Ann King Lagos created REALM Fine + Fashion Jewelry, and has been intoxicating local Philadelphians with her creations for years. However the designer originally was born and raised in the Hudson River Valley—aka the lower Catskills of the Adirondack Mountains—about 40 miles from New York City.
“It was a very pivotal point for me to be in that area because I got the best of all worlds,” she says. The proximity to both the city and the more spacious elements of the state also reminded her of Philly and its Main Line. And speaking of, the NY native came to Philly to attend The Philadelphia College of Art, which is now the University of the Arts, at age 17.
Through waitressing and further immersing herself into the city’s culture—from food to art to creativity—King Lagos then began to be more inspired by the area.
“It helped me create my own sense of family,” she remembers. “I love Philly. “It’s getting there, you know, in terms of ranking with New York and Washington and all that. And it’s been very interesting for me, I’ve been here now for 51 years, and it’s amazing [and] remarkable to see how it has changed for the better.”
The jewelry designer’s path to success in business also made some travels in terms of deciding a destination. Ann started out wanting to pursue photography in college. “It was actually a good thing for me,” King Lagos recalls. “I enjoyed composition and taking the pictures, but the technical side was not something I was really interested in.”
But the creative did also realize something: “I did take an elective in the jewelry world there, and I fell in love. I just felt akin to the materials and the process. I realized that I was much more of a three-dimensional thinker than a two-dimensional thinker.”
Soon, King Lagos moved on to take a course with Robert Lee Morris, and as she says, it changed everything for her. “We just started getting really creative with raw materials and not great tools, and forgetting about having it all be perfect and just diving into what it would mean. And I came up with my first collection.”
From there the designer ended up going to the Jewelers of America International Trade Show in New York, and soon, selling to stores under the name of Ann King Design. After some time, she then met her ex-husband and together they co-created the brand Lagos while they were married.
“Over 20 years, I took all that information and experience [in],” King Lagos explains. “After getting divorced, I stuck to my passion of being creative and making jewelry and REALM kind of came about from everything I’ve learned from that. But also, the women that I was surrounded by.”
To its creator, REALM means kingdom and community. It’s also a play off of King’s name. And as she explains it, the company is more than jewelry. Rather, it’s about the women that wear it.
“The name became REALM because I didn’t need it to be about me. I was at a very low point in my life, and these women came and sort of swooped me up and helped me move forward,” she continues. “The power of women coming together and championing one another, just being there and opening up and supporting one another is an amazing thing. It’s something that I needed very much at that point and embraced.”
REALM has a studio but is event-driven and online–though there are also trunk shows with Boyd’s that might turn into something more permanent. The jewelry line contains eight collections currently, all of which play off of the regality of the name in different ways which you see through the curves and woven techniques.
“I felt that this was really our world and our realm. Our mantra is to “Reign Thoughtfully,” because in starting something I needed to put forth my intention…It was really about leading with kindness and making small changes in the world that contribute to make it a better place,” King Lagos explains. That mantra also makes its way through some of the design elements in certain pieces.
REALM utilizes, as King Lagos says, sparkles and sculptural pieces. And an emphasis on the fine jewelry component was important. “I wanted it to be fashionable and fun as well as coming from a very intense place of making fine, crafted handmade jewelry. All of this jewelry is sterling silver and that gives it that great hand, so you can get a whole different type of sculptural quality with it,” King Lagos explains.
REALM uses cubic zirconia (which are full cut faceted like diamonds.) There are also different colored platings used in the pieces to offer more versatile options.
“All of the jewelry could be made out of solid golden diamonds because nothing is faux, there’s no glue,” King Lagos continues. “Each stone is individually handset by four prongs and they have to be tooled about two dozen times to get that one stone to be set. So it’s very timely and it is something that is done by certainly a master jeweler.”
The fashion aspect comes more so from the stylings and the meanings behind each piece. And it becomes more personalized as King Lagos builds a relationship with her clients. The company looks at the women who wear the pieces, and the conversations they have together collectively.
REALM is also built on the connections it has with its clients. It’s not just a buy and sell type of experience—the site and promotions use real women from all walks of life, the studio hosts events for girls nights out or birthday parties where they take care of virtually everything (more info on their website/social media), and REALM likes to connect additionally through their pop-ups (which should run at Boyd’s through November and December and then off to other stops.) Online is a great place to see everything you need about REALM coming up.
Through any shape or form, it’s easy to see that King Lagos’ company is more about the people who wear the jewelry than the precious metals themselves.
“The most important thing I think for me in life is connections,” King Lagos finishes. Connections to our friends and family and expanding that community through the people we meet [who] are trying to help one another. It’s important to help them lift people up, to give back, to expand your community and make it strong for everyone that’s in it.[Having REALM] is very uplifting for me. It’s transformative for all of us. I love styling someone and helping them feel beautiful or to finishing their look…I mean, it’s amazing, you know, how they feel. But I feel incredible from it too. It’s a process you go through together that’s just a beautiful thing.”
To learn more about Ann King Lagos’ REALM Fine + Fashion Jewelry, visit explorerealm.com