Behind Just Jules, with Julie Romanenko
Julie Romanenko, Scottsdale-based designer and owner of Just Jules, is known for her playful twists on fine jewelry. Her brand offers everything from “everyday casual” to “luxurious night out” in the realm of accessories. Here, she speaks with Pietra Communications about how she got her start, her focus on “future heirlooms,” and delves into her personal take on ethics.
After graduation, what influenced you to leave the world of English Literature behind, in order to pursue a career in the jewelry industry?
To be completely honest, a career in English Lit was never in the plans. I really had no idea what it was, but I knew I loved to read and I can write well, so a Liberal Arts degree seemed like a good idea at the time. I think my insecure self was rearing her ugly head in not committing to art/jewelry school.
You mentioned that you began your journey as a jewelry designer at 11 years old, making friendship bracelets. Certainly, a lot has changed since then, but is there anything that you still share with 11-year-old Julie?
Referring back to my insecure self, I think I would tell 11-year-old Julie to follow her dreams.
As a brand, what does Just Jules stand for regarding sustainability, culture, and society? What do you want your company to be known for?
With all of my in-house casted pieces, Just Jules only uses recycled gold, and I also love to incorporate vintage recycled materials into my designs. I don’t go out of my way to promote myself as an “ethical metalsmith,” I just prefer to run my business the way I live my life…ethically. If that could be what Just Jules is known for, I am a happy human.
Some of your fans include Geena Davis, Ashley Judd, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, Jennie Garth and Jodie Foster. Who else do you want to see wearing Just Jules?
Great question…Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Sandra Bullock.
Your pieces are unique, sophisticated and free spirited. Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?
My creative process starts with the gemstone usually, or the vintage element I have found. I will sit with the center focus, and design around it. I have found that it will dictate the design.
You have mentioned that jewelry reminds you of family. How are you able to honor your family members through your work?
I like to create “future heirlooms”– pieces that will lovingly be worn and passed down. Jewelry is that way in my family. I wear my maternal grandmother’s engagement ring setting, as well as my paternal grandmother’s, and my mother’s wedding bands every day.
What was the first piece of fine jewelry that you ever designed? And how has your style changed since?
I started my career making art deco, sterling silver people pins. I am not sure that counts as “fine jewelry.” I honestly don’t recall the first gold piece I made…I think it might be a bezel set opal ring I still have. It is very organic and a bit rough. I think my style has gotten more refined.
In 2012, you won first place in the MJSA Gold Distinction for your diamond Dreamcatcher bracelet; how was the process behind the creation of this piece?
If I can remember back, that piece was part of my “Dreamcatcher” collection. The filigree work reminded me of a dreamcatcher. It started out as a pendant, and then morphed into earrings, and then finally the amazing cuff that I was honored to win a prize for.
What has been the most difficult obstacle is your career? How did you manage to overcome it?
Overall, I feel so lucky to be able to say that for 30 years now I have really had no major obstacles, I have customers who have supported me and encouraged me, mentors who have helped me work through challenges and a family who have had my back. Not sure what else I could ask for?
Speaking of obstacles, how have you adapted to the pandemic? Has it affected your work, business, or day-to-day?
What a time this has been! With no trade shows for a year, and very few trunk shows, my business has been severely affected. With so many retailers shut down for so long, many of them are not looking to buy new work. I have shifted my focus to social media, and have found many new customers, both retail and wholesale. I was really pleasantly surprised by this. It is definitely hard work, and not something that I was comfortable doing but I am getting the hang of it! I am indebted to the retailers who have continued to support me.
Julie Romanenko’s jewelry and dedication to her craft is as an inspiration. The old phrase “do what you love,” rings true in her story too (pun intended). Learn more about her story, and shop her beautiful designs on https://justjules.com/.