Our Folklore: The Couple Behind Luxury Jewelry Brand Third Crown
New York-based jewelry brand Third Crown is a manifestation of design partners and married couple Kofi and Kristin Essel’s passion for jewelry and design. What was once meant to be a beautiful gesture between partners, developed into a spontaneous and now blossoming business.
The inception of the brand can be traced back to when Kofi, a Fashion Institute of Technology menswear design graduate, shared his desires for a Christmas present with then-girlfriend Kristen, a jewelry design intern at NYC-based jewelry brand David Yurman. Being that she was an experienced jewelry designer, Kristin took it upon herself to handmake a Rosary necklace for him from Lapis beads.
The necklace Kristin made for Kofi was met with loads of admiration. He wore it constantly and received compliments and inquires about it daily. Kofi, impressed with her craftsmanship, suggested the idea of monetizing their combined talents and vision to launch a jewelry brand, together. From there, Third Crown was born.
The brand is a fusion of the distant but paralleled cultural heritage of Kofi's Ghanaian roots and Kristin's Jamaican roots. In addition to their cultural backgrounds, the couple pulls inspiration from their fascination with architecture and geometric shapes. “A lot of renaissance sculptures influence the way our pieces look,” says Kofi during an interview with The Folklore.
The pair's frequent visits to museums and galleries in New York and fondness for global art and motifs are reflected on the mood boards in their Harlem home, which doubles as their workspace. The couple compiles all of these elements and focuses on the ones which align most with the brands’ DNA and who they are, individually and as a couple.
Third Crown’s first collection dubbed the “Arc Collection” was inspired by the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris, France, and the shape of vintage handcuffs. The brand carries the signature arc and triangular beveling into all of the pieces. In each collection, the couple finds new ways to innovate the original Arc or beveled design.
“We want our next collection to be a continuation of the previous season,” says Kristin. Third Crown's second collection titled, the "Marcy Collection" was inspired by the elegant and striking beauty of the brand's signature Arc shape and beveled design and melted to form a custom chain link. The results of this technique birthed the Marcy Link Bracelet and matching Marcy Link Necklace, both of which are available on The Folklore.
Not long after Third Crown emerged on the market, two of the world's most recognized entertainers adorned styles from the Arc Collection. Beyonce and Solange Knowles were both spotted wearing styles from the collection on several occasions. Beyonce, in particular, favored the Arc Bangle, which was introduced to her by her LA-based personal stylist and closet curator Zerina Akers. Beyonce would wear jewelry from Third Crown both on casual and upscale outings. This was a major highlight for the design couple.
As a couple that has successfully managed to merge their talents and devote themselves to a single shared vision, Kofi and Kristin represent a rare commodity. Together, they have created a third entity that embodies their love and honors their roots. Though it may be assumed that they bump heads in the process of designing new products, they both acknowledge that their business partnership is a harmonious one. Finding a balance between their keen eyes for design is not a challenge for these two, rather its the magic ingredient behind Third Crown's beauty.
Listen to episode three of The Folklore's 'Our Folklore' podcast featuring an interview with Third Crown's designers Kofi and Kristin Essel. Available now on Apple Podcast, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Google Play. Find excerpts from the interview and our debut 'Our Folklore' video below.
Producer: Raven Irabor // Director: Amandla Baraka // Cam A: Love Legerme // Cam B: Mylo Butler // Editor: Raven Irabor/Love Legerme
Kofi wears the MGF6.2 Shirt (currently sold out) from South African menswear brand MaXhosa and Marcy Stud Earrings from Third Crown. Kristin wears the Galaxy Wrap Dress from South African womenswear brand W35T and Marcy Link Bracelet from Third Crown.
I see myself as a creative who always had a love for art. My journey along the way had just been focused on fine art. Eventually, I started to draw clothes and graphics. And that kind of led me into fashion. Once I got into fashion, I was primarily a menswear designer. Since I met my wife Kristin, we both journeyed together into jewelry. We love being able to turn our flat ideas into 3-Dimensional objects. –Kofi
I describe myself as a creative as well. I primarily started with fashion design. Then, when I moved to NY, I wanted to see what else was out there. So I did a stint in PR and I hated it. Tried sales and I hated that too. So I got a job at David Yurman as an intern doing jewelry design. From there, I stuck with jewelry design because I liked the creative aspect of it. I never really wore a lot of jewelry when I was younger. I liked the fine jewelry, the gemstones, the diamonds -- so I stayed in that area but I wanted to do something cooler and more like me. We knew that we didn't want to do fine jewelry. We wanted to do jewelry that we would actually wear walking down the block or going to the supermarket. But also jewelry that I could wear to the club or just to go out with my friends. –Kristin
We wanted jewelry that reflected who we were. A lot of traditional jewelry is dainty and antiquated. For us, we wanted something that was modern, bold, and unique. Jewelry that was bigger than what you usually see. This goes back to our cultural heritage of being Caribbean and African. Chiefs and Queens would wear gold jewelry that was very prominent. So you could tell who they were. That element influenced a lot of the pieces that we designed. –Kofi
I learned how to make jewelry while I was interning at David Yurman. One Christmas, Kofi asked for a Rosary necklace. So I made one for him. It was made out of Lapis beads. I did not really think anything of it but surprisingly, he really liked it and got many compliments on it. Through a text message, he said to me “we have to start a brand. Everyone is loving this Rosary that you made.” So from there, we thought of the name, logo, and came up with more designs. And thats how Third Crown was born. -Kristin
We gravitated towards solid pieces versus the beaded jewelry like the wire wrapped Rosary necklace that we started with. For the Rosary, we designed the cross that would go on it. We 3D modeled it making sure that it was double-sided, that's one of the fundamental parts of our jewelry development. All of our pieces are double-sided and they have the beveling from the triangle. We put all of those components together, to be the DNA for the brand. –Kofi
In the process of finding who we were as designers — we were drawn towards geometric shapes and architecture. That is how the first collections were conceived with the triangular beveling on all of our pieces, which is our signature. We chose the name ‘Third Crown’ because we are two creatives coming together to form a third entity. -Kristin
There is a lot that we see for ourselves on the horizon. We have a lot of things that we want to grow and build on. And there is a lot of aspects where we need to take a step back and make sure that we have everything well rounded before we start going in the direction. -Kofi
The power of the pair is what we are going after. Letting people know that us coming together to make these pieces that are great for individuals, best friends, friends and partners, where ever they are is the basis of the brand. We really want people to see what we are about before we start building into other categories. -Kofi
Words: Gelina Dames
Photo: Amandla Baraka