewelry. Each stone is care­fully se­lected, each piece cut and fash­ioned to high­light a gem’s beauty, shape, and essence.

With all that pre­ci­sion, noth­ing is too over the top or un­der­whelm­ing. The Tani by Mine­tani woman em­bod­ies time­less­ness, with just the right amount of glitz and glam. She rein­vents the sta­tus quo by sport­ing pieces that adapt to cur­rent trends with­out go­ing out of style, and she man­i­fests the wear­able lux­ury of fine jewelry.

The come­back col­lec­tion

The fam­ily’s love for fash­ion is the brand’s pri­mary source of in­spi­ra­tion, but for Kim, art and travel are also cre­ative wells. “Travel in­spires me to get out­side my nor­mal com­fort zone and push my bound­aries,” she says. “It al­lows me to see new de­signs, new col­ors, new artists. I am al­ways thrilled to meet in­spi­ra­tional de­sign­ers from all over the world.” Based in the Philip­pines for over eight years now, she rep­re­sents Mine­tani at meet­ings out­side Korea, over­see­ing ev­ery­thing from cre­ative di­rec­tion to trunk shows.

“I used to de­sign a lit­tle when I was younger,” she says, adding that she is work­ing on an up­com­ing col­lec­tion. “That [would be] sort of my come­back, I guess. My sis­ter and I want it to be an ode to our mom. We went through all of her archives and [se­lected] her iconic de­signs, but we’re try­ing to make them a bit younger, a bit more wear­able.”

The two sis­ters fre­quently turn to their mother not just for in­spi­ra­tion but also for ap­proval of their de­signs and artis­tic di­rec­tion. Not sur­pris­ingly, Grace Ahn is her daugh­ters’ tough­est critic and boss. But much like the pre­cious gems that the fam­ily works with, only the best kind of pres­sure can make as­tound­ing re­sults. As Vicki quips, “What’s not to love about [mak­ing] jewelry and hang­ing out with your mom and sis­ter?” •

Left: Vicki Kim plays around with pro­por­tions by mis­match­ing a slim gold ban­gle and large di­a­mond clip ear­rings.

Trend meets tra­di­tion in Kim’s lay­er­ing of Swarovski crys­tal neck­laces from Tani by Mine­tani’s Great Ex­pec­ta­tions Col­lec­tion and Clas­sic Col­lec­tion

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